Thailand - Land of the Carefree Rider
There are some problems to driving here in Thailand. The main problem is that riding a bike in Europe and the USA is much more structured and regulated. In Thailand the rules are seldom enforced and the 'style' of driving and riding is a lot more relaxed and liberal. Personally, biking and driving in Thailand is a breath of fresh air compared with the neo-stalinist traffic enforcement back in the west. But some newcomers will be put-off riding on the roads here in Thailand as they will be used to stricter rules.
For first time tourists in Thailand the big shocks on the roads and streets can be the thai style of driving and riding. Thais enjoy their freedom and laws requiring the wearing of helmets and seatbelts are often ignored, sometimes due to carelessness. Often due to the 'live for the moment' and the carefree thai style that appeals to the thais many expats and visitors are both perplexed and drawn into it!
The Thai police set up check-points from time to time around a city or town. Sometimes in the rural areas this will be done by the highway police. If you are a foreigner they may try and fine you for an indiscretion or breach of the law such as failing to wear a helmet , they may simply to want a bribe from you. The fine will usually amount to no more than 200 - 500 baht. You can choose to pay the fine either there and then (in which case it is a bribe or tea-money) or you can try (gently) arguing your way out of it or refuse entirely. If you speak thai this may help the situation. Officially fines have to be paid at the local police station (Sattani Tam Ruat is thai for police station) and this may be something worth raising to the police if they are demanding money there and then. If you've actually broken the law and the police are demanding a bribe the bribe, then it often makes sense to pay it. As it often works out cheaper this way than going to the police station where the fine is dearer and having to queue up to pay at the desk!
Thai style of riding can differ to a certain extent from region to region. One noticeable aspect is the laid back, slow 'drift' style that the many thais seem to favour when out riding. For example, a Thai rider may want to change lanes, he/she will usually not signal but will instead 'drift' (without looking at mirrors or behind them) slowly into that lane or path.
In the capital city some Thai-style lee-way is given to the rush hour traffic groove. The video below shows it in better ways than we can tell you! Take it away WR!
Thai folk are often described as a nocturnal people. It is no doubt that at night it is more fun to out on the streets than during day-time when the blazing heat drives people into the shade. This aspect can mean night-riding is more of a blast and you can see headlights from miles away, but can also mean more danger from drunken thais and farangs who've been on the piss. While no-one can see behind them all the time try and be more careful and cautious when out from 2200 hrs to 0600 hrs. If you're out to burn rubber and fly like the wind then going fast and furious is safer (in my opinion) in the day-time hours because people are usually more sober, safer and less likely to pull out in front of you.
Intersections are a killer out here if you overcook the speed and happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thai style can be to just pull out and not necessarily look right for danger.
In the solo bike accidents, motorcycle rider error tends to be the no1 factor; A slideout and fall due to overbraking or running wide on a curve (due to excess speed or under-cornering) is one grim outcome.
Although horrific high speed crashes out of town get the big publicity in the newspapers, it is more likely to have an accident in an urban area.
Things to know
Always wear a helmet.
Keep your visor down at high speed.
Carry your insurance documents on you at all times when out riding.
Things to consider
Keep two fingers (or three if you've small hands) resting on your front-brake lever and your foot poised over the back-brake pedal. Using three to four fingers in a snatch-brake situation may result in a thrown-rider. Yes, it will impeed your throttle control slightly but once used to riding like this you'll hardly notice the difference. Reaction times and braking distance will be reduced, and in an emergency it can be the difference between a close call and a one-way visit to the hospital.
When making an emergency braking manouver a good rule of thumb is to use a 40:60 pressure ratio on the front-back brakes respectively for best results.
Thailands a big place, explore the map below to see what Thailand has to offer!