Samui Wining & Dining
The humorous guide to riding a motorbike in Thailand

The humorous guide to riding a motorbike in ThailandMake sure you have some experience of riding a bike before you tackle jumping on one here, and weaving your way through rush hour traffic to your next portion of noodle soup and a Chang beer. Thailand is not the place to learn to ride a bike unless you’re willing to risk becoming part of the ever growing statistics of dead and injured.


Ensure you have a good sense of balance and co-ordination. Do you know how to ride a bicycle? Riding a motorbike is just the same...except it’s faster...and you have an accelerator...and mirrors... Okay, it’s nearly the same - it has a seat and two wheels.


Remain calm at all times. Did someone pull out in front of you? Did someone brake suddenly or drive towards you on a one way street? What do you do in this instance? You smile and you keep driving. You will never see road rage from a Thai driver and neither will they understand it, if you display it.


You have a family of six and you can’t afford a car, no problem. Simply put them all on the bike because motorbikes are built for transporting small families. One child in the basket on the front, one standing on the foot rest, you driving, another small child squeezed behind you and then your partner on the back with another child under each arm. Oh wait, that’s seven. Oh well, you see? It is possible!


Do not assume that Western driving rules apply in Thailand. At a fourway stop, the rule is not ‘first to arrive is first to go’. The rule (mostly) is, ‘there’s a gap, and I’m going for it’. Be prepared for this, be decisive, check twice in every direction with your three pairs of eyes and go when there’s a gap.


Fancy making friends with a police officer or learning first-hand about Thai law? No, me neither. Make sure your license is in order, you’re allowed to drive the vehicle you’re driving and you are following basic road rules. And no, that doesn’t mean you can drive down a one way and pull out dangerously in front of people because the locals do it. They’ve been doing it since they were eight years old, and have a little more experience than you.


On the subject of age, as soon as children in Thailand are old enough to spell, they’re old enough to learn how to ride a bike. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but the legal age to ride a bike in Thailand is eight. Imagine that? Most Western kids are fighting over which PlayStation game to play with and Thai kids are out gaining years of experience of how to dodge anything from a chicken, buffalo or inexperienced foreigner on the road. (It’s actually 15, but it certainly doesn’t appear that way.)


Indicators are mostly for decoration only. Don’t be surprised if a local suddenly turns in front of you without using their indicator. If you’re caught unaware, it merely means you need to concentrate harder and pay more attention to the other riders on the road. You might see some locals driving with their signal on constantly. This is merely done to confuse you and to ensure that you pay better attention to what they’re doing.


You’ve got mirrors on your bike for a reason and the goal is to try and see how many times you can use them without pulling a muscle in your neck. You absolutely have to use them driving in Thailand as anything can happen at any time and without any warning. Checking less than 50 times a second means you aren’t prepared for what Thailand will throw at you that day.


Besides large families, bikes are made to carry a whole multitude of things. Strange things have been spotted being carried on a bike such as large televisions; animals of various sizes (poodles or chickens in the basket, Labradors in the foot rest);Page-86-2 furniture in various shapes and sizes and in Hat Yai a passenger was spotted holding an IV drop which was, yes, you guessed it, attached to the driver. Please do not try this (any of these, not just the IV drip), you will most certainly break the television, squash the animals and damage the furniture. Concentrate on learning to actually ride the bike safely before attempting anything too adventurous.


Have you ever been ten pin bowling? What’s this got to do with riding a motorbike in Thailand, you might ask? Have you watched the professionals do this? That ball flies down the lane and smashes into those skittles with the force of a, well, fast-moving bowling ball. If you were to let the ball slowly trickle down the lane, it’s hardly going to do much damage. Can you see where I’m going here? If you go fast and you crash, you’re going to do some serious damage, only you’re not a bowling ball, you’re made of bones and skin … and so are the people you’ll crash into. This statement might start a debate, but speed does kill.


Helmets. Don’t even get me started on helmets. These are not for decoration; they are to stop your head and brain from splattering all over the streets and causing a danger to other drivers. I’ve never understood why people choose not to wear them. Am I the only one who has seen horror movies which show how fragile our heads are? Our heads are not indestructible, not matter how much we might think they are. They will crack, they will split and it will hurt - if we live long enough to feel it, that is. Wear your helmet!


So pay attention, concentrate, enjoy your holiday … and make it out alive.


 Colleen Setchell


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