Stay to the Left

Thailand Add comments

After one day of just lounging around and relaxing, we were ready to do something else. Yesterday we set out to rent motorcycles again. We figured we would jsut get one and take turns driving. The first place we went didn’t have a insurance. They said “Nobody inThailand have insurance. Please, your passport!” Hmm, that’s funny. The place we rented motorcycles in Chiang Mai had insurance. We went back to the hotel to get our passports, which we would need to rent anywhere and the guy at the hotel convinced us to rent a car. “Much safer, much safer”, he assured us. Considering it was raining and onlyUS$20/day to rent the car, we went for it.

About 37 seconds after we said yes, a man in dress clothes wielding a notepad and pen pulled up and jumped out of a small 4wd Suzuki Carribean. We paid him cash, he took my pasport (yikes), and he gave us the keys. I was going to drive first, so i went to get in the drivers seat. The hundreds of times i’ve envisioned myself getting into the car on the correct side the first time i drove in a foreign country didn’t matter. As I was trying to get into the left side of the car Eric and the guy yelled at me to go to the other side. The rental guy was already nervous because i was asking him how fast it went and if it could pop wheelies….now he was really nervous.
When i opened the door i saw that it was a standard. Nothing like a challenge.

He started to go into wghat we should do about parking and getting gas…good thing eric was listening because i was just staring at the 3 pedals and the shift stick and the wheel all being on the other side of the car.

Then, seemingly much too quickly and with much too little preparation i was turning the ignition over. The cool air conditiong hitting my face put me at ease a little. I got the car in first gear, too the parking brake off and turned the wheel ready to pull out and merge into the left lane. We we parked right after a side street, so everytime i was about to pull out a motorcycle would zip by out of nowhere. After about 3 minutes, the rental guy came back over and suggested i use my directional. Although they do drive insane over hear…the widespread use of directionals adds some order to the chaos.

Finally i was on the road. Eric’s job was navigation and to remind me to “watch the left”, which proved to be very important. I had a natural tendancy to drift to the left, probably because it felt awkward to be driving while sitting on right side fo the car.

The best challenge was yet to come. Oncoming traffic…

So on the roads in Thailand, they have lines painted just like home…except that they’re a bit more confusing and nobody really notices they are there. They have the normal A and B lanes (see above), but they also have this extra C lane, which is for motorcycles travelling in ANY direction. I have actually seen arrows painted on the ground in this lane that point directly at each other! SO we’re driving forward in lane B and it’s scary enough when motorcycles in lane A and lane C coem right at you, but VERY OFTEN cars in lane A decide to pass the motorcycles while you’re coming towards them in lane B. The mess shown in the diagram above seems funny and outlandish, but it seriously happens like every 5 minutes.

It is a good thing we rented a car instead. They say the rip tide here is deadly, but i’d put my money on the roads.

We drove around the 80km island of Phuket for most of the day, stopping off at different beaches to swim and take pictures. We found some awesome spots that made renting the car very worthwhile. I’ve decided my next trip should be France, because we saw a topless French girl bouncing around in the waves at one beach. She definitely knew we wern’t checking out the scenery!

We saw more Tsunami damage at some of the less travelled areas on Phuket, but they really have done an amazing job cleaning up and rebuilding fast. We made it to this place called Promethep Cape to watch the sunset. Its a popular spot. There’s a parking lot, a big scenic lookout, street vendors and 8 year old girls selling whistles for 10 baht (25 US cents). One girl kept follwing me around. When if inally agreed to buy one she said 6 for 60 Baht! Hah. I said what the hell am i gonna do with 6 whistles? I gave her 10 Baht and she left me alone.
The sun was about 30 minutes from setting. Figuring i had plenty of time, I left eric up at the lookout and I walked back to the car to get more money so I could buy some food. When i was walking up the stairs i saw hords of people walking towards me. I wondered where evryone was going…didn’t they want to see the sun set?

Well i must have missed the overcast sky in the distance, because as i climbed the last step i caught about one second of an orange flash as the sun tucked itself into the clouds. Eric got a few shots of the sun and a few shots at me for missing it. It wasn’t a total loss. I still got some nice silouhette shots just after sunset. We walked down the hill a bit and got a seat the the Promthep Cape Restuarant. We sat outside, on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the ocean, an island, and a beach below. This is the place…

Today it’s raining…a lot. So we’re going to the movies. Tomorrow, hopfully we’ll get some more sun before our commute to the Phuket airport, 2 hour flight to Bangkok, sit in the airport for 5 hours, fly 17 hours to new york, rent a car and and drive to RI. If i don’t post again before that, then i’ll see you all when i get back. We should be home around noon on Thursday.


One Thought on “Stay to the Left”

  1. JoanSlug Says:

    Thank you John for thinking of me. I do miss Eric so much and think of all of the beautiful things you are seeing together and get so jelous. Please bring home my man ASAP. Love you both! Joan

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