Monday, January 28, 2013

Road chaos in Chiang Mai

Negotiating traffic in Chiang Mai takes some skill. So does being a passenger. Culture shock for me so far starts and ends with the type, style, quantity and dress style of the population as they traverse the road system. Where to begin? Utes are used to transport goods - say a truck load of cabbages. And I do mean a truck load. Imagine if you can a semi trailers worth of cabbages, balanced so symmetrically you can stack them all into the tray of a ute. Tie it down with a piece of string and you will begin to get the picture. Utes are also used to carry building materials. Large, long loads, without the usual red rag to alert unsuspecting vehicles following behind that they might in fact get dinged on the head. Then there was the ute with boxes stacked five high. I kid you not! This guy was actually quite organised as he had a cargo net of sorts holding the whole lot in. As for people - current record is 9 being transported in the back of a ute. Usually anything up to five is viable as a workmate takes his buddies to work with him.
These too images were taken in Koh Samui, just shows it is atypical Thai thing. Crazy, but a common occurence. Taxis too are quite unique. The Blue and Gold seem almost normal. The Red taxis however appear more like cut down ambulances. Open backed, with rows of seats running up the interior they transport locals and tourists alike, catering for about ten passengers. Dodging in and out of the traffic with passengers clinging on, like a mini bus. Pull up behind one in the traffic and you look right in on everyone, quite a weird feeling after the impersonal buses at home.
Tuk tuks, quite common in the city itself are less evident where we currently are about 40 minutes out of town. With the driver up front and two or three squeezed in the back, these are unlike anything at home and have to be seen to be believed. That leaves the motorbikes and scooters. Some single units, some with a cage type sidecar that transports goods or passengers. They are almost awe inspiring in the way they are utilised. That said, you wouldn't get me on one in a pink fit. At home, riding pillion with someone I trust - sure. Here in this crazy dodge city of vehicles, no way.
So, if a sidecar is attached expect to see goods being transported. More often than not, the passengers are often riding pillion rather than in the cage. Best example of versatility for this style of whichever to date is driver plus two passengers riding pillion with an empty cage. Maybe they were e route to pick up a load? Who knows. Motorbikes and scooters are the general workhorse of choice. Favourite sights so far include the following: the guy driving his bike wearing a fluffy elephant hat, complete with trunk waving as he took off from the traffic lights; the guy riding his motorbike with his dog standing on its hind legs with its front legs resting on the handlebars and the couple ring their bike with their puppy on her lap as he drove, safely squeezed between them. The ultimate sit however was the family with Dad driving, Mum was riding pillion, between them were two children, but out in front of Dad, was a third child. None wore helmets. Although I have seen street side stalls selling bike helmets it seems to be considered the norm to ride without one. Go figure. 28.1.2013

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