An Average Day In Thailand Part 2
I had been the proud owner of my new ‘Mio’ motorbike in Phuket for a whopping four weeks and prior to coming to Thailand, I had never ridden a bike before, which meant that I was also a dizzy scared witless rider of sorts too and one who could be heard at least several hundred metres away as I approached every junction with my feet scraping the floor in an effortless bid to stop the bike through a combination of friction generated sparks, shoe leather, and a wail of ye-arrrrgh grunff, ‘oh shit – phew!’ as I managed to squeal to a resounding halt just in time.
Anyway, after four weeks of doing circuits around and around the very safe and remote ski jump arena somewhere near the shooting gallery, I somehow managed to get myself to the stage of riding my new bike without a wobble or a twisted ankle whilst keeping my heels intact and legs from spiralling either side of the bike like some panicking clown on a runaway bike going downhill without brakes and tinkling his little horn with a Toot! Toot! However, during this time, I still hadn’t managed to pluck up the courage to prove my worth as a safe and competent rider out on the main roads, and so to keep myself safe and to stop the Phuket Mafia taxi riders from sneering, jeering and tooting at me as they frustratingly tried to pass me as I weaved down the road at 15 kph like an old fart with Mr. Magoo thick rimmed spectacles on a disabled go Kart, I had for those past glorious four weeks been relying on my friends to ride me around the place because I just couldn’t manage to pluck up the courage of competing with the other maniacs out there on the roads… well at least not until my friends decided to go back home, thus leaving me to my own devices that is.
“Oh well” I thought… “I can’t be having a new motorbike and a shiny new buffed up helmet under my seat sitting on the drive outside bathing in the midday sun doing nothing”; besides the soles of my feet where beginning to glow red with all the walking I was doing; and so it was with some trepidation, that I decided to venture out to the big wide world of Phuket, unassisted and alone on my little magic Mio.
My initial ride was short and direct to the point and with no turns what so ever and it took me exactly 2km to where I needed to go. I lived slightly on the outskirts of Patong beach and so only met one or two silly riders along the way who when they came zooming up within my vicinity, would cause me to wobble and fret a little with them whizzing past me with a wide eyed avid determination on their faces, which on reflection I suspect was caused by their desperation to get past this hunched up wobbly bow legged Farang with his chin on the handle bars and go faster stripes on his gloves. Anyway, after a few panicky revs and moments of leaving a ghost image of my face where my bike used to be as I went off at Mac 2 at every junction that I over revved and throttled my way through, I finally managed to get to the 7/11 and back again… safely.
After a few days of this, I started to get cocky as my confidence grew and started to extend my range to 3km with, dare I say it, a left turn here or a right turn there and maybe the odd round about or hill and incline thrown in too… now I was seriously getting adventurous. Then one day, in my proud, puffed up chest state, I pulled up outside one of my favourite parking spaces (about 1km from Bangla road outside my then girlfriends hotel) and as I still hadn’t the courage to attack the one way system around Bangla yet, I would tend to just walk in from there, but woe and behold on this particular occasion, I somehow managed to misjudge my final turn and with my usual “yearrrrgh grunff and ‘oh shit – phew!” stop, I managed to slide myself in between two bikes. Unfortunately, as a consequence of this manoeuvre, I somehow managed to find myself being a little cramped on my left hand side. Furthermore, I knew that as I leaned my bike onto its resting stand that the handle bars, wing mirrors and the two bikes would be touching and that I would either have to immediately lose about 50kg in weight and slide my way out through the manifold of the other bike or vault over the back of my bike like some crazy horse gymnast to get out; both of which in my panicked state of still being a new rider who was desperate to gain some street credibility; where not options that where immediately appealing… hmmm this was not good.
So as I stood there with my throbbing bike in between my legs wondering what to do for the best, this is what went through my head at the time:
a) I could either just dump the bike there and then and vault (or rather unceremoniously slide) off the back of the bike as best as I could and hope the owner of the other bike doesn’t get too upset when he/she returns to find my bike entangled in theirs attempting to shag its exhaust pipe,
b) I could try and fudge things and pretend that with a few smoke and mirror manoeuvres, convince everyone and myself that my approach was indeed perfect and that by the end of it, no-one would be any the wiser,
c) I could back shuffle my way back out with my feet and try my approach again, which to be honest is what most ‘experienced’ riders would have done, but noooo my pride wouldn’t let me do this as there where people milling around and I was sure they could all see that I was an obviously poor and inexperienced rider and as such my manhood and pride was at stake. Besides, my then girlfriend was sitting behind her counter in the hotel opposite and was smiling blissfully at me waiting for me to hop off and say hello, and as such, there was just no way I was going to admit that my prowess with a motorbike was at all flawed with her as my audience,
And so it was, I chose to go with Option b). I looked around to see who was looking. Good! No one was interested, except perhaps the motorbike taxi rider come rent a bike guy who was just sitting there chewing on some fried locust with his Californian ‘CHIPS’ police man glasses and black fingerless gloves on looking like Fagan out of Oliver Twist, and as he had nothing better to do than just gorp at me, I just decided that the best thing for me to do was to shuffle my bike over to the right and thus create the perfect space between the two-parked bikes… simple!
