Living In Thailand Blog
Tuesday 31st July 2012
I realised many years ago that despite outward appearances being similar, Thais think very differently to foreigners. Thais have different value and belief systems to Westerners and these two things affect the way they think.
When you analyse Thai behaviour that seems a little strange from a Western perspective you can normally trace it back to the Thai value or belief systems.
However, some behaviour simply cannot be explained. The only explanation is complete and utter stupidity. There is no better example than what happens on Thai roads every day.
In my first year in Thailand I saw more road accidents than I had ever seen in more than 40 years in the UK. Since then I have seen lots more - at least one a week. Some are minor, but some are really nasty.
A couple of weeks ago I was driving to the supermarket for our weekly shopping trip and as I glanced in the door mirror I saw a young kid on a motorbike right against the car. He then brushed the car (fortunately there was no damage) and shot off as fast he could so that he couldn't be caught.
It was the second time that this type of incident has happened. Skinny Thai kids weighing about 90 pounds can travel at great speed on their 125cc motorbikes and they can disappear through traffic with cars unable to follow them. They're a danger to everyone, including themselves.
I wasn't happy, but there is nothing you can do when this kind of thing happens. He was going so fast that I couldn't even read his number plate but even if I had have got his number I doubt that the police would have been very interested.
Yesterday the car went in for a service and I took a motorbike taxi to pick it up. Unusually for these parts, it was a woman taxi driver. I was quite pleased at first because generally women drive more carefully than men, but I was having second thoughts after a few minutes.
Firstly, as she drove out of the Soi into the main road she badly cut up an oncoming car. Next, she blatantly went straight through a red traffic light. Every single time I stop at a red traffic light I see Thais - normally motorcyclists, but sometimes cars and pickup trucks - ignoring the lights and this has led to a kind of broken window effect.
When people see other people doing it, they start doing it themselves. It happened again today when I was in the car. I was waiting at a set of lights and so was a woman motorcyclists. The lights were red for quite a long time and when she saw there was no traffic she just took off.
It's almost unbelievable to see the stunts Thai drivers pull but it happens all the time and no one ever gets stopped by the police.
I had a word with the taxi driver yesterday and she then started to tell me how going through a red light is acceptable at certain times. She was absolutely serious. I'm not talking about turning left at a red light, which is allowed in Thailand - she turned right on a red light which is illegal however it is done.
Two minutes after lecturing me about how it is OK to go through red lights I saw flashing lights and a crowd of people gathered on the street. I had a pretty good idea what had happened and asked her to stop. I always carry a small camera with me in Thailand because you never know what you are going to come across.
Two young kids on a motorbike had gone straight through a red light at high speed and collided with a large SUV. The SUV was quite badly damaged and the windscreen had a big dent in it from one of the kids' heads. Neither of them were wearing crash helmets, which is very common in Thailand despite it being illegal.
Teenage brats race around as fast as they possibly can and never wear crash helmets. The only thing they wear is big stupid grins on their faces. These two weren't grinning.
One kid had suffered a bad head injury and was writhing around holding his head covered in blood. The other was lying motionless and it looked as if his leg was badly broken. The pain had probably rendered him unconscious. The emergency services had arrived at the scene and were administering first aid before getting them to hospital.
The kids were wearing army fatigues. Doing military training is very popular with high school boys. They get a day off school to race around on their motorbikes and play soldiers, and doing so exempts them from national service.
It seems that every teenage boy in Thailand has a motorbike. They love to make their bikes as noisy as possible by screwing around with the exhaust pipes, and they love to race around the streets. There is no parental control and the police don't show much interest. In Thailand, males can do what they want and they grow up believing they have the right to do whatever they want.
The neighbourhood I'm in at the moment is at the lower end of the socio-economic scale and it isn't very pleasant. There are lots of males who like racing around on motorbikes and in pickup trucks.
My wife and the other neighbours don't like what happens but no one ever says anything or takes any action because they are scared of reprisals. That's how Thailand works. Bad people intimidate other people and everyone is scared to do anything.
The police have no interest so nothing gets done. We are moving soon but if I had to live like this forever more I wouldn't be very happy.
There is one guy up the road who loves to race his pickup truck along the Soi. He has a very loud exhaust and also plays music very loudly. He's a pain in the backside. He knows other people object to his behaviour but part of the pleasure seems to come from knowing he can do what he wants and no one will say or do anything.
According to my wife and the neighbours he is a loan shark who loans money at exorbitant interest rates to people who have no lines of credit. My wife tells me that people in that line of business always have guns to deal with people who don't make their repayments on time. Of course, no matter how obnoxious he is, nobody will say a word because they are scared.
This is the real Thailand. There are lots of really nice people but once you go beyond being a naive tourist you start to see the other side of the country and it isn't pleasant.
