Before I brief the challenges and inconveniences of traveling by “motorbike,” I want to say that I really am enjoying this new commuting experience. I just wish that I could capture some of the things that I see while riding my bike but hey, some things just have to be experienced, right?
Every morning on my way to school, there are loads of Thai/Burmese people crammed into dump trucks and pick-up trucks headed to the day’s work. Many of them with clay-like sun protection rubbed all over their faces in a way that resembles tribal paint. Also, I can’t figure out if there is a minimum age for driving here. I see little kids driving 3 or 4 deep all the time. I pass by some beautiful grazing cows and water buffalo on many occasions. Specifically by school, there is a field of tall palm trees with cows that graze throughout them and that is a stunning landscape . There are so many different beautiful trees and flowers here too. Driving by Big Buddha is a comforting pleasure (a giant Buddha statue on the side of the mountain). Having the wind in your face is nice about 65% of the time. And then there are those sleepy mornings and evenings when the thought of driving a motorbike is exhausting. Also, within that 35% of dissatisfaction are the frequent bugs and occasional rain that are inevitable. Rainy season is May through November, so having a poncho onboard is key (Thank you, Melissa ). Sneezing is a bit awkward with a helmet on and no hands to “cover your mouth” as we are taught in the U.S.
Styling my hair is fruitless since the helmet changes everything. And while riding, there are usually times when seemingly hundreds of little sand pieces or small bugs smack me everywhere that I am not covered with clothing. And that feels like hundreds of simultaneous mosquito bites. Other times, a giant bug runs into you. One friend of mine got hit by what felt like a “flying giant spider,” hahaha. The bugs here are crazy big. The flies are the size of bumble bees; sometimes they even seem larger. The rain doesn’t feel wonderful, mostly when you are driving against the wind though. And you can feel it through your poncho.
I must look so silly on my bike. Often my helmet is falling sideways; I am picking at my ear (because the chin strap is flapping and smacking my ear); or I am rubbing my chest and arms where the bugs and sand have hit me. Oh and one tip- don’t blow a bubble with your gum while driving (I didn’t try this, just saying).
Given the lawless nature here, sidewalks are not off limits; nor are running red lights and driving on the wrong side of the road to avoid inconvenient u-turns. These aspects make driving a motorbike really fun . The signs here are funny too. They look completely wrong as far as what the road actually does. The police often set up road blocks to pull over foreigners and middle aged Thai people (they target those that have money) to request a license or write you a no-helmet ticket. Anything that they pull you over for is 500 Baht. I was able to get out of a ticket for not having my license on me somehow. Although the policeman told me in a way so that his peers would not see that he was releasing me without taking payment. I think that because I spoke just a small amount of Thai to him, he let me go. To say “I don’t have money” is “Mai me tong.”
The stray dogs….. they chased me for a few weeks. It was pretty terrifying but for some reason, this has slowed down for now. There was a point when I knew which dogs by which shops were the ones that chased me and I became anxious before driving past these shops. They have never bitten me but they are close enough during their barking chase that they could have. I think avoiding eye contact with them (similar to the police) helps.. haha. Imagine the grungiest looking pup and that is what the wild dogs look like here.
Above all, motorbikes are fun and convenient . But I kind of miss walking everywhere (like in Bangkok and Singapore) and I will enjoy having a car again at some point . The only thing that makes me really miss driving a car is the 3 accidents that I got in over the last week. Nothing too bad but a sprained ankle and toe that are stopping me from enjoying many of the outdoor activities here. And going to the hospital everyday or so to have them scrape/clean your wounds because apparently the humidity delays the healing process and often results in gangrene is also a bit of a challenge. But hey, free tattoos from Thailand.