Readers' Submissions

Pick-up vs. Motorbike – Not a Rant About Thai Driving Skills

  • Written by Khuntik1
  • March 17th, 2011
  • 10 min read

The writing of this submission was inspired by Kketp1’s submission “10 minutes in jail” and the intention behind it is to show a different picture about an accident that actually happened.

As first let me tell you that all the involved persons got off the situation quite luckily and no one was too badly injured nor was there too much damage what goes for the vehicles.

Here’s a bit of info about myself. I am a regular visitor of Thailand who normally spends and enjoys his time in Thailand with the family in the village. I am Swiss and 44 years of age. I like to go on trips around the countryside
for shopping, taking the family to the nearby lake restaurant and for sightseeing of temples and landscape. I would not say that I am the most experienced person concerning life in Thailand but I think, thanks to a cool family and a wife who takes
a lot of trouble to explain all things Thai to me whenever I ask, I nonetheless get a picture of how things work. I am also an always-interested observer and not shy to try to speak in Thai to people as good as I can manage. My knowledge is maybe
a bit better than basic, going slowly to average level. Surely good enough to make myself understood and being able to go shopping on my own with a dictionary in my knapsack for the cases I don’t find the right words. Just last year I noticed
that also the understanding, which to me seems more difficult than speaking, gets quite a lot better which actually makes it easier to have a real communication.

When on the road it’s normally my wife’s brother, a very jai-yen (cool hearted) person who drives his truck to take us wherever we like and need to go. He has a cautious driving style and is not a speeder. I do feel
safe when on the road with him and hardly ever have made observations where I thought the other drivers drive crazy like hell. Well of course there are always motor-bikes with several people on them, drivers without helmets, drunks and unexpected
soi dogs, cows, chickens or even cattle that can be around the next bend when living in the countryside.

Look, I am not thinking too much about the fact that driving with a pick-up full of people sitting in the back could turn into a quite ugly picture if a real big accident happened. I must but admit that if I drove on my own it would tickle
my neck and I would drive more carefully than normal with so many passengers on board and I would never be able to do such a thing here at home as the traffic rules are very strict in Switzerland. Like the Thais I look at it in the Buddhist way
and trust in fate and heaven that nothing happens. Why should I worry? I am not entitled to tell them how to drive as I am a guest and a foreigner. As in Thailand one has nothing so much like time there’s actually never any need to be in
a hurry and so I would advertise a fore-seeing driving style as a best possible advice. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Should I be driving my own car in Thailand in the future I would say that Kketp’s advice for good insurance
is crucial. One should not save money on the wrong things. My wife’s brother’s car has probably at least an average insurance.

On a Saturday we went on a bathing trip to the seaside with the pickup well filled with family and gear for a day at the beach. We were about one hour on our way when the traffic got a bit more congested due to many vehicles and lorries.
The road was going straight up on a little hump and there was no sight over it of the oncoming cars. In front of us was one of those overloaded and really slow driving lorries. Behind the lorry and in front of us a guy on a motorbike. We were
driving at an average speed of 60 km/h and the brother intended to overtake the lorry when in the first quarter of the manoeuvre one of the oncoming cars had the same idea at the very moment when we were already half side to side with the lorry.
The brother instantly reacted and hit the brake in order to go back in behind the lorry when with the back of his pick-up he slightly hit the guy’s motorbike and sent him wobbling and losing his balance off the road and into the ditch.
I only heard a light scratch and said to my wife: “Oops I think he hit the biker” when only a few seconds later the brother was already attempting to stop at the roadside and with the warning lights blinking pull back slowly to see
exactly what had happened to the biker.

When we were side to side with the guy lying in the ditch I said to my wife that it probably would be the best thing that, until we knew what the situation was, I stayed inside the truck behind tinted glasses. Just in case of the “farang-factor”
and as we didn’t know if there are crowds of so-called witnesses and bystanders. Fortunately the biker was not badly injured. He had a few bruises and burnt the skin of his leg at his bike’s exhaust pipe.