So, I immediately turned half around in my seat, grabbed a hold of the back of the bike by the rear hand rest, pinned my little legs onto the ground and heaved with all my might in an attempt to swing the back of the bike around to the right. Unfortunately, this is me we are talking about and as I am not the strongest or biggest guy in the world, all my attempt did was to cause my neck muscles to scream, my veins to pop and my eyes to bulge, along with the sound one normally makes whilst sinking battleships in the big white bowl of the toilet of “nnnnnnnnggg!”
As the sweat began to drip down through my helmet and onto my chin, I looked across at the now half amused taxi come rent a bike guy who was thinking he was so cool in his Clint Eastwood shades and Steptoe and son mittens, and who was now looking at me like a demented mad cow chewing some cud, and so I decided to take some positive action and leaned back in an attempt to leverage the front of the bike up off the ground so that it became lighter for me to lift and do my discreet right hand shuffle manoeuvre. This I knew would work for sure because even a light weight like me could lift the front of a bike up with my weight as leverage on the back… unfortunately in my anxious state to get this over and done with and to show that smug git who was continuing to stare at me, I somehow managed to forgot that the bike was still switched on and idling merrily away.
So as I pulled back on the handlebars, thus lifting the front of the bike a little off the ground, I was just starting to push the bike over to the right, when my right hand, which happened to still be on the throttle, decided to peel the throttle fully back. Now normally this wouldn’t have been a problem with a bike that had manual gears because it probably would have been in neutral and just resulted in a lot of raucous revving and me pretending to be as cool as ever as I revved my super cool Mio for all to see with a mighty flourish and a swagger of my proud imaginary super biker shoulders, but the Mio is an automatic bike, and as such, the inevitable effect of me throttling back with my front wheel now half way in the air, caused the now dug in rear wheel to kick in and send me and the bike on a projectile journey onwards and upwards…
… In front of me and slightly to the right was a female clothes shop, and as I somehow managed to move my bike in a north easterly direction in my discrete right shuffle manoeuvre, my bike which by now had squealed into maximum revs with the rev-‘oh’-meter screeching away in the red zone, the bike and I somehow went up the 2-foot high curb and straight up into the open fronted female clothes shop. Behind me was an outline ghost image of me sitting on my bike with an ‘O’ look on my lips, but the real me was merrily screeching a way through to the back of the shop with bits of female underwear and a pair of fashionable black silver studded bell bottomed girly trousers hanging off my neck. Somehow and before I went hurtling through the wall at the back of the shop, the underside of the bike got caught on a metal clothes dummy stand which was looking up at me like a rubber dolly with it’s mouth wide and expectantly open, and as a consequence, I was subsequently left with my wheels spinning precariously in the air with me sitting wide eyed and white knuckled at the front with the throttle on full revs and my mind in a numb state of absolute Homer Simpson ‘doh’ness…
Fortunately, as my synapses started sending electrical impulses back to my brain, the fog of reality kicked in and I managed to finally let go of the throttle and disengage the engine by hastily turning and ripping the key out of the ignition. By this time, Fagan came ambling in rubbing his hands looking to see if any pockets needed picking, and with a look of superiority and disdain coupled with a hint of abject amusement, he managed to first prise me off my bike, he then wheeled my bike back out of the shop and parked it (properly), then hopped back up the 2 foot curb and asked me with a rub of his fingers and ever so seriously for 5,000 baht as a sort of compensation!
Naturally I just smiled feeling a little embarrassed at my little turn on the bike, and just pretended that I didn’t either understand him or hear him and after handing over two pairs of knickers that had managed to wedge themselves upon my person along with the now ever so slightly creased fashionable trousers to the slightly shaken and nervous lady shop owner, I walked back out of the shop as cool as I could muster up with my wobbly legs, checked that the underside of my bike was not too damaged (it wasn’t) and walked right next door with a very red face and embarrassed demeanour to sluggishly say ‘erm hello… would you like a coffee from 7/11” to the then girlfriend, followed by a sharp exit left as I then scooted off to the nearest hole to bury myself in as quickly as my embarrassed wobbly legs would allow…
Meanwhile, in the distance as I made my departure, Fagan was still shouting “Oi you 5,000 baht, oi you! Give me 5,000 baht…” fortunately for me Bill Sykes and his Bulldog were nowhere around otherwise I may have received a good budging.
And so it was, that I learnt an important lesson about riding a motorbike…
Oh and in case you are wondering, Fagan nor the shop owner never did get the 5,000 baht compensation that was being demanded… and as for me and the bike, well I went on to pass my Thai motorbike test some 3 weeks later which goes to show you how mad it is here.
Fortunately for the road users of Phuket and the world at large, I promptly went and sold the bike some 4 weeks later for the same price I bought it for to friends of my Thai wife’s family but with payment terms that where favourable to them. I then quickly ran away to live in Bangers instead where mass transport and a good per of shoes makes it a little safer for all concerned. The bike believe it or not is always available to me when ever I go back to Phuket (it was part of a condition attached to the repayment terms) and I put this to the test a few weeks back when I had it again for 3 days for free but don’t worry my riding is a little better these days, but it still doesn’t stop me thinking back to that moment when I first had my bike with a little cringe and an embarrassed shudder.
It's a brave man who spends much time on a motorbike in Thailand. Boring, it is not!