Road Hazards In Thailand
Thailand is no different from other countries in that there are hazards on the roads. Yet the country's cool laissez-faire mindset presents a unique set of challenges, difficulties and rewards for the foreign biker and traveller.
In general the bike is considered fairly low in the 'pecking order' of supremacy on the road. Nowadays it's getting a bit better with Thais getting used to the difference between bigger bikes and smaller ones.
Listed below, in no particular order, are some of what many consider are the prime hazards and challenges facing the biker on the road in Thailand:
Not always an obvious risk to life and limb soi dogs can be the lurking danger. Often placid and even friendly in some cases they can 'turn' on the very farang who walks by on foot once they mount up on a bike.
At the 20 - 65 kph mark is roughly when you're in the 'dog chase' zone. They'll snap and bite at your heels, if brave enough they might even try to leap up and bite your calf muscle. If a soi dog is trying for your calf you're options are limited.
Lashing out with your foot seems the natural thing to do, but you risk loosing balance and ditching your bike as your body weight shifts. It is unfortunate to note that Ulrich, one of WRs traveling companions, was badly injured by attempting this risky move.
Another option is to increase speed an outrun the hound (s). This can work, but don't bet on it being much safer than kicking out. Soi dogs rarely venture out onto highways where high-speed is useful.
Some say there is no real answer and they may be right. Short of a pillion passenger who is armed with a projectile weapon or rattan stick Soi Dogs remain a pesky problem for bikers.
Rabies is prevalent among some dogs in Thailand. There have been efforts in Bangkok to eradicate the virus but with little success. If bitten it's wise to seek a friendly doctor for some rabies shots. If possible kill or inform the police of which dog bit you. As long as you weren't trespassing on someone's property even if the dog is owned by a Thai you have a legal case against them to claim damages. You'd have to go down a potentially long-winded process which could take from a few hours to a few weeks. You make an demand for xxxx amount of baht for damages, they may haggle for xxx baht or even refuse outright. It becomes a horse trading game where the police mediate and usually take the bitten farangs side. Be patient and try not to lose your cool.
One of the most notable traffic-traits of the Thais is their tendency to 'pull-out' of a side road and join traffic without considering the oncoming traffic. Often they'll do this is gradual, and slow manner making them safe to go around until they pick up speed. Other times though can be a brutally sharp and mean you've got to pull out some evasive moves. At the far-end of the spectrum, especially on highways, you might find a truck do this with a means to make a right-hand turn, completely blocking off the way ahead. It's for this reason that we advise you never to let your fingers stray far away from your front brake lever. Don't hammer the throttle more than 120 kph for long periods and treat every waiting vehicle you see ahead and to your left as potentially hostile. Flash your lights as you approach them. In Thailand this does not mean 'go on, you are ok to go' it means
Possibly the most serious potential for injury and death. As a rider in Thailand they can make useful and handy way to make a change in direction. It must be said that actually executing a successful U turn can, on highways, be the difference between life and death. Stalling a bike on one of these while pulling away does not bear thinking about, especially if you're timing it between traffic.
For this reason in some cases it can be good wisdom to move away from the right hand lane to the left-hand bike lane every time you spot a u-turn and you're on the highway at speed. That way if they do pull-out, you've made yourself less of a target as they will tend to hug the right-hand lane until they've built up enough speed. Thai people don't tend to be used to bikes going more than 100 kph in general and it's notoriously difficult to tell a bikers speed at distance anyway. If you see a waiting u-turner it can be wise to flash your lights at them to let them know you are at speed.
One of the most annoying and infuriating hazards. If you hit one there's no-one to directly blame and at worse it can throw you off your bike and kill. They range in size to the barely noticeable, to mighty gaping abominations that you'll gulp at as you go around. On the highways, with the higher speeds you get up to, you'll need to watch out for these. Once you're above 100 kph it can be tough to avoid potholes, especially when they blend into the asphalt and tarmac. Paradoxically, hitting smaller potholes at a higher speed can mean the impact will be less jarring and dangerous as you 'fly' over them more than if you were going slower.
There's no easy solution to the potholes in Thailand. The infrastructure is very good on the most part, but some highways, especially some of the smaller ones, are more prone to subsistence and heavier traffic than others. That said there are some highways that seem to have great resident clusters of them.
One of the unfortunate imports from the west that Thailand uses for certain suburban areas. You can't get away from these things if you go roaming certain areas. In places the builders of them might, out of sympathy, cut a slot for bikers to pass through unimpeded but usually you can only attempt to go around them (if there is room) or slow down and ride over it.
They vary from the mild and gentle:
To the more annoying:
To the downright brutal and near-invisible. Make no mistake this type will send you flying if you aren't aware of it!
Level crossings in Thailand are pretty straightforward, they are much like they are in most other country's of the world.
However in Thailand the level crossings are more likely to be by-passable when a train is nearby. Indeed you will see plenty of opportunist Thai folk on bikes weaving between the level-crossing barriers just prior to the railway train coming along. Unless you have life-or-death business to contend with it's usually best to be patient and wait out the train, they don't normally have too many carriages behind them (in the case of passenger trains).
It's the un-marked, barrierless crossings you'll need to pay attention with. On these a good look to the left and right is advisable, even if you can't 'hear' anything. The roar of a bike's engine, the deadening effects of a bike helmet could combine to a bad mix in the case of a train coming your way...
The Police in Thailand
The Thai police in Thailand are not a real hazard to the biker but more of a passive challenge to be met with a baleful smile and a cheery demeanor. You can be fined if you are seen to be breaking the traffic regs out here. However, if you are legit and are wearing your helmet you ought not to be at risk from any tea money.
However if you like to own bikes that are not legit disregarding wearing a helmet and parking where you feel like, you are asking for trouble.
Thailands a big place, explore the map below to see what Thailand has to offer!