Thailand’s Amazing and Dangerous Roads

The dangers of travelling on Thailand’s sometimes busy highways and quieter pot holed country roads are I think summed up in the photograph below. If you can’t see the significance in the picture then take a closer look at the vehicle on the right. Now you should see what I mean. You can click on the image to enlarge it.

On the left is a truck racing along at a fair speed with all its stage or stand equipment and framework sat loosely in the back. There’s quite a lot of weight there, and the only thing holding it down is a man perched precariously on top of it at the very back of the truck. If the driver hits the brakes real hard then you can imagine the carnage that might follow.

On the right is an ambulance speeding towards my camera, and although it probably wasn’t going to the scene of a road accident, you have probably like myself realised the meaning behind the photograph. Many people like the man sat in the back of the truck end up lying down and possibly dead in a vehicle like the one on the right. Thailand’s roads are very dangerous to journey on. But then again they can also reveal some amazing and alarming sights.

Look right…look left…sod it. There won’t be anything coming this time of day. The man on the motorbike has clearly packed his side car to the absolute limit and can’t see to his left. He obviously has the notion that any car or truck heading his way will automatically stop for him. He’s got enough boxes of beer stacked up to keep a funeral party going for a good while, let’s hope it’s not his own one.

One man and his horse. The ned (horse) is actually a man made model and is used in one of Thailand’s many Buddhist festivals, maybe a few of them, because I’ve seen this same horse being transported around a couple of times near Wonderful Wi’s village.

The photo captures one of those amusing and amazing sights you often see when journeying around Thailand. Below is one I have used in a past post and is one of my favourite photos taken whilst travelling on Thailand’s roads.

I think the photo sums the country up rather well. It’s one mad colourful place, and travelling on its roads is a journey of great expectation and a feeling of huge relief when finally arriving at your destination. Travelling in the Land of Smiles is never dull but you do need to keep your wits about you, and if like me you’re a passenger, your camera at hand.

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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.

18 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Hi Martyn, I’ve only ever driven a car on Thai roads so I don’t know any better. I have thought about getting an international licence so I can drive on holidays back in Ireland. I fear though, that it will be hard to cope on roads where people follow rules. The one thing for sure about driving in Thailand is it never gets boring.

  2. Hoo Don says:

    Paul I don’t drive myself, Wilai ferries me around in a rented car, it’s great just sat there clicking away on my camera. I’m happy for her to drive in and around Udon but wouldn’t agree to her driving from there to Bangkok. Luckily she feels the same. Maybe you’d feel more comfortable driving in Ireland knowing that rules were in place.

  3. Snap says:

    Martyn, the ‘look right, look left’ thing definitely seems to be almost nonexistent. I rarely see bikes entering traffic surveying the situation before they do so. They just seem to appear out of nowhere.

    I’m predominantly a pedestrian, and have found the footpaths can be like walking through a mine field. First rule of battle, ‘always look down’ and pray you don’t walk smack bang into a sign or dangling electrical cables. Government/council obviously cannot be held liable here should I fall down one of these side walk pits???

    It amazes me how some of the young girls can walk around in their 6 inch heels without breaking and ankle…or two!

    I love the balloon pic!

  4. Hoo Don says:

    Snap like yourself I get about mainly on foot, and boy those city streets are in need of a fix. I often take photos of the really rough stretches of path because I have often thought about doing a post about them. What amazes me is that sometimes workmen dig a bloody big hole in the sidewalk and leave it unmarked. I imagine a few people have come close to falling down one come darkness. A few probably have.

    I love the baloon pic too. That’s Thailand, one colourful place to be.

  5. Malcolm says:

    Martyn, you are sooo right on about Thailand’s roads being amazing, I love to take lots of photos when a someone else is driving , BUT , when I am driving ,I very quickly remember just how dangerous the roads and driving here in the LOS can really be and you don’t have to drive very far to realize it , it’s just around the next curve or two or the next crