The bodybagged temporary tourist in Thailand Part 1 – Scooter Crashes

thailand motorcycle crash So you hopped a plane and turned up directly into Phuket or Pattaya. It would seem logical to do what every other suicidal tourist does from every country around the world and race off and hire yourself a scooter to get around.So you hopped a plane and turned up directly into Phuket or Pattaya. It would seem logical to do what every other suicidal tourist does from every country around the world and race off and hire yourself a scooter to get around.

Now if we look at tourists from Australia, they can legally use their car drivers license to hire a scooter in Thailand, because in Australia you only need a C class license to ride a 50cc scooter. Now here in Thailand, its more likely you will be hiring a 125cc or 150cc scooter without and questions. More power and more chance to get yourself killed.

I offer one piece of advice first up, if you have never ridden a motorcycle or scooter of any kind in your home country, Thailand is not the place to learn, unless you want to take on the potential prospect of having a scooter crash.

Why am I throwing out such a harsh fun police generalisation? Well it’s pretty simple and to start it off I will share my experiences. Coming from Australia, I have ridden motorcycles most of my adult life, my bikes have ranged between Motards, Racebikes and Cruisers. I won’t go so far as to say I am Mick Doohan but I can hold my own, have never had any major incidents and I’m a pretty proactive rider.

By proactive, I mean I keep myself overly aware of my surroundings. I’m not just looking down the road and focusing on where I am going, I’m thinking like the drivers in front of me. And by thinking I am working on the assumption that everyone else on the road are dick heads and they are all out to hit me. I preempt any and all stupid scenarios that someone might do, and think about how I will get myself out of the shit if need be.

Fast forward to me landing in Bangkok International, spending a few days walking the streets and deciding I want to hit the roads on a bike. Now for me, the bikes I rode in Australia tended to be in the 1000cc and above range, so for me hiring a 125cc scooter, even though they are more nimble for Thailand traffic conditions, wasn’t really my idea of fun. Bangkok Big Bike Rentals helped me out with a late model Kawasaki Z800 which was pretty close to the mark and within my spend budget.

I wrote my first story on the Bodybagged Temporary Tourist in Thailand after living in Thailand for a couple of months. The story came about from personal experiences, news reports and feeling I had sufficient first hand advice and suggestions to give. Since writing the first story, I have purchased a big bike, a Kawasaki Versys 650, and traveled close to 6000km on Thai roads and seen more than most. What has prompted me to continue writing on Bodybagged Temporary Tourist in Thailand was the recent viral call to action on Facebook and other social media, both here in Thailand and internationally for blood donations for a young the British girl, Lucy Hill in Chiang Mai who was in hospital in intensive care after an accident. Now I won't profess to know the full story, as I was not there, but it seems the 19 year old Miss Hill, a university student was riding pillion on the back of a scooter, when a car driving on the wrong side of the road hit them. Now in a western world, this in itself would seem cut and dry, a car is traveling on the incorrect side of the road, so they must be in the wrong. After spending as much time as I have in Thailand on the roads, seeing vehicles, both cars, trucks and scooters riding down the wrong side of the road is nothing short of normal here. Scooter riders will even ride on footpaths to avoid gridlock in Bangkok. Over the period that this accident happened, labelled the ‘7 deadly days’ of the New Year by Thai officials, hundreds of Thais died on the road. There was even a reported 3'500 motorbike accidents, many being serious and a lot ending in fatalities. Now this young girl coming to Thailand for the first time, deciding to jump on a bike with a group is nothing short of insanity. I have seen these young tourists riding in groups, behaving with reckless disregard for their own safety. Riding without helmets, wearing singlets, thongs, or even bare feet at times. Zooming around with seemingly glee abandon for their own safety, riding with the co-ordination of a drunk monkey, and expecting that they will be safe. It simply makes me sick in the stomach to watch their behavior. All I think when I see this is them riding a coffin! Let's face facts, these young tourists believe they are invincible, we all felt it at their age, turning 40 was so far away, growing old was something everyone else does. They are going to live forever and live life to the fullest no matter what! Legally, most of these young tourists will not have the right to be riding here in the first place, and not having the appropriate license to do so will automatically void any insurance cover they have, weather it be for damage to the bike, or worse yet, hospital care. I am not singling out Miss Hill or suggesting that she brought this on herself, what I am saying is that Thailand roads are a very dangerous place to put yourself, no matter where you are in Thailand. Recently I spent some days visiting a hospital brain injury unit, where I saw first hand the real results of this epidemic in Thailand. 98% of the patients that were in the ward need not have been there. They were all victims of motorcycle road accidents.After watching some of the traffic in Bangkok, spending time in buses and taxis I thought I would be prepared. Nothing can prepare you for riding in Bangkok. Aside from the traffic being as heavy as it is, there’s the sheer volume of other bikes on the road.

Try this on for size, your sitting at an intersection watching the countdown for your light to turn green, waiting with you is about 300 other bikes. As you take off into the intersection, you and the other bikes are working as one large flowing organism. It’s no longer just you, well that’s until you twist the throttle a bit harder to get away from those other 300 riders trying to kill you and you break into some open space.

One of my friends from Australia who also rides, and has been to Thailand, told me not to ride my rental bike in Pattaya. His reason was that he had seen a great number of tourists killed on the roads there and didn’t want me to be another statistic. Well riding Pattaya was on my list of too-do’s and in comparison to Bangkok wasn’t nearly as bad. But for the novice rider, Pattaya, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Bangkok riding will get you killed.

Taxi drivers by and large don’t care your there, buses ever more so are on a timetable and if they push you around a little in the process they won’t care. Add to this the impatient drivers, their keen interest in not using indicators, or the simple fact that your riding where they want to drive will get you in a body-bag very quickly.

A few tips to consider if you still want to dice with death.

  • Ride only on the left verge of the road or you will get pushed there by cars
  • Don’t assume people can see you
  • Always wear a proper helmet, not one of these bicycle helmets some rental companies send you out with
  • Wear covered shoes
  • Don’t drink and ride, I know that sounds obvious as you probably won’t get caught in Thailand but it’s not about getting caught, it’s about having your wits about you
  • Try and keep ahead of traffic, traffic that’s behind you can’t kill you
  • Ride like a local, yes they ride on footpaths when traffic has come to a stop
  • Don’t hire a scooter and think your going to ride on the highways
  • Carrying a pillion (passenger) is your responsibility, their life is in your stupid hands
  • Take extra cash with you to assist with all the police that will stop you as a farang on a motorcycle

Just be fucking safe!! Its that simple, I am sick of hearing about young kids dying because they think they are invincible, and just because they are on holidays and think they can get away with doing thing’s they wouldn’t at home they are taking their precious lives in their hands.

Read Part 2 here.



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