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Thaiing up my life

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Driving in Thailand

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sawasdee

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I never learnt to drive in the UK. I lived in London - brilliant public transport - and travelled for a living . It wasn't necessary. But when I moved here, and had a business, I needed to drive. And I was over 50!

So  I bought a vehicle. On the advice of friends, who said it would be safer, I have a rather - muscular - truck. It's big. Most smaller vehicles give me a wide berth. And the bull bar on the front scares the motor bikes a bit, so they also steer clear.

Thank g-d they do.

In Thailand, you can't get insurance until you have a licence. So you have to learn without insurance. This terrified me! So I learnt the very basics, and then went to take my test. An employee drove me there.......and my secretary, whose Dad was best friends with the chief examiner, came too.

Her Dad's friend took me into his office to take the written test - 'just ask if you are stuck'. My favourite multiple choice question was this:

If you are driving a long time, and get drowsy, you should:

a)Drink lots of black coffee

b)Pull over and take a break

c)Turn the music up loud in your vehicle to keep you alert

d)Take some amphetamines

Truly! And he told me d) was a frequent answer......

Then it came to the practical part of the test - which took place in the licensing centre car park. I had to pull forward, turn a corner, steer to a corner ahead, reverse between two poles , then turn a corner and park no more than 18 inches from the kerb.

I couldn't reverse. So he told me to wind my window down, and he called out to me -'left hand down - now right - more left' until I was between the poles.

And I had my licence. My employee drove me home.

 Then I was on the road. I practised a lot more in a very quiet area in the National Park before I ventured into town. And on my first foray, I came to a 4 way junction where NOBODY gave way - you have to edge out, and force people to let you in. (A technique I've now learnt!) I sat there, frozen, waiting for a gap that never appeared, for 15 minutes - and backed up traffic halfway through our small town....eventually, a driver behind me got out, stoppped the traffic, and got me moving.

I've been driving now almost 15 years, and no longer cause traffic jams. But I am still terrified by the motor bikes and scooters which outnumber cars here.They drive the wrong way on a dual carriageway (divided highway), they ignore red lights, they thread through traffic to be at the front of any queue. To have a licence to drive one, you have to be 16. When I had a resort, my chef's 8 year old sister used to come to pick her up.....School finishing time is when I will NOT be on the road - not only is the average age of the drivers 12-13, but they are 4 to a bike!

In the UK, the police always had a special effort to stop drunk drivers at Xmas/NewYear. Here, last year, at Songkran, the police stopped 170,200 motorbike riders without helmets. They stopped 178,000 without licences,

Oh, and they turn off all the traffic lights in my town at midnight. Bars close at 2 am. I don't drive at night either. And I have a teetotal taxi driver.

The accident statistics are very high.

 

.

 


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