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Top 10 tips for riding a motorbike in Thailand

Tim Newton

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Motorbikes and scooters are the most popular mode of transport in Thailand, and most of south east asia. The 110cc step-thru is ubiquitous. Most just go and go and go – they’re astonishly reliable. Whilst you’re meant to change the oil once a month we suspect most don’t get their oil changed once a year, or ever.

Getting around on a motorbike is easy enough and, especially in busy traffic, will get you to your destination faster whilst the cars and trucks are plodding along in the traffic.

But riding a motorbike in Thailand can also be very dangerous but if you stick to the common sense basics – ride within the speed limits, wear a bike helmet, obey the traffic rules and don’t drink and drive – it remains a perfectly reliable way to get around. It will be cheaper and you’ll see more.

But here’s our Top Ten tips to make your journey on the motorbike safer and more comfortable.

PLEASE NOTE: We’re not recommending that you should ride a motorbike but, if you do, these tips will help…

1. Wear appropriate clothes

Whilst you’ll see idiot tourists riding around on their rented motorbikes in their swimming shorts, and that’s all, you’re going to be much safer with a few clothes on. Falling off a motorbike without anything covering your knees or elbows is going to be painful enough – having at least some fabric between you and the road is going to reduce the painful grazes a bit. Long pants and a long shirt are a good start. Always wear shoes for the same reason. And a motorbike helmet as well – it’s the law and it could save your life. The flimsy plastic ‘lid’ type helmets cost around 200 baht and will get you through the checkpoints but spending a bit more on a better helmet will provide additional protection in the unlikely situation your head comes in contact with the road. You’ll see the locals riding around with their jackets on the wrong way – they say it keep their clothes clean from the road muck and fumes.

2. Keep your bike in good condition

It goes without saying. But as hardy and reliable as the modern motorbikes are, they will run better and for longer if you keep up the service schedule and change the oil around once a month. You will wonder how they can produce these 110-125cc step-thrus for little more than USD$1,000 brand new, but they do and the ones floating around the roads of Thailand are almost all made in the land of smiles.

Apart from changing the engine oil keep an eye on the tyres as the road surfaces in much of Thailand, plus the heat and humidity, will wear down your tread quickly. Good tread and keeping your tyres at the prescribed pressure are your best bet for maintaining control at all times. Your brakes will also need checking although, like the rest of the part of these bikes, the brakes seem to last forever. Whenever you’re getting your oil changed get the service man to check the brakes, tyres and make sure nuts and bolts are all tight – they shake loose sometimes.  And then there’s the lights at the front and back which are your best way to inform other driver’s what you’re doing in the traffic. Indicators may not be used much by the locals but you should.

3. Make sure you have a proper license

Your car license in your home country isn’t legal in Thailand to ride a motorbike. Your International Drivers License for cars issued in your home country isn’t going to cut it either. Legally, the only document that will satisfy the Thai legal system, officially, is a Thai motorcycle license. It doesn’t matter much until a situation arises where you’re in an accident and the law comes crashing down on you. If you live in Thailand you simply must get a proper motorbike drivers license of you want to ride a motorbike here. For tourists, the local bike hire shops will gladly rent you a bike, usually by simply showing your passport and giving them a deposit. Some will even tell you that their ‘insurance’ will cover you in the event of an accident – that’s just not going to happen. YOU are responsible for your own health if you get onto a motorbike in Thailand. Check YOUR situation and YOUR health and travel insurance.

And whilst we’re talking about a Thai Motorbike License, we’re talking about the ones you get from the Land Transport Office, not Khao San road for 500 baht!

(Here’s some info about getting a motorbike license in Bangkok, the same applies at the Land Transport Offices in most Thai cities).

We think you’re insane getting on a motorbike in a foreign country without the correct documentation, which leads us to #4…

4. Check your travel and health insurance

Every week The Thaiger hears from tourists stuck in a Thai hospital with mounting hospital bills and an insurance company that won’t pay out because they didn’t have a proper drivers license. Or no insurance at all. And even if you have travel or health insurance, check the fine print because some insurance contracts preclude driving on motorbikes in Thailand.

In six years driving on Thai roads I’ve had one fall. It winded me badly and I got abrasions on my ankle and knee. But people ran to my assistance and helped me up. I didn’t need to go to hospital but I was grateful, lying in the middle of the road gasping for breath, that I knew I had good health insurance and a proper license.

