Readers' Submissions

Traffic Ramblings

  • Written by Yards
  • August 20th, 2012
  • 7 min read


With my rekindled romance with City of Bangkok after living here for 12 years, I thought I would share some of my happenings and thoughts in the City of Angels as I seem to have mellowed with age.

There I am walking down from Asoke junction on the footpath on Sukhumvit towards the Nana area and had just crossed over Soi 10 when I notice the two women in front of me trying to lean up against the fence of the restaurant and I look up and see motor cyclist Mr. Somchai coming towards us with his passenger sitting on the back of the machine. I too move sideways and let him through, on the narrow footpath that has food stalls with hot oil or burning charcoal going on the other side next to the road. We walk about another 10 metres and I hear a tooting of the horn from behind me and like the women in front and now other people, I step up on the Little Korea forecourt to let motor cyclist Mr. Somchai 2 and his passenger go past and noticed Sukhumvit Road itself was jammed and going nowhere. After he went by, I continued standing there and thinking, what did I just do?

After all those early years of moaning and threatening about the motorbike guys using the footpath to get around and now I just accept it. Is this the start of me becoming a citizen of Bangkok? As I thought it over, I decided that I would not moan about them doing this again, as long as they did not crash into me. The reason for my change of attitude is the thought that these guys are working for their living. Can you imagine guys like this in Australia, NZ, UK or USA, getting up off their backside to use their own transport machine to ride around in high 30s heat, in rain, in the middle of car fumes and dust to earn 20 baht? I cannot. They would most likely be down the unemployment offices getting the dole, social security or handouts, whatever they are called in each country and being paid for by taxes from people like me.

Another work day morning I am driving down Sukhumvit towards the Nana junction just past Soi 6 and the traffic jams up and people are trying to push out from the inside lane to the middle one, which causes chaos and slowness. As I go past the scene in front of the Landmark Hotel, I see Somchai junior who looks about 16, with two full hands. As he walks crablike up the road, with his back hand he is pulling a big blue metal cart, like the ones they use to store the clothes in for the street stalls, while with the front hand he is pushing a B-B-Q cart in front of him. The charcoal pot is well alight and spewing smoke all over the road and especially over him. Of course he is doing this by walking in the inside lane the wrong way against the traffic flow and slowing the morning rush hour traffic right down. My immediate thought is could this be an old Thai police trick for sorting out the traffic (getting some tea money) or maybe I should be looking for the “Candid Camera” crew who are filming it. Then I realise that it is just young Somchai earning some money by working, as he cannot go the welfare office and get a handout. I did not even toot my horn or yell at him and even have admiration for him.

I work in the Suriwong area and now I find I can cross the road at any time by adopting the old Thai trick of a quick nod or bow of the head and then stepping out. I only realized I had started doing this after one of my female staff had seen me and told the others in the office that Khun Yards had become a local now. I thought about it and realized that I was doing it without thinking too much of the actions. For readers new to Bangkok, let me explain this is the way that locals cross the roads. You step out, one foot on the road and nod or bow the head and this obviously releases a force field around them that stops cars or motor bikes crashing into them. In Malaysia it is similar for the Muslim community except they have the force field emanate from holding up a hand, palm side out. I think that this must be an old traditional Asian secret that they hid from the rest of the world for many years but now that we live here, we have worked it out and can use it myself.

Another thought on whether I am really becoming a local is because of my walking speed. I find that I am no longer overtaking Thai women on the footpaths: that I am happy to just dawdle along with them and I see farangs overtaking me. Is this assimilating or is it just old age.

One part I will never get used to here is the guards in the car parking stations. I use a large one in Suriwong and as I start to park my car, the little guard will start to run up, waving his arms and blowing his whistle. Does he really think that by blowing his whistle 18 times will help me to park more straight? I am thinking of writing a question into the Stickman Sunday edition and asking the Sunbelt Legal advisors what the fine would be if I picked the guard up, carried him and then bent him over the bonnet of the car, pulled down his trousers and inserted said whistle about 6 inches up his anal orifice (by hand of course). Depending on the answer, it maybe worth the fine!

I can never be a real Thai, I know because I park my car, nose in first. It is much quicker this way and I find it easy to reverse out. One of my favourite moans is the way the Thai driver has to reverse in at a shopping mall, usually taking 3 attempts and at least 30 seconds or more and has his boot area tight up against the car behind. When he and the family come out, they all have to wait for the driver to start up the car, drive it out into the lane, (blocking any other vehicles trying to progress) so the family can then open up the boot to put in all the shopping.

As I said earlier, I am not sure whether all these thoughts, or non thoughts and actions mean I am starting to become a Bangkokian, or just trying to assimilate into the local ways or I am just plain stupid. But I have to say, that I am a lot calmer these days in my daily journey around the place with one exception. That exception is young female drivers of usually small little midget cars. I find them to be the most aggressive and unhelpful of all the drivers on the road. I even have taxi drivers who will slow down or stop and let people come into the flow from a side road (some of them anyway) and even have some locals who give me a nod or even a wave when I stop and let them into the traffic flow, but I am sure that these are not young female drivers, especially the ones who have slightly tinted windows.

I will own up here to a fantasy that old Yards is having a lot recently and it concerns young Bangkok women: it may not be what you first thought of, when you read this. I dream that when my maker comes to me in a vision and says that you only have two weeks left here on earth in Bangkok, I will drive up to Isaan and sell my passenger car and I buy a 25 year old farm utility banger, with rust on it, and preferably having at least 3 shades of the same colour all over it (preferably uninsured) and I drive it to Bangkok and just drive around to all the really busy intersections in peak hours trying to cut into traffic and when I have a young woman try to push in or not let me in, I will gun the old banger and do to her car, what I used to try to do to women here when I first came 20 years ago. Oh the pleasure this would give, I can almost feel the loins girding just thinking about it, it has me aroused already.


Stickman's thoughts:

I really can relate, especially to the security guards and their whistles!