My Very Own Amazing Thailand

Amazing is a word which will forever (one hopes), be attached to Thailand. The Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) uses the word in its main slogan, ‘amazing Thailand,’ and that jingle rolls off the tongue without a questionable thought because the country really is striking in so many ways. Amazing Britain doesn’t hit such a sweet chord, and it can’t be too long before we sell the ‘Great’ from GB. Any suggestions on which country might buy it?

I am continually amazed when travelling around Thailand by many of the things I see. Who wouldn’t be astounded by the magnificent looking temples of Thailand or enticed by the glorious white sands of Koh Chang. For me, when I travel by train, bus or car, green countryside unfolding before my eyes is always an amazing sight. Yeah, that’s my favourite one.

However, sometimes those amazing things we see, are not necessarily astonishing in a striking kind of way. And when it comes to Thai travel, then alarming and bewildering, might be better descriptive words.

I’m always amazed at the way Thais travel about on those small buses (songthaews) in cities and rural districts. When these buses get packed inside, passengers still pile on and perch precariously on the back steps. The young man in the photo above is cool and calmly leant against the side rail, hands free, and the bus was travelling at a fair old speed.

The photo was taken on the Udon Thani to Nong Khai highway and the road is of a high standard but not without the occasional bump, and at high-speed anyone falling off the back would be facing very serious injuries.

Once these buses turn off the main highway, amazing and madness roll into one. Rural roads can be bumpy and their standard dips nearly as deep as the countless potholes the buses meet.

I’ll never forget travelling Thai style with an old friend on my last Christmas holiday.

Wonderful Wi and I were taking a bus ride from Udon Thani city to our village home, and the bus conductor was Khun Bai, an old friend I hadn’t seen in a long while. Bai is as mad as a hatter, in a nice kind of way.

A young army man in full kit was travelling on the bus and he nonchalantly sat against the back rails riding the bumps and dips. When Bai noticed me clicking my camera at the serviceman he just had to get in on the act himself. Khun Bai wasn’t about to be outdone.

We were speeding along at about 70 kilometres an hour when Bai all of a sudden wrapped his legs around the back rail, folded his arms, and leaned back into thin air. Amazing, and don’t forget, this was the bus conductor.

I can hardly leave this post on the alarming antics of Thais and travel, without mention of motorcycles and the madness which wraps its legs around them.

I really do love sitting outside a Thai roadside bar or café watching the world go by. You don’t have to wait long for a motorbike to go by, but you never can guess how many people are going to be on it.

No matter how hard I try to get a photo of three or four Thais riding on the same motorbike I always fail. I either miss the target completely or get a shot which is fuzzy and unusable. Credit for the photo on the right goes to sandyapple.

Four people on a motorcycle and not one crash helmet between them. That’s crazy. Just look at the young kid at the front. They are probably one happy family but it astonishes me how many times in one day you see Thai motorcyclists going about in this fashion. Amazing is the wrong word. Outrageous is nearer home base.

The bottom photo is a mystery to me too, as I can’t recall exactly where it was taken. I just know it was somewhere in, or near to, Udon Thani Province. The photograph tells the same old story.

Two Thais on a motorbike and no crash helmets. The chair is a puzzle to me. Perhaps its a new form of motorcycle taxi. I just hope it’s not the kind of chair people ‘crash out’ in. Amazing Thailand.

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I'm a sixty-year-old Englishman living in the town of Swindon in rural Wiltshire and I have a real deep desire to retire in Thailand one day. If you don't have a dream then you won't have a dream come true.

19 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Great pictures

    I think the Thais are probably the only people on the planet who would consider moving house using a Motorbike. Mind you, before I learnt to drive I used to travel to our local city and do a weekly shop in Big C using a motorbike (110 kms each way). I nearly came off the bike a few times because of all the shopping. I’m so glad I have a car these days.

  2. Mike says:

    Martyn my record for a motorcycle is four plus the dog (as you say in the carrier). I suppose if you only have a motorbike and lots of Thais do then you have to make best use of it.

    It makes me shudder when my neighbours take their little boy out Dad drives and Mum sits behind holding the kid.

    Of course Thai culture/Buddhism is also partly to blame in that they believe if your number is up that’s it so why worry.

  3. Catherine says:

    Martyn, yet another great post. I often worry about the road safety in Thailand. Remember my plan for Buckle Up Bangkok? I shelved the idea for awhile (but not forever).

    I mean, with all the snipers around Bangkok, it seemed really silly to worry about whether or not I have access to seat belts in the backs of taxis.

    Somewhere I read that the new slogan for Thailand is: Amazing Thailand keeps amazing you.

    amazing |əˈmāzi ng |
    causing great surprise or wonder; astonishing: an amazing number of tourists arranged to come to Thailand in May | it is amazing how short their memory is.

    amazingly adverb : [ sentence adverb ] amazingly, most escaped with only a few cuts and bruises | [as submodifier ] so was it an amazingly bad idea?

    amaze |əˈmāz|
    verb [ trans. ] (often be amazed)
    surprise (someone) greatly; fill with astonishment: he was amazed at how violent the clashes were between the Red Shirts and the Thai army| [ trans. ] she was amazed when the sniper’s bullets missed her by ‘that much’ | [as adj. ] ( amazed) after realising how close she came to death, she shook her head in amazed disbelief.

    ORIGIN Old English āmasian, of unknown origin.

    Amazing Thailand. Keeps on amazing me.