(The fine print on your insurance, different country’s licences and the policeman that shows up at your accident will all play a part on how your accident will play out. The ONLY sure way you can prove your legal ability to drive on a Thai road is with a Thai motorbike license)

5. Driving is different in Thailand

Many of the rules are the same as countries that also drive on the right hand side of the road. But you need to add ‘Thainess’ into the traffic mix. It is different. Apart from the lunatics that drive too fast, drink-drive or ghost ride (driving against the flow of traffic on the side of the road), there’s just the different attitude to driving. We say it’s a bit like swimming with a school of fish – if you just go-with-the-flow and keep in the stream of traffic you’ll do well. The western attitude of driving defensively will go against the grain of Thai traffic movement where ‘personal driving space’ isn’t really honoured and people will cut in front of you as just a part of daily driving habits. It’s not wrong, it’s different and you’re best to learn the subtleties of Thai traffic flow before you immerse yourself in the middle.

6. Green lights mean GO. Red lights also mean GO, sometimes.

You’ll see what we mean. Don’t even think about trying it. It will either get you fined or dead.

7. Have a practice

If you’re either new to driving a motorbike or new to driving a motorbike in Thailand don’t thrust yourself into a busy stretch of road immediately. Try something a little calmer and slower to get a feel of the subtle differences in Thai traffic movement. You’re sharing the road with trucks, cars, buses and passenger vans. You’re meant to stay on the left hand side and you’d be well advised to do so, despite the behaviour of some Thai motorbike drivers that want to mix it with the ‘big boys’. Get some confidence with your motorbike and way it handles, and moving in and around traffic on a quiet road before you tackle the main roads.

8. There’s pot holes, then there’s POT HOLES

The roads around Thailand have really improved in the past decade but you’ll still find pot holes in places there wasn’t one the day before. If you want a really good reason for giving plenty of distance between you and the car in front, it’s to see the pot hole before you end up IN it. Whilst car tyres might glide over these holes in the road, your motorbike is likely to come to an abrupt halt, with you continuing over the front of the handlebars – something to do with Newton’s first law of motion.

9. If you’re not sure, don’t

Never ridden a motorbike? Didn’t ride a motorbike in your own country? There’s two good reasons not to try it for your first time in Thailand.

It can be a bit of a challenge for even experienced motorbike drivers, well different anyway. There’s plenty of other ways to get around and if you want THAT selfie for your Facebook page there’s thousands of bikes parked by the side of the road where you can get a photo. Just because your friends did it when they travelled to Thailand doesn’t mean you have to.

10. Police will often arbitrate on the spot at an accident

If you are in the wrong and damaged someone or someone else’s bike you’re probably going to have to pay up. Now, there’s the ‘official’ way to sort things out in these case and the ‘unofficial’.

The policemen will get to the scene soon enough and, often, decide there and then who was at fault. They’ll often negotiate how much should be paid as well. The urban myth is that Thai police always side with the the locals – that’s not the case although, if you are indeed in the wrong then you’re IN THE WRONG!

If you are concerned that you’re being rolled by the locals in sorting out a simple motorbike accident then call the Tourist Police or your consulate immediately. DON’T agree to pay any money to anyone until you’ve spoken to at least the Tourist Police. Getting into an argument with the local police will almost certainly guarantee you’ll come off second best. Demanding that you speak to the police chief, etc, will also usually end up in the situation not going well in your favour. Be patient and don’t lose your cool. You are in a foreign country, you’re a guest and they do things differently – end of sentence.

PHOTO: John Everingham

Bottomline about riding a motorbike in Thailand is that, if you 1) wear a motorbike helmet 2) never drink and drive 3) wear appropriate clothing 4) have a Thai motorbike license and 5) be aware of the traffic around you and concentrate at all times… you’ll probably have few problems and be able to enjoy Thailand the way the locals do, au natural, with the wind through your hair and the insects up your nose.

Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,200 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 360 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and now produces digital media for The Thaiger - Website, Radio, TV, Instagram and Facebook.

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Entertainment

A very Asian tale “Crazy Rich Asians” opens

The Thaiger & The Nation

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“The last high-profile Hollywood film with an all-Asian cast was The Joy Luck Club released in 1993.”

By The Star, Asia News Network, Kuala Lumpur

It was a sweltering night in Singapore and the production of Crazy Rich Asians was in the last leg of filming. Director Jon M. Chu was sweating buckets and it’s not entirely because of the humid weather.

Chu, who has worked on big budget Hollywood sequels like G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Now You See Me 2, said Crazy Rich Asians presented a whole new set of challenges for him.

Check out the Hollywood premiere of Crazy Rich Asians.

“Sometimes dressing people up for a wedding takes a lot more effort than filming ninjas on a mountain,” Chu shared briefly on the set of Crazy Rich Asians, before rushing back to finish another scene.

Members of the media were observing the filming of an emotionally-charged moment featuring Rachel (Constance Wu, TV’s Fresh Off The Boat) screaming into the night. In the scene with her were Tan Sri Michelle Yeoh and veteran actress Lisa Lu.

