Michael A. Sisti

Author, Lecturer, Consultant

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The Mean Streets of Thailand

After several near-death experiences while walking and riding taxis in Bangkok, we are now driving a mini-van in Pattaya and the region surrounding it. If we’re going to die, we want it on our terms.

First Lesson – Rule #1. There are no rules. Traffic lights, road signs, directional markers on streets are all suggestions, and you obey them at your own risk.

Lesson Two – There arBiker Familye no traffic laws that apply to motorcycles. They can drive on sidewalks, against traffic, and through people’s property. They can also carry as many people as they can on the bikes, with or without helmets (another suggestion). And they are involved in 80% of all vehicular accidents, although we have yet to see one fender-bender.

Cargo Biker

Lesson Three – Don’t mess with buses. They are huge, double-decker vehicles that take up the entire two lanes of traffic. And they stop for no one.

Cycle1Lesson Four – Traffic Lanes. Most streets have painted lane lines, but they mean nothing. The narrow streets (alleys) have no markings, and by necessity are one way. That doesn’t stop the bikers from going the wrong way, and walkers to clog the entire street. Driving down one is an experience. Two lane streets always have cars illegally parked in one lane and every other vehicle squeezed into the second lane, except motorcycles. They weave in and out of the traffic, drive in the oncoming lane, and on the sidewalk, if there is a sidewalk. It is more dangerous to walk on the sidewalk then in the street, and the street is really risky. Most sidewalks are about two feet wide and are made with paver stones, which are uneven and loose. Every 20 feet or so, there is a raised cement step in the middle of the sidewalk, that’s there for no apparent reason. Utility poles and signposts also occupy the sidewalk. The sidewalks are also infested with street vendors, selling everything from clothing to jewelry to unidentifiable food. Now picture tBangkok Streetwo-way pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks.

Lesson Five – Traffic Signals. Traffic lights are red for a minimum of 2 minutes, and then another two minutes for turning traffic, and sometimes another two minutes for pedestrians. When the light finally turns green, if you’re still awake, you charge through the intersection in the midst of a crush of bikers, who have all snaked their way to the front of the queue. You have to move quickly, because the green light turns red in 20 seconds. Yea, I couldn’t figure that out either.

Clogged StreetLesson Six – Get out of Dodge. By now you have realized that there is no way to navigate any of the streets in the urban jungles by any mode of transportation. Yes it’s much safer dealing with the elephants, tigers, snakes and zika-carrying mosquitoes of the inland jungles, then to set foot out of your hotel in any of the cities.

About Michael Sisti

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