Driving in Thailand is not for the faint-hearted

Thai Baht busThey only serve those who stand and wait!

I have just obtained my Thai driving licence and had some considerable time to mull over my driving experiences in Thailand while waiting over two days in various offices.

The application process started at 7 a.m. one morning by rising early to get to the doctors for medical certificate to prove I had two arms, two legs, two ears and two eyes that worked. My interpreter and I arrived early and at about 8.30 we were told "rules change, now you have to do it in hospital". Off to hospital 14 miles away to be told " doctor no here till 10.30 as he do clinic in Warichaphum" . I see then he was the one who told us to come here … hmmm. Next find head man of village to come to local government office and tell them I do indeed stay in his village? Job done so now sit and wait in office for paperwork to be processed, but wait they need two copies of passport and UK driving licence so off we go to find photocopier. Back in to office and join queue again, now farang ( that's what they call us foreigners) in front of me just finding out about medical and I hear muttering a of not more bull. My turn and the first thing they do is photocopy my photocopy of passport … why you may well ask. Finish paperwork and off to get medical certificate by the time that queuing had finished it was 4pm. and test centre closed so try again tomorrow.

A typical family on the way to marketUp for 7a.m. next day and at test centre for 8 when they open – a good result as we were first in queue, however farang slightly damp due to heavy rain and hole in bin liner I was wearing on motorbike to keep dry. 10.30 and called to desk to be told rules change 1st October and headman and local government forms no good. Now have to go to Immigration bureau 50 miles away to get a different form. Find correct place after several agonising drives through busy town. Join queue, I think I'm getting the hang of this, and finally seen,  "where passport copies?", "no those no good as have someone else's stamp on" and why don't I have photographs. Another nerve wracking ride down streets to get bits done then back to office, well I’m blowed its lunch time now!

Back at 1.30 and join another queue, see how easily I have conformed, and one hour later have correct forms. Back to test centre and after showing I can wobble round cones without putting my foot down on the motorbike and can tell the difference between red and green I leave with a provisional licence … phew, and I thought French post offices were bad.

Pick up carrying a summer house, needless to say he took corners very slowly as it wasnt tied on.The Thais drive on the same side of the road as the UK so initially driving here is easy but it's the antics of the road users that only experience can save you from. I was driving down to Bangkok on highway 2 which has 3 lanes in each direction when I caught up with three pickups, one in each lane, all doing the same speed, they have no concept of lane discipline here, so I undertook on the hard shoulder and was suddenly aware of movement to my left as a police car undertook me on the grass embankment! Ah I thought now I understand them a bit better. This may sound all a bit dangerous but I have found that they use their mirrors well so will stick to lane as you undertake. If there is an outing using more than two coaches the police run them in convoy in the fast lane so undertaking is the only means of getting past. Nobody flinches but if you stay in fast lane too long there is a £6 spot fine.

School buses are either pickup trucks or lorries with bench seating fitted front to back inside and so overcrowded that most of the boys either hang off the back or, alarmingly, sit on the roof. Overloading with goods is common with the front wheels sometimes just kissing the Tarmac! I am used to the driving here now and think the solution to surviving is "Don't wonder if they will pull out in front of you or turn across your path … they will"

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Steve Francis

Thailand tour guide

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