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Discussion Starter #1
Moving this to a new thread

Hi Michael from Thaland: I've been to Thailand several times. Travelled north to south. It was mind boggling to see the amount of bikes on the road and of who rode them. In Chang Mai I saw a young girl riding her Dream bike with a yellow lab sitting on the back lol. Whole families with wicker high chairs balanced in front of the driver with a baby sitting it. Young girls applying make up on their way to school. Personally I wouldn't have the guts to ride there, rider or passenger...it's almost a blood sport. Yikes!!!
Yes, riding on busy roads in Thailand is a bit different from the more orderly traffic in most western countries. Safety is a token issue at best, and accidents are frequent. In Phuket in particular, it is not for the faint hearted. That being said, there is a pattern. Once a rider knows what is going on it can be managed.

I have managed over 100,000 km here (in Phuket), and another 20,000 in other parts of Thailand without an accident, though will concede that on just about any trip there is likely to be a near miss.

There is some wonderful riding to be had away from the cities in Thailand, especially in the North. The Mae Hong Son route is one; over 4,000 bends on mountain roads.
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Cool littlw nugget of international moto history Mike! Three to one ratio in Thailand! Thats wild! Maybe the good ol' US of A could take some notes instead of clogging all of our highways with gas guzzlers while people talk on cell phones and text while driving them! Im no saint though..proud owner of a ford f150..
Unfortunately Thailand is following the USA (and the west in general). Sure, motorcycles outsell cars nearly three to one. However the market of motorcycles is mature, while the market for cars is growing.

A large number of the motorcycles sold replace one that is worn out, so the total number is growing only slowly. In 2009 just over 17,000 motorcycles were sold in Phuket. There were about 14,000 sold in the first 8 months of 2010.

Most of the cars are being added to the existing fleet as people buy one for the first time. The market and the total number of cars is growing fast. About 6,000 were sold in Phuket in 2009, and 6,500 in the first 8 months of 2010.

The net result is that roads have become noticeably more clogged in the 8 years that I have been here..... and become less motorcycle (and bicycle) friendly with it.

(My everyday ride here is a bicycle, six speed with a rear carrier and a front basket. Cute eh... gets through traffic quickly! No car here, I have my motorcycle for weekend jaunts. Different back in NZ though.)
 

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Hey Michael, saw your post on travel in Thailand. I've had the pleasure of traveling there several times and fell in love with the country. I've travelled in taxis, tuk tuk's, buses, and train from bkk to Chang Mai...what an adventure. Could of ran faster. What I did conclude was, no matter how much I love riding bikes is I'd rather walk through a parched desert than ride a bike half a km in Thailand lol. Good on ya for picking up the gantlet and ride there. But I suppose when you live there it's a much different scenario.
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Hey Michael, saw your post on travel in Thailand. I've had the pleasure of traveling there several times and fell in love with the country. I've travelled in taxis, tuk tuk's, buses, and train from bkk to Chang Mai...what an adventure. Could of ran faster. What I did conclude was, no matter how much I love riding bikes is I'd rather walk through a parched desert than ride a bike half a km in Thailand lol. Good on ya for picking up the gantlet and ride there. But I suppose when you live there it's a much different scenario.
It wasn't really a case of picking up the gantlet; it was just the way we got around. I worked with a couple of livestock development projects in Northeast Thailand from 1981 to 1985, and was provided with a motorcycle for work. There was less traffic then, but driver attitude was no less wild on the main roads. I was on them only a little, spending most of my time on back roads, many of which were unsealed. I had already been riding for more than fifteen years (since I was ten) when I arrived in Thailand, much of the time off road or on unsealed roads in NZ; ideal training as it turned out.

In some fundamental ways life in NE Thailand was not a lot different from the farming district where I grew up in New Zealand, albeit farmers were a lot poorer. It was, and still is a very different Thailand from that experienced by most visitors, and Phuket, where I am now.

I came late in 2003 to visit friends from NE Thailand, who opened a business here. I had no plans to stay, but was offered the job I still have; not a lot of pay but hugely satisfying. My friends are still in business too. Public transport around Phuket is abysmal, taxis / tuk-tuks are exorbitant, and the guys who operate them are obnoxious.

Transport is the number one complaint of visitors to the island. My feeling is that many tourists don't get around all that much. Unlike some other parts of Thailand, such as the North, culture and spectacular landscape is not what people come to Phuket for. Beaches and nightlife are the attractions; visitors don't have to go far from their lodgings to find their fill.

The transport situation is the same for people living locally, but we do need to get around, and motorcycles are convenient. There some 250,000 registered (increasing slowly), compared with about 75,000 cars / pick-ups (increasing fast). Phuket traffic really is as crazy as I have encountered anywhere (I have ridden in about 15 countries, and different parts of Thailand), as you may have observed, and it has statistics to match. It is reckoned to have the highest fatality rate in Thailand. As I noted previously, it is not for the faint hearted..... or the novice. However, there is a pattern to behaviour on the road (unbelievable to a visitor, perhaps), and it is manageable once you adjust.
 

