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Learning to drive in Thailand

Before I left and realized that i wasn’t going to be home for a while I had started taking driving lessons. Yes, I’m 25 (WHOA! I forgot about a birthday… I’m 26!) and have never had my own car, never seriously been behind the wheel and never really had much desire to drive, (apart from seriously rainy / snowy days spent waiting at the bus stop – ALAS, there’s an app for that!). I did, however, spend my entire life living in a city where the use of a vehicle was pretty much nil. The grocery store was always just down the street, and the subway was always a 10 minute bus ride away.

I think I lived in Lop Buri for a total of one month before the urge to have and drive a bike kicked in. Then the need, then everyone telling me to just get one already. So, tired of searching out taxi’s, and despite a rather hilarious, but near fatal story of my roommate driving our bosses bike into the river during her first driving lesson, he conceded to take me out and teach me the basics. Since I hadn’t spent as much time being terrified of driving a motorbike as I have of driving a car, I was able to pick it up pretty quickly and after that first lesson he called me “a natural.” It was done, I just needed to find someone to rent me a bike!

Mine’s the bright orange one with the clashing helmet. Style.

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The joy of motorcycles and scooters in Thailand

In Toronto, I never even considered riding or driving a motorcycle. They scare the crap out of me, and the people that drive them are generally the craziest drivers there are. Here in town, there are still crazy drivers, but it’s the easiest and most common way to get around.

There is the Songthaew, that I’ve ridden to work for 10 Baht, but there are an abundance of taxi motorcycles. Here there are also motorcycle sidecars, which are pretty common, but mostly rented by foreigners or used for deliveries (or to set up a random food stall on the side of the road).

While I haven’t yet driven one because I’m a little scared to try, I have been the passenger many times, since every other teacher here has their own scooter or motorbike. There is just something about not having to worry about the traffic, or other bikes, cars or people, and just enjoying the wind in my hair and tears stinging my eyes.

I was pretty excited to learn how to ride side saddle so that I didn’t have to hike my skirt up to God knows where to climb onto the back of a motor-taxi, but have to remember not to move around too much or risk messing with the centre of balance.

Almost more than riding itself, I love watching Thai people pile their entire families onto a scooter: baby sitting in the baby seat attached to the front behind the handlebars, or squished between mom while dad drives and junior holds onto mom’s back. Or the 6 school kids I’ve seen squished together on one bike.

While it’s nothing like it was in Vietnam, with crazy amounts of everything strapped to the back of the bike, you will often see people strapping down boxes, or more likely stacking them between their legs on a scooter.

It makes me anxious to get out there and learn how to drive one. Just the freedom to drive wherever I want at any time would be beautiful. I wouldn’t have to worry about the street dogs attacking me when I want to head home after dark, and I wouldn’t reconsider going somewhere because it’s such a long, hot walk.

Hmmm… Maybe it’s time to get over my fear?