Sunday, July 20, 2008

Vroom Vroom

After my first week here, I decided to buy a motorbike. I was sick of taking songtauws everywhere I wanted to go. Songtauws are essentially pickup trucks with a covered truck bed with benches in it. They function like a cross between a taxi and a bus. You hail one and tell them where you are going and if a) you are going to the same general area as other people on the songtauw, b) you agree to their price and c) they feel like it, they pick you up. The songtauws are run by the evil songtauw mafia (I'm serious - they essentially prevented a bus system from being put in Chiang Mai), riding in them slowly drains your soul and being dependent on them is somehow deeply demoralizing. They also spew disgusting black smoke, the drivers have no regard for human life on the road and they try to rip you off endlessly. 

So a bike seemed like a prudent purchase. I went with Nick (the other PiA fellow who is at CMU who also lives in my building), Michi (a 2nd year PiA fellow who knows about bikes) and Michi's girlfriend (who is Thai and has mastered the coy "how could you possibly charge me that much" bargaining smile). 

Success! I bought a bike for about $400 and felt the sweet thrill of freedom.

I promptly (though mildly) crashed it and got this sweet bruise

They drive on the left side of the road here - it takes a little getting used to. 

The traffic is generally pretty intense. There don't seem to be many rules. Just generally: know where you are, know where everyone else is, and don't get in someone else's way (or you die). At rush hour, you cannot focus on the road in front of you. You must have all your peripheral vision and quick decision making skills operating at max performance. Don't worry though mom and dad, I have a super-intense helmet! (like this one)

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