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I live and ride in Thailand and China for the last 6 years. Specifically in Bangkok I ride my CBR 250 and my 135cc Yamaha Nuovo Elegance. It's exciting for sure, but doesn't hold a candle to driving in China. I just got my Car Drivers License in China, a long story in itself. Driving in China is mad, although after a little while you get used to it. But you never get used to the way people drive, you just adjust/adapt your driving to the country. I wouldn't drive past my driveway in China on a motorcycle. Interestingly, motorcycles and scooters have been banned from many large Chinese cities. That makes driving a car there a little less stressful, but not much.
 

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I've live in Thailand for the past 5 yrs - North, North-East, and Bangkok. Ridden most of the country. Riding in the city can be akin to skydiving in a busy sky - buzzed up and pretty fun once you get used to the rhythm. Riding in the country and mountains is like riding an empty road to heaven. :) Love the roads here, love the scenery, be it from palm-treed beaches to empty twisting, winding jungle and mountain ways, with ancient temples in between. Plus the girls give a great oil massage after a long day of riding. :)

Traffic law violations, here's 200b officer, on your way with a salute. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Transfered at the hint of spdklls

Where I live at present we have policemen, aka Thailand’s Finest. They man the traffic lights, often in pairs or threes, at rush hours. Sometimes a dozen or so of them set up a checkpoint to levy instant fines on tourists, working class folk, and students riding motorcycles, who obligingly stop without wearing a helmet or the required documents. Occasionally a drunk motorcyclist stops too. Thailand's Finest in Phuket don’t generally bother people in cars or fast moving motorcyclists.

The fine is usually about $US10, or $15 if a receipt is required. The advantage of the receipt option is that the rider can often use it to get away without wearing a helmet or carrying a licence for the rest of the day.

The tipsy are often sent on their way for a fee of $3-600, but if too drunk they might be given a place to sleep it off before being being sent on their way, having paid the fee.

I gather they are more inclined to take a drunk to before a judge these days, which can be quite time consuming, and more expensive, so drunks are less inclined to stop.

An American ex-colleague (of three weeks standing) was locked up for being drunk after he smashed his rental motorcycle into a new car owned by a local. The bar-girl he had also rented did not hang around to help him, so he called our Russian colleague to persuade the police to allow him leave to go to the adjacent hospital. He said that he needed drugs for his heart condition.

He did not wait to sort things out with the owner of the car, or the motorcycle (my landlord). He did a runner and left the country, but is now blacklisted, so he cannot return to the Land of Smiles.

I find my motorcycle gets a little unstable after I have had a few drinks, so if I am going out for a beer with my buddies I take my bicycle
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
It is surprising the amount of local based expats who have no problem in drink driving here.

How did your friend rent the bike - passport or cash deposit?
Not just ex-pats drinking and driving. Lots of locals too, and it must be a factor in the horrendous rate of deaths on the road here. Not just alcohol; there is a good bit of yah baa around too. It is a few years since I have seen anything published for Phuket, but it was reckoned to have the highest fatality rate per head in Thailand...... and Thailand is reckoned to be among the top ten in the world.

It is sobering, and is certainly something I factor in when I am on the road. The slightest indication of intoxication, and I make doubly sure that I keep my distance. As you know, being aware of others on the road, and knowing patterns of behaviour, is more important here.

In western countries rules tend to provide the guidelines. Here they exist, but are largely ignored.

I am not much of a drinker; a couple is my normal limit, maybe three over a long evening, when I am on my motorcycle. If I am meeting mates a place where I know there will be a few "off-shore" workers ringing the bell I go on my bicycle. Even then I manage to decline quite a few rounds before yet another gets put in front of me.

Actually, that place they have it sorted; a co-operatively owned bar out the front of the estate where a lot of them live, so no dangerous trek home for them. Wives and girlfriends like the arrangement too. With a patch of lawn, they sometimes sit and gossip over wine, sticky rice and som dum too. The only welcoming committee is a couple of friendly dogs; no dancing gals or anything.

It is about 7 km from my place; easy cycling distance. I usually take a long route there, 20 - 25 km, so it is a break before the last leg home!

My "friend"....... that creepy seppo was no friend of mine. Just a new colleague, who I helped out, as you do. My word was his deposit for the apartment he stayed in and the motorcycle, which my landlord threw in for an extra 1,500 baht a month...... all to be paid for in arrears! He was going to start coughing up when he got his got paid, but didn't make it to his first payday.

