Friday, July 19, 2013

A Thai Guy in His Underwear Fondles My Tailpipe: Long Weekend Blog: Friday

Weekend adventure live blogging. Day One.

After lunch here at the end of getting paid to do very little week, I was so itching to leave early.  I took my usual approach that I’ve always used when wanting to leave work early.  I inform.  I don’t ask. I tell the boss I gotta go.  I don’t request permission.   I even had meteorological data to back up my excuse. 

Right about 1 PM, the monsoon hit Bangkok.  The bigtime thunder and lightning I’ve only experienced in the tropics…. And Texas.  There were grumblings in the staffroom.  This being the start of a 4-day weekend, I wasn’t the only one with plans.  One of my co-workers even said, “I get the feeling this is going to be one of those storms that last for hours and hours,” which is usually not the case here in Thailand.  My experience so far of the Rainy Season is that although it rains most days, it’s always in the afternoon and never more than an hour or so. 

Still, I was worried about how this was going to effect my plans to drive my motorcycle the 70 miles or so to the beachside resort town of Pattaya.  I certainly didn’t want to drive in a thunderstorm.

As usual, the rain stopped after about 45 minutes.  I found a website that gave hour-by-hour weather forecasts for Bangkok.  Thunderstorms:  1 PM and again at 4 PM. 

So, at 2:15 I told the boss I had to leave for weather reasons. 

Had it been a normal day, he would have totally bought it, but since ALL of us were doing nothing productive and  were itching to leave early, let me alone get away with it wouldn’t seem fair.  All of us marching out nearly two hours early at 2:15 might have caused problems. I had to stay.

At 3:00, I tried again, and this time, it worked.  Off to Pattaya!! A quick stop at home and I was on the road by 4:00. 

The traffic was surprisingly light for a getaway Friday.  I was cruising along for quite a stretch at 90 kph or so when suddenly I noticed something quite different about the sound of my motorcycle.  It was a whole lot quieter.  The rumble caused by the crack in my tailpipe that’s been there since I bought the thing was suddenly gone.  It sounded like a normal motorbike.  What the?
The bike continued to operate fine.  No problems at all with how it was running. Still, I had to check out this mysterious curing of my tailpipe crack.  I pulled over and examined the exhaust system. 

I quickly figured it out.  The nut and bolt that held the muffler to the frame had vibrated itself out of its hole and now the whole tailpipe was just hanging there loose.  The change in it’s angle had sealed the crack, with the aft part of the pipe now wedged thoroughly into the fore.  What to do?  I was in Nakhon Nowhere. I didn’t know the Thai word for “mechanic” and I certainly wouldn’t be able to recognize the Thai writing for the word. 

What else could I do?  I drove on, hoping the tailpipe would continue to hang in place until I reached something that screamed MECHANIC at me or I got to my destination, still a good 40 miles or so away. 

Also, it was important I not waste a bunch of time getting to Pattaya either.  I didn’t have a firm hotel reservation, merely an e-mail I’d sent a place I liked online to which I got no response.  I needed to get to Pattaya to find a place to stay before everything booked up for the long weekend.

Everything seemed to be going fine until I found myself at a red light somewhere between Chon Buri and Sri Racha.  I looked down at my tailpipe and it was almost scraping the ground.  I wasn’t going to make it. Soon the tailpipe was going to snap clean off and then I’d really be in trouble.  I even thought to myself, ‘one speed bum and that things is toast.’
I was really starting to panic when I came upon a gas station with the symbol of a cogged wheel out front.  Aha!  The international symbol of the mechanic!  I pulled in. 

The symbol referred to a place way in the back that looked to be merely an lube & oil joint.  It looked closed.  I pulled into the sole bay and I saw guy through a cracked bathroom door.  He was brushing his teeth and wearing only boxer shorts. 

That’s when I hit the speed bump.  The entire muffler assemble fell to the asphault just as I was stopping and shutting off the engine. 

My horrendous Thai language skills were a little better than this guy’s English, meaning he didn’t speak any at all, but with lots of miming and some basic phrases, I got through to him that I wanted to fix this now, by whatever means necessary because I was on my way to Pattaya.
I’m not sure what he actually said in Thai, but from the delivery and body language, it seemed to me he was probably saying: “Dude, you’re totally fucked.  There is no way getting that fixed here and now.”

When it looked like he wasn’t going to help me, I asked if I could leave the bike there while I want went roaming the streets of Chon Buri looking for an appropriate sized nut and bolt to replace what had fallen out.  He said something and disappeared into the shop, only to come back with a wrench, a nut driver and big plastic box filled with nuts and bolts of various sizes.   


I used my riding gloves to hold the still very hot tailpipe in place while he fastened the muffler back to the frame. 

Unfortunately, what had been an annoying hairline crack in the tailpipe was now a quarter inch gap.  Might as well not even have a muffler at all. It was going to be very, very, illegally loud. 

Then boxer shorts dude walks back into the shop and comes out with an empty Pepsi can, some aviation shears and some wire.  Aha.  I immediately realized what he was thinking.  He cut away the top and bottom of the can and used the remaining cylinder to MacGyver a collar to go over the gap in the exhaust assembly.  He used the wire to tighten it in place.  Brilliant!  I started up the bike and it still sounded offensively loud.. but it was better than nothing, and I could continue on my way.

The improvised collar lasted all of a few miles before disintegrating.

In any case, I made it, exhausted, to Pattaya.

The place I had e-mailed had no idea who I was and they certainly didn’t have any rooms.  I went to half a dozen other places and they were either way too expensive, had no vacancies or didn’t have internet in their rooms (a necessity).
The most embarrassing part of the room search was pulling into these little side streets.  The bike wasn’t all that offensive out on the main roads with their wide expanses.  A Thai ‘soi’ is little more than an alleyway with the buildings crowding in on it.  The sound of my bike echoed like someone lighting off an M-80 every few fractions of a second.  

Even the bargirls covered their ears.  

But I found a place.  I am here. Tomorrow, I go to a real mechanic to see about fixing the bike.  

The road was long and tiring, so I got a nice massage before writing this tonight, so at least story includes a happy ending. 


  1. By the time you read this, I hope you have gotten a good nights rest. Best of luck finding a real mechanic to fix the tail pipe. If you don't will you be able to get it back home?

    It must be very hard dealing with life's problems when you can't speak the language very well. It makes me tired just thinking about it.

    1. Update:

      Spent the better part of Saturday morning waiting around at the Honda dealership. Yes, they fixed it. Brought the whole tailpipe assembly to a machine shop where they welded it back together. Better than it was before.

  2. Great writeup--very entertaining. I loved the punchline. Not sure how consoling that is for what sounds like a really stressful trip, though.

  3. Great story, and with a happy ending, what more could ask for?

  4. haha brilliant! just for the future: Thais are hopeless with emials. they don't reply and ignore most of them. it's better to call, but if you get a person without any knowledge of English on the other side, they will probably hang up on you anyway.


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