  4. malcolm says:

    Martyn , love the pictures and the story , I have a lot of similar ones , “Before Truck” , I call that period of our life in the LOS, I am always amazed that it’s just everyday life to the Thai’s and a bit scary for me, I also have a Honda Wave to ride around Whang Pho and am always surprise at the amount of times that Ciejay has to call out to me to put on my helment, I guess I’m more Thai than I realized, and my answer before she comes and puts it on my head herself , “I’m just going down the street ” .. Malcolm

  5. Hoo Don says:

    Paul I’ve never ridden a motorbike in Thailand, I prefer to keep my feet on the ground although I’ve been on the back of a few motorbike taxis in Pattaya. Risky stuff.

    A 220 km round trip for a weekly shop is one hell of a journey, you must have been either desperate to get your hands on some western food or just loved the fresh air. A car is much more comfortable.

  6. Hoo Don says:

    Mike the most I’ve seen is four, it looks comical but really it’s shocking and more should be done to stop it. Wilai’s second youngest puppy Pepsi sits on the back of her motorbike when she goes to the local town. How he doesn’t fall off I’ll never know.

    Numbers (lottery) seem to play a big part in Thai peoples lives, but the one you mention isn’t taken so matter of fact by us western souls.

    I tried ringing you today but all I got was a very loud and strange sounding beeeeeep, beeeeeeep. It was like being at the World Cup.

  7. Talen says:

    Martyn, great post. The best I have seen so far, and unfortunately didn’t get a good picture of it, was a motorcycle on second road in Pattaya with two riders carrying a 20 ft aluminum ladder…I seriously started thinking about their first turn 🙂

  8. Steve says:

    I love seeing the pictures of 5 plus the family dog and a crate of chickens all together on the same motorcycle (truly they are not even motorcycles, motor scooter would be more correct). It’s not only the Thai’s who do this though, you can see very similar outrageousness in Vietnam and Cambodia. All a day in the life in the LOS.

  9. Hoo Don says:

    Steve I imagine the whole of Asia is full of overladen motorcycles, China must be even worse. When money is tight I guess you have to make the most of the wheels you’ve got. It’s a bit like the western car share schemes but done for non green means.

  10. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine I do remember your proposed buckle up in Bangkok campaign, buckle down or head down is more appropriate at the moment.

    Thailand is amazing as are your explanations of the word. Can I ask, are you a speed typist? It takes me a long time to type lengthy comments. Dib dib dab, that’s me, and I’m not getting any faster.

    Amazing Thailand keeps amazing you…..I much prefer plain old simple amazing Thailand.

  11. Hoo Don says:

    Malcolm, Wilai is the same as you. In our early years I kept on telling her to wear a helmet when riding her motorbike but she soon forgot. Nowadays I don’t even mention although I should because she’s fallen off a couple of times. A grazed knee and lost glasses was fortunately the only outcome.

    I suppose a Thai girl has to show off her hair when riding a bike, what’s your excuse?

  12. Hoo Don says:

    Talen I’d have loved to have seen that and what a great post it would have made. My guess is they when straight on towards Big C and kept going. They probably gave up in Naglua.

    I’ll be on the lookout for some good motorbike photos on my next trip.

  13. Catherine says:

    Martyn, I’ll still doing the campaign – I bought the domain name way back then – but your ‘buckle down’ is how I feel at the moment (I’m still pissed off) so I’ll wait.

    Am I a speed typist? Sometimes my fingers do fly. But if you see a long answer from me, it’s usually due to caffeine kicking in just right. And most times I don’t even realise it until I’ve push the ‘submit comment’ button.

    I would give anything to be that awake always. But it only comes in dribs and drabs. Darn it. Today is a darn it day…

  14. Talen says:

    Martyn, Big C was only a few blocks away for them. As for riders the most I have seen on a motorcy was 6…3 adults with 3 children sandwiched in between them and one sitting on the handlebars.

  15. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine best of luck with your campaign when it eventually clunks and clicks into gear.

    I’m not a big caffeine fan myself and probably drink about two mugs a day. I also steer well clear of M-150 and red bull type drinks. That probably explains why I constantly feel tired.

  16. Hoo Don says:

    Talen, six is some total and I wonder what the record is. Seeing them all crammed onto one bike is comical but when you consider the possible consequences it is quite frightening. Think of the compensation you’d have to pay if that lot bumped into you.

  17. Catherine says:

    Martyn, caffeine can really bite you in the butt so I don’t lean on it too heavily. A pot of tea in the morning is my daily allowance.

  18. Snap says:

    Re: the little blue plastic chair! If this was in Vietnam I would wager that it was nicked off a train.

    Road safety is much worse there I reckon.You have the beeping factor. The louder you beep, the bigger you are, the more you get out of the way. We have been releived to see many more people wearing helmets between our visits over the last 5 years.

    Caffeine…please don’t take it away from me…have quit the smokes, cut down on the Shiraz and have an extra 5 kg to thank for it. What else is there? hhmmm, perhaps don’t answer that.

  19. Hoo Don says:

    Snap well done for quitting the smokes, I wish I could do it or at least cut down. Perhaps I could take up drinking urine instead like Mr H does in your post.

    In Thailand’s cities they are slowly starting to use helmets more but still not enough. In the rural areas they are very rarely seen unless it’s on a long trip where they might come across a police roadblock.

    Best wishes from England on a very humid night. Time for another smoke and a cool down outside.

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