I doubt the bar-girl got a deposit either, though he would have paid the bar-fine, so at least someone got something out of him.

Yes, I know some motorcycle rental places in Thailand like to keep the customer's passport as a surety. They are best avoided.

Visitors to the country are required to carry ID, so they are better to keep their passports handy. A photocopy of the passport and a deposit should be enough. If there are any problems, a legitimate motorcycle rental place can report it to the police quick enough for them to nab an absconding punter before he or she gets too far. All hotels and guest houses are required to provide an update of their registered guests to the Immigration Police on-line each day.

Personally, when I have rented a motorcycle, it has usually been from where I am staying, or nearby. Mostly I have not even had to leave a deposit.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
As it is

A lot of what I have said in the past couple of posts will be Double Dutch to many members of the forum, especially those who have not had much experience outside their own western country. Many are not interested in much outside their own world, but maybe some are.

Here it really is another world, all quite different in a country where motorcycles are mainstream. They are used by the masses for transport, not as a hobby or a supplementary vehicle. Here in Thailand motorcycles out sell cars by about three to one, though the market for motorcycles is mature, whereas the market for cars is growing.

To give a bit more idea of motorcycling as it is is in Thailand, here is an interview that I copied from another website:


The village motorcycle repair shop is a busy place. Old and young people – mostly the latter – come to get their bikes repaired all the time. Everyone drives a motorcycle; they are a part of daily life in Thailand. From morning to night, Mr. Lem, 36, stays busy in his shop. It is located on the main road to the village, a little bit outside. As I entered his shop Mr. Lem had two bikes in for major overhauls and was working on the rear brakes of a third one. As he worked his little son kept running to a fro on the floor, his feet dark with dust while his mother Mrs. Lem was inside the shop arranging spare parts on shelves. Two customers soon appeared, and older man wanting a muffler repair and a young girl who wanted oil change for her new and flashy bike. Mr. Lem, although quite busy, said yes to an interview and I talked with him as he kept on working, doing the various odd jobs as he talked.

Q: How long is it since you opened this repair shop for motorbikes?

Mr. Lem: I have had the shop for five years now. Before that I was a construction worker.

Q: How was it that you stopped working in the construction business and started a motorcycle garage?

Mr. Lem: Well, I started working on construction sites when I was eighteen. I worked hard for many years for different companies, also in Bangkok and the salary was low. When I was thirty-three I decided that I had had enough of this back-breaking work and should try something new. I had always been interested in motorcycles and repaired my own bike often. I had had some basic training in repair work and thought I could do it. I had a little money saved up and that was enough to open this garage. It is our home as well, we live here. I bought the most common spare parts and soon it was ready.

Q: How was it in the beginning?

Mr. Lem: It was tough going to begin with. It took me a long time to get some jobs done, especially major engine repair. I started to take evening and weekend courses in motorcycle repair offered by Honda and other manufacturers. This was necessary because modern bikes are hi-tech things in comparison to older models. The electrical systems, for example, are sophisticated nowadays. These courses are free of charge and I take one whenever I have the chance. I am not a professional mechanic in that I have never been to a technical college or vocational school. I am a totally self-made man when it comes to motorcycle repair.

Q: How is business?

Mr. Lem: It is OK mostly. On some days I have a lot to do, other days are quieter. Since the start of the economic downturn people hang on to their old bikes and repair them instead of buying new ones. This is good for me. I sell a lot of spare parts, which is a big part of the business. I work alone although my wife has learned to do simple things such as tire repair and to do oil changes. She is quite good at this, actually.

Q: What are the most common kinds of breakdowns in a motorbike?

Mr. Lem: Difficult to say and depends on the models and the age of the bikes. Brake repair is very common and also tire repair and tire change. Driving chain and sprocket problems are frequent. People are too careless and they don’t lubricate the chain. This makes the chain and sprocket wear quickly. Girls and women don’t use the hand brake much on their bike, so the cable becomes stuck as a result of disuse. Teenage boys like to race their bikes and soot gets to the spark plug so this needs to be cleaned or changed. The problems are simply too numerous to be counted but this is good for my business, as I would not have much to do if everybody were keeping their bike in top condition. The truth is that most people never do preventative repair or regular maintenance; they only come in with the bike when something goes seriously wrong or they can’t drive it any more. They will run the bike as long as it will go.

Q: What would you say to people, do you have some advice for motorbike owners?

Mr. Lem: Take good care of your bike, especially the brakes. This can save your life. Come in for inspection and maintenance before serious problems occur. Be careful with oil changes and never drive more than a thousand or fifteen hundred kilometers between oil changes. Lubricate the driving chain once a week, check the lights.

Q: It is dangerous to drive a motorcycle in Thailand, isn’t it?