Her brother stepped out of the car and the next thing he did was call his insurance agent to report what happened and that they should send someone. About an hour later the insurance guy arrived at the scene. Meanwhile we took care of his
minor scratches and gave him some water to drink and asked how he felt. He was in a stable condition but had quite some pain from his burnt skin and was slightly shocked. The paperwork with the insurance guy was a matter of maybe 20 minutes and
he confirmed that the insurance company would take care of the damage on the vehicles. No police were called as the case was regarded as not severe and consensual by all parties.

The guy’s bike was technically in a ramshackle condition and didn’t even have plates on it. He also pleaded not to call the boys in brown as he was very poor and that a fine would worsen his already difficult life situation.
He is a factory worker with a wife and two kids and barely enough to feed everyone. My wife’s family is of a similar background and knows exactly how hard life is, so they felt compassion for the guy.

I must say I am, to this day, very impressed with this situation and it showed me that my Thai relatives are a decent folk. It was actually the first time when I saw how more difficult things are handled / negotiated in the Thai way.

On the other side I must not tell you that when I tried to explain in German to my wife that it was also partly her brother's fault as he tried to overtake a lorry without good sight and with a little hill in front, that she would have
been willing to accept this as a possible scenario. Hehehe. I did not insist on my opinion any further as actually this was none of my responsibility and I do not wish to boss people around. I also believe that this was a situation when as a farang
you must be able to bite back the words you want to utter for the sake of not provoking unnecessary discussions or maybe even cause a loss of face.

We know how easily this can happen in Thailand. It’s not that I am afraid of insulting anyone but as a Buddhist I think I have understood that sometimes you must let go of things if there is no chance for better results instantly.
Ultimately that’s what Thais also do in certain situations of life and I think for the farang it’s a good recipe to stay out of this special kind of trouble which hardly ever leads to anything pleasing for either side.

Back to the accident: After the matter with the insurance company was cleared we hauled the bike and the guy on the pick-up and took him to the next hospital where he was taken care of. Another hour later we brought him to his home and family.
When at the hospital he already had called home to tell them what happened but that everything would be fine and no one had to worry. When we arrived at his place we were welcomed very warmly and with high wais, were offered drinks and
had a little chat with everyone. They thanked us for our fairness and that we stopped and actually took care of the guy. My wife then explained me that she thought he is a real poor devil and that she wants to give him some 5,000 baht as a consolation
for the shock and for his loss as he was not able to go to work for around a week by doctor’s orders. She asked me if I could help out with that amount, which I did.

Of course this situation was also new for me and actually I did not really feel a need for such a payment but again this is something I only questioned later when in private with my wife. Never would I have overreacted in any way and started
any trouble when still with these people. Maybe this might seem strange for many of you but I have no problem with that as in many situations my wife is very willing to explain the Thai way better than just by saying.: “Accept it – it’s
the Thai way and the farang doesn’t understand it anyway.” I appreciate that and already learnt a lot about customs and about Thai etiquette which in many situations is in fact different from ours.

I feel that my relatives like me for exactly that kind of empathy if I may call it like that and also for my positive thinking character. There’s another point I have in mind. You see, for me it’s also the thinking of “win
some lose some” that lets me be cool with that. Plus in many other situations in my life I probably already spent around 150 bucks’ Swiss on more stupid things. Moreover I am in the lucky situation that my wife’s family never
asks me for anything, never tells me silly stories about sick buffalos and that kind of stuff. Most importantly my wife comes from a decent background, did a lot of things to survive but never ever would have thought about selling herself in the
bars. She’s a very proud woman and has a ready tongue in case of any trouble coming on to her. She knows how to defend herself and actually rules the family as she surely is the sharpest kid of them.

The parallel to Kketp’s story is something I once was explained by my wife. The Thai family bonds are very strong, much stronger than in the western world. It was explained to me that if I lived with her and her family in Thailand
that they feel responsible for me and that in case of trouble they would not let me down and always give me their best support possible. The family would always try to protect me. The family always protects their own kin first. Kketp’s
family therefore supported him with backup and advice during the whole case which was my impression when I finished reading his story.

This is not something you can define by numbers or amounts of money. Neither can it be bought somewhere. It’s actually one of these priceless qualities you only get by deserving them.

Cheers, Khuntik1



Stickman's
thoughts:

I find stories of driving in Thailand and accidents morbidly fascinating. That's a nice story – and it's great to hear that everything worked out ok.