Some context: The ladies were all dressed to the nines for a high society wedding. At a later interview, Wu did not want to talk about how she prepared for that screaming scene.

“It’s just actor stuff. If I have to tell you, it would be like I’m telling you how to fix a car, it’s just boring,” 36 year old Wu said with a laugh. Mind you, she had to do that scene over and over again just to get it right.

The truth is, there is nothing boring about what her character Rachel goes through in Crazy Rich Asians.

For the love of money

Rachel is an Asian-American economics professor living in New York with her charming boyfriend Nicholas Young (Henry Golding). One day, Nicholas invites her back to his country, Singapore, to attend his best friend’s wedding.

It is only then that she finds out that her boyfriend is from a wealthy and well-connected family. Just how wealthy is this guy? Think crazy rich.

Based on the book by Kevin Kwan, Crazy Rich Asians is said to be inspired by real families and wealthy personalities in Asia. Kwan goes into specific details on what the rich do when they have too much money. From buying a hotel just to get rid of a snobby manager to hiring the Vienna Boys’ Choir for a wedding, nothing is off-limits for the ultra-wealthy characters in the book.

However, Kwan won’t divulge who these actual crazy rich Asians are.

“Nicholas is from this old money family. Wealth is passed through generations. He is very acutely aware that he is the heir to the riches that his family holds,” Golding, 31, said about his character.

It’s one thing to be rich but to be dating someone who is not from the same exclusive social circle? Oh, the madness.

Financial security

56 year old Yeoh steps in as Eleanor, Nicholas’ mother and respected (think feared) matriach of the Young family. Eleanor makes it clear that she does not approve of Rachel. To be fair, she’s just like most mothers with an only child who is set to inherit the family fortunes; tiger mum becomes (over)protective.

So, Eleanor hatches a plan to sabotage the relationship between Rachel and Nicholas.

“Eleanor would do anything for her son. She would die for him. And the thing is, she’s not afraid to tell him all that,” Yeoh laughed while explaining her character’s motivation.

But that’s not the craziest thing about Crazy Rich Asians. The fact that Hollywood is making a contemporary romantic comedy featuring Asians in leading roles is something unheard of.

Wu noted: “We’ve never had a studio movie with an all-Asian cast that was not a period piece.”

Rich in diversity

The last high-profile Hollywood film with an all-Asian cast was The Joy Luck Club released in 1993. Wu lamented that Asians don’t often get to be seen in a Hollywood film with a modern setting.

“Like, why don’t we see Asians using cellphones? It’s a way to include Asians in the current conversation by showing them in a contemporary context. We are here. Our stories matter and that to me is really groundbreaking,” she said.

Other Hollywood cast members in Crazy Rich Asians include Ken Jeong (The Hangover), Awkwafina (Ocean’s 8), Gemma Chan (Transformers: The Last Knight) and Sonoya Mizuno (La La Land).

From this region, expect to see the likes of Ronny Chieng, Pierre Png, Carmen Soo, Tan Keng Hua and Fiona Xie on screen. Hollywood newbie Golding described filming for Crazy Rich Asians as “insane” (his pun, not ours). Producer Nina Jacobson said they were looking for someone like Cary Grant to play Nicholas.

“There’s a sense of class and elegance to Nicholas. At the same time, he’s also down to earth. It was hard to find all those things.”

“Henry did amazingly well on his screen test and he had all those qualities that we were looking for,” Jacobson explained why the studio went with a newcomer.

While Golding has made Malaysia proud, his casting also stirred some controversy. There were those who noted how Golding was not “Asian enough” for the role seeing that he is part European.

Instead of dwelling on the backlash, Golding said he is proud to represent a part of South-East Asia that is mostly unknown to his Western counterparts.

“We have such a melting pot of identities in South-East Asia and that is something to be proud of. It’s really important that we make this film. We’re breaking boundaries and that is the most important takeaway,” he said.

Value for money

Despite its very specific setting, Jacobson believes Crazy Rich Asians has stories that will resonate globally.

“We have a great universal story for anyone who has been rejected by their in-laws or people who have their foot in two different cultures,” she said.

She also identified with Rachel as someone who is fascinated by a strange yet familiar new world.

“When I first read the book, I couldn’t put it down. The expectations on Nick from his family was relatable. The story felt fresh and new. It took me to somewhere that I wanted to go,” Jacobson said.

Will Nicholas’ love for Rachel triumph over his family money?

Yeoh said you can’t live on love alone: “When you’re in love, you say you don’t need money or you don’t need anything (else). When love cools down and reality sets in, then what? Love is not bread and butter. You have to be sensible.”

Yeoh saw Crazy Rich Asians as more than just a story about unimaginable wealth.

“It’s also about the responsibilities of a family. Many people depend on them (Nicholas’ family) for their livelihood. It’s not just about them getting rich, it’s also about the community.

