Sunday, June 30, 2013

On Riding a Motorcycle in Bangkok

I was going to sit down tonight and write about some of my impressions from this weekend’s roadtrip to Ayutthaya. I still may, but since the very first observation had to do with comparing riding a motorcycle in Ayutthaya and Bangkok, I knew I needed to write this missive about BK traffic first.  This blog has been on my mind for a month now.
Mind you, these aren’t things I’ve been thinking about while driving. Oh no. Driving a motorcycle in Bangkok while thinking about other things will get you killed.  My half hour drive to work in the morning and on the way home is an exercise in complete and total focus.  90% of my attention is intensely paying attention to what is happening in front of me, specifically, the one to five foot wide area of the pavement that is my ‘road’.  It’s the variable space between the cars that barely move in the 7AM commute.  The other 10% is vaguely paying attention to what’s on my sides and behind me. 

Sometimes, my road will simply close up in front of me as there isn’t enough room to pass between the cars, meaning I have to slide over to another road on either side of the cars.  Unless I’m tailgating another motorcyclist (a good tactic as it cuts down on the brain work), I’m constantly gauging my road.  Can I fit through there?  Should I stay in 3rd gear or should I downshift?  For particularly tight fits, I may need drop all the way down to 1st and do a little handlebar wobbling to keep from clipping the cars’ sideview mirrors with mine own.  

Perhaps the best analogy for traffic in Bangkok that I’ve thought of is that of a river.  The cars, trucks, buses and tuktuks are rocks and pebbles, slowly being pushed along the river bottom.  We cyclists are the water, each bike a water molecule in and of itself.  We rush forward, filling every available crevice, gap  and opening.  Only the sturdiest dam will impede our progress.   Also, being unthinking forces of nature, one water molecule doesn’t wait around for another in the flow forward.  Leave a gap and another molecule will fill it.  We will weave lane to lane between individual stall cars, putting a lot of effort into gaining another 15, 20, 30 feet.  We can’t stop; we’re flowing water molecules.  Gravity and the push of the river drive us forward!

I don’t dread driving here.  I am not complaining about the traffic.  It’s something I have to deal with and I will do so without whining.  That said, it was weird and refreshing to get out into a second-tier small city like Ayutthaya this weekend.  There, I could drive down the middle of the lane.  How strange.  There was still some cutting between cars, but it was mostly at stoplights.   

There were a few times whilst still in newtown Ayutthaya, that I ran into some nasty stalled stuff (namely at the roundabout in the city center) and I wove my way through it like an expert, hopping up onto the sidewalk, leaving the other motorcyclists stalled with the boulders.

I wonder if any of the Ayutthayan cyclists thought, “that guy drives like he’s from Bangkok.”?

It was like I was a water molecule from the harshest, roughest whitewater river suddenly flowing along the calm progress of the Chao Phraya River.  

 Speaking of the Chao Phraya, my first video from my weekend adventures is a Seasons of the Ukulele entry. It’s week 71; the theme is songs with people’s names in the title.  Me performing Proud Mary. 


  1. Wow, what a way to start the day! Seems like no one is going very fast.

    I hate traffic!

    Weather here is very hot this week. The entire west s having record temperatures. It hit 90 in Seattle.

  2. I am NOT jealous about that traffic.


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