A girl wrote to me this week regarding my learning to read Thai tutorials. She stayed on a tourist island for a few months earlier this year and was telling me how much she loves Thailand.
Whenever I hear people say that, I just think to myself this is a naive tourist who doesn't yet understand Thailand. It's not a completely bad country but there is a lot of crap that tourists just aren't aware of.
The driving is unbelievably bad and there are many Thai men who believe they have the right to do whatever they want. With the rule of law being so weak the country at times has an anarchic feel to it.
Driving is bad enough during the daytime but at night it goes from being semi-lawless to completely lawless.
When the car was serviced yesterday I told them that the headlights weren't very bright. They told me that to fix the problem will cost about Bt14,000. I told them I will think about it. The roads are so completely lawless at night here that I avoid driving at night if I possibly can. The headlights, therefore, aren't that important.
Regarding the two kids involved in the accident yesterday, it was strange observing the accident scene. Something inside me told me that I should feel pity for them but I didn't.
As a driver plagued by cocky grinning teenage maniacs on motorbikes I find it very difficult to have any sympathy for them when they get injured or killed. "som naam naa," as they say in Thailand.
The rescue people take photos of the accidents they attend and display them at the local rescue centre. There are a lot of road deaths so I guess these two should feel lucky they are still alive.
On average, about 40 people a day lose their lives on Thai roads every day. If a virus or other disease was killing 40 people a day in Thailand, tourists would stop visiting the country and there would be a major panic. However, no one seems to consider road deaths to be a problem. Strange, isn't it?
When you look at how Thais drive, how they blatantly ignore traffic rules, how the police show such little interest, and how nothing ever changes, it can only be what I said at the beginning.
It is complete and utter stupidity.
And remember that if you visit Thailand and use Thai roads - especially if you hire a motorbike - you are also at risk. You may be the most careful driver in the world but that doesn't protect you from another idiot's stupidity.
Shortly after an Australian woman was murdered in Phuket, a British man appears to have been murdered in Pattaya.
In this case, the victim may have been murdered by another foreigner. The woman in Phuket was murdered because her Thai assailants needed a few hundred Baht to pay off a bar bill. Life is cheap in Thailand.
Lots of Thais are desperate for money and regard farangs as easy pickings. They believe we are all rich and have endless supplies of money.
Maniac drivers and lawless Thai roads aren't the only dangers in Thailand.
Welcome to Thailand, the Land of Smiles.
Wednesday 25th July 2012
Why do so many foreigners who move to Thailand then perform the Pattaya Death Leap? There are several instances of this happening every year.
Here's an older incident:
Then again, if I had to live in Pattaya ...
Wednesday 4th July 2012
The madness on Thai roads never stops ... and it's not only Thais who are affected.
According to a TV news report, a foreign tourist on the bus asked the driver to slow down. The driver was furious that an insignificant farang had told him - a superior Thai - how to drive, and started to drive faster to teach the stupid farang a lesson.
Shortly afterwards, ten people were killed including six foreigners.
I had a similar experience some years ago when I spoke to a minivan driver just after he had picked up passenger number 19 despite only having 14 seats in the van. He was also driving too fast and the van was seriously overloaded.
He too was furious with me. Thais know everything and you can never tell them anything. First he ordered me off the van and when I refused to go he drove like a lunatic to teach me a lesson.
It's a broad generalisation, but generally speaking, men in Thailand who drive vehicles for a living aren't very nice people.
Thailand is an incredibly photogenic country, both for its landscapes and its people. Regardless of whether you enjoy large Asian cities, beaches and islands, or rice fields and mountains, Thailand has something for you and it is a dream destination for photographers.
One of the great things about visiting Thailand is that hotels are plentiful and a lot cheaper than in most other countries. I always use Agoda to book hotels in Thailand. The company was established in Thailand and has great local knowledge, as well as a huge inventory of hotels.
If you click on one of the destinations opposite you will get a list of hotel deals from Agoda. It's generally a good idea to book on-line because you will get a good room rate and you won't suffer the disappointment of arriving at a hotel to find that it is full.
I book hotels regularly in Thailand and I have always found Agoda to be the best on-line travel agent. At times I have spent a lot of time researching hotel prices and although other deals sometimes look better at first I always end up returning to Agoda.
If you don't wish to pay for your hotel at the time of booking, Booking.com normally allows you to pay when you check in at the hotel. Some people prefer this method, but I have always found Booking.com to be more expensive than Agoda.
If you want to compare prices between different on-line travel agents (OTAs) for a specific hotel, you can use a company such as HotelsCombined. However, you will normally find that Agoda is the cheapest and therefore you can save yourself time and money by just booking through Agoda in the first place.
Images of Thailand