I have noticed a few strange things over the years and recently in the way that Thai people drive.
Firstly every time there appears to be an undulation, dip or uneven section of road, they reduce their speed to almost a standstill then creep over the road section. Anyone who has driven a car should understand that it has suspension for the purpose of such circumstances. A number of times I've had to swerve to avoid hitting cars that have slammed on their brakes to creep over a puddle.
Accelerating towards traffic jams. Almost every taxi I have been in does this. Futile.
Rain. Obviously if the rain is heavy and if it causes flooding then cars will slow down and traffic will build up. However I've noticed that the Thais seem to lose all confidence when it starts to rain, even lightly, and that's the main reason why things grind to a halt. The ability to drive seems to be severely hampered by the fun dok. <I think this is partly due to the condition o some cars with bald tyres and what not and thus they are forced to slow down for fear of losing control of the vehicle! – Stick>
Now to turning. It is very clear to me that people here have a lot of difficulty in negotiating turns. Turn right at any intersection and it soon comes to a standstill even though there is no traffic on the road you are turning into. The missus recently passed her driving 'test' and she simply cannot steer the car around corners. Normally we end up using all available lanes to turn instead of one lane which is perfectly adequate for a 4 wheel vehicle. Another practice that confuses me is the driver turning left who will want to turn right say a hundred yards after. The normal practice seems to be to stop the entire three lanes until position is taken up in the right hand lane.
Time saving. I find it quite hilarious how the average person who is polite and courteous becomes a complete maniac behind the wheel. It applies to men and women. Ninety percent of the time when you indicate to move to the right the driver behind you in that lane will speed up to prevent your move, nearly hitting the car in front but most importantly saving a place and 1-2 seconds. Such behaviour is quite confusing when there are hundreds of cars in front with no clear way through. A similar practice is the complete maniac flashing and beeping cars to get out of the way, only to either stop and buy rambuttan from the side of the road or pull into a service station.
A lot of accidents you see on the roads in involving cars Bangkok are quite minor and usually involve bumper to bumper knocks or a diagonal meeting of cars in traffic. I am not implying that women drivers are worse but they always seem to be involved. <They ARE worse. No question in my mind – Stick> I think I know why. Many times I have been behind a car and it appeared not to have a driver, no visible sign until I was adjacent to it and saw a lady peering over the dashboard, almost hanging off the steering wheel. Try crouching down to that level and you will see how drastic your view of your surroundings are reduced. No wonder there are so many knocks and dents between cars if the driver cannot appreciate the dimensions of their own vehicle. I've bought the missus a thick cushion to sit on which has improved matters considerably. I wish I had bought it before we drove over the flowerbed in a hotel car park in Hua Hin to avoid hitting an S class Mercedes.
If you want to turn into a busy road it can be some time before permission is granted. However I've noticed that the most effective way is to open your window and raise your hand. It is almost like pleading to be let out which probably gives the other driver a sense of power, and we know what effect that has here. However it seems that any car made by Mercedes, BMW, Lexus etc has automatic right of way: they have more money than me so must be better.
The issue of most concern to me is that I have developed the bow of the head to acknowledge someone if they let me turn or move into a lane. I simply cannot get rid of the habit. A French guy I used to work with when I first came here used to do it and I thought he looked ridiculous, yet now I'm doing the same. I just hope it disappears when I move to Singapore or go on holiday to the UK. Probably a head restraint or a neck brace will be required.
Slightly off the subject, it appears to me that most Thai men have an inherent obsession to direct traffic. Your average motorcycle taxi guy or security guard doubles up as a traffic policeman without warning, usually creating utter chaos, only rivaled by the authentic traffic police themselves. One particular motorcycle taxi guy near my office even has his own whistle, blown continuously during his moment of glory. Driving home last night myself and the missus burst into laughter. We were on a stretch of road in Nonthaburi moving at a snails pace with police spaced every 50 metres over a distance of around 2km waving everyone to move forward with those Star Wars weapons. "Better for them to go home" was her conclusion to the operation.
Is it me or is the Bangkok Post actually getting thinner with the price hike. Sunday's was 40 Baht but was lighter than the weekday versions. At the weekend I tend only to read the sports section as it's nice to turn off from the domestic and international nonsense. However 40 Baht, whilst affordable, is becoming a bit much for that short read. I did find it quite pathetic to read all of the complaints (a lot!) sent into the Post about the answers now being provided beneath the daily crosswords, even though upside down. One word of advice to those people, "Try to get out more!".
Driving in Thailand can be a challenge at times but overall I enjoy it. I simply like the feeling of freedom when I am behind the wheel of a car outside of Bangkok.