“It’s good to have money but it’s what you do with it that really counts,” she concluded.

And that token of wisdom is priceless.

STORY: The Nation

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Top 10

Top 10 busiest airports in the world – first half of 2018

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Beijing Capital International Airport is still the world’s second-busiest airport by passenger traffic, witnessing with nearly 50 million passengers passing through in the first half of this year. This from the Civil Aviation Data Analysis, a civil aviation data platform based in Shanghai.

The list, comprising 17 international airports around the world, ranks airports in terms of passenger traffic as of the end of June.

So where is the world’s busiest airport?

Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport remains the world’s busiest airport, with passenger traffic of 52.64 million in the first six months, while Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi saw the fastest growth of passengers with an increase of traffic of 13.41 percent.

No 10 – Indira Gandhi International Airport
Total passengers: 35.04 million

No 9 – Shanghai Pudong International Airport
Total passengers: 36.69 million

No 8 – Hong Kong International Airport
Total passengers: 36.91 million

No 7 – London Heathrow Airport
Total passengers: 38.07 million

No 6 – O’Hare International Airport, Chicago
Total passengers: 39.45 million

No 5 – Tokyo Haneda Airport
Total passengers: 41.06 million

No 4 – Los Angeles International Airport
Total passengers: 42.68 million

No 3 – Dubai International Airport
Total passengers: 43.74 million

No 2 – Beijing Capital International Airport
Total passengers: 49.38 million

No 1 – Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport
Total passengers: 52.64 million

PHOTO: Passengers are waiting in the terminal of the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Dec 17, 2017 – VCG

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Property

The rise of the mixed use retail development

The Thaiger & The Nation

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As our lifeststyles continue to change and morph along with technological and social evolution, so too our living spaces and the locations we choose to live. Behavioural changes among urbanites have led to the rise of mixed-use projects in Southeast Asian countries, according to property experts.

Christian Olofsson, shopping centre & mixed-use director of IKEA/Southeast Asia, told The Nation that the competitive environment in the retail industry precipitated the new format of incorporating non-traditional elements into a retail complex. Development of mixed-use retail properties is growing with the inclusion of residential units, entertainment revenues and healthcare facilities in a single site.

Catering to the needs of today’s consumers and staying relevant is the goal of the re-think among major players, Olofsson said. The new strategy could bring higher return on investment if the developer optimises the opportunity and is able to better meet the needs of modern consumers than are single-use developers.
The concept is less risky as it comes with a greater variety of revenue sources. It can also help average out the land costs by integrating a mix of components with different types of incomes.

Given the positives, IKEA decided to develop a mixed-use project – Mega City – next to Mega Bangna, Olofsson said.

According to a report by the Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, 451 tall building are listed as under construction globally until 2025, of which a third are mixed-use projects combining hotels, residential units, offices, service apartments and retail outlets. In Southeast Asia, excluding Thailand, 16 mixed-use projects are currently under construction – eight in Malaysia, five locate in Indonesia, and one each in Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines.

The Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat is the world’s leading institute on the inception, design, construction and operation of tall buildings and future cities around the globe. Founded in 1969 and headquartered at Chicago’s historic Monroe Building, the council is a non-profit organisation with its Asia headquarters at Tongji University in Shanghai, a research office at Iuav University in Venice and an academic office at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. It facilitates exchanges of the latest technologies for tall buildings through publications, research, events, working groups, web platforms, and an extensive network of international representatives.

James Pitchon, head of Research and Consulting at CBRE Thailand, said it is not possible to develop a single-use project on a large site, citing the likelihood of oversupply in the local market, be it an office or residential project. Developers of large sites need a range of diversified incomes, he added.

Consumers like the convenience of having a range of facilities in one place that are easily accessible in a climate control environment. Having easy-to-reach retail outlets and a hotel in the same complex appeal to office tenants, especially for the convenience of foreign clients and visitors.

Thais are also open to the idea of staying in a condo next to where they work and play, provided it comes with privacy and exclusivity along with the convenience, Pitchon said.

A JLL research said that the growth of mixed-use projects in ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) began to take off amid infrastructure development and changes to consumer behaviours in the region. The association marked its 50th anniversary last year and the region is gearing up for greater growth and investment.

Already powerhouses in the wider region, Southeast Asia’s economies are projected to grow at an annual average of 5 per cent until 2020. The real estate industry stands to benefit as demographics and market size draw further investments, given the manufacturing and logistics advantages. The upgrade in ASEAN infrastructure, especially the advancement of high-speed rail networks, will attract development of mixed-use projects connected to the train stations, as is the case in Japan and Hong Kong, the research said.

Find more than 30,000 properties for sale in Thailand at property.thethaiger.com

SOURCE: The Nation

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