Mr. Lem: Yes, you could say that but most accidents happen because of carelessness and stupidity. For example, only last week a nineteen year old boy crashed into a tree, he was drunk coming home from a party late at night. His girlfriend was sitting behind him but she fell into the ditch before he hit the tree and was not much hurt while he is still in hospital with a broken leg. The motorbike was less than a month old and is now seriously damaged. I saw it at the police station yesterday. Of course, one should not think about the damage to the bike so much, it’s the people that matter.

Q: So it is drunk driving that causes most accidents?

Mr. Lem: Yes, that and racing on narrow country roads. One other thing is serious neglect when it comes to headlights and taillights. When the bulbs get burned out the owners often forget or neglect to change them, I am sure this also causes many accidents and deaths all the time. I am surprised by the number of bikes without a headlight or a taillight driving in the night; it makes me shudder when I see it. A light bulb does not cost much to replace but it is as if people never realize this fact. A bike may even be without a working headlight or taillight for months on end.

Q: What is the most serious motorcycle accident you have witnessed?

Mr. Lem: Three people died - two boys on the one bike and a girl on the other bike. All younger than twenty. The boys’ bike was without a headlight and the girls’ bike crashed frontally into theirs. They all died before they reached hospital. Another accident happened on a bridge not far from here. In that case a car crashed into a motorbike and father and son were killed. They were driving home late at night and the car hit them so hard that they were thrown off the road something like ten or fifteen meters. There was little left of the bike. The driver of the car was also hurt, I think. In this village alone, there are three young men who have lost a leg or an arm in motorcycle accidents and are of course handicapped for life. It does hardly bear thinking about.

I thanked Mr. Lem for the interview.
 

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I had a bit of a holiday in Cambodia recently and it was interesting to see the difference after years in Thailand... they still did all the stupid things, but what was completely lacking was the Thai (ego) need to get in front of the next guy, to not let them get ahead of you and then have to race them down if they do.

I find most of the local males have delicate egos (seemingly rooted in a mass inferiority complex, but I'm not a psychologist) and have to get ahead and beat the next guys to feel good about themselves.

Strangely that was missing in Cambodia.

It was great.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
what was completely lacking was the Thai (ego) need to get in front of the next guy, to not let them get ahead of you and then have to race them down if they do.

I find most of the local males have delicate egos (seemingly rooted in a mass inferiority complex, but I'm not a psychologist) and have to get ahead and beat the next guys to feel good about themselves.

Strangely that was missing in Cambodia.
It is all about "face"; fundamental to understanding Thai people, especially the men, but difficult to fathom for people who have not lived here for a while. It is something we break down amongst the English major students where I work; if they are going to work with foreigners (as most go on to do) they have to lose a bit of attitude.

I visited Preah Vihearn, the World heritage listed Khmer temple on the Thai / Cambodia border, a couple of weeks before the current tensions over sovereignty blew up. I reckon a lot of that is about "face" too.

It was a great ride up to the temple, which is majestically perched atop a 500 metre cliff overlooking Cambodia. A pity it is off limits now. Sorry, no pictures.
 

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Yup, that aspect of 'face' being rooted in their inferiority complex. You see how they can't take someone riding a nicer bike or car than them, compared to if you're riding a Wave or something. They feel inferior and have to chase it down and beat it at all costs to feel like a 'man' and save their 'face'.

Khao Phra Vihaan NP started opening up for weekend visits earlier this year, and since the new friendlier government has been voted in it's been reported the NP is open week round now. You can't go into the temple, but (reportedly) you can go up to the cliff face (Maew i Daeng), and walk down the rock faceway to the oldest bas-reliefs in Thailand.

I should be riding along the Cambodian border this weekend maybe, so plan to stop around there for a night as I've friends in a nearby town. Nice area over there.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
Good to hear that the National Park is open. You'll find the odd smaller Khmer temple ruins to poke around lower down, and it is a good ride on a nice road up to a Thai visitor centre built near the edge of the cliff. Great views to be had, and the slightly freaky walk down to those bas-reliefs. Possibly technically in Cambodia, but they can only be accessed from Thai soil.

Thailand has invested a pretty penny there. They never really accepted the World Court ruling on sovereignty over the temple back in the '60s, and it seems they kind of expected to get it under their control. Cambodia getting the World Heritage listing really rankled with the Thai powers that be.

It would be nice if they could see clear to jointly administering it, but I cannot see that happening soon with the present shenanigans.

When I was there you could pass a makeshift border, go through a ramshackle village selling food and souvenirs and visit the majestically located temple. The ruins are interesting, but the views are stunning. It was also one of the last holdouts for the Khmer Rouge. I spent several hours checking it all out with a Khmer guide.

I'll be interested to hear how it all goes for you there.... and see some pictures! I did not have a camera when I visited. I still don't have one; must remedy that some time before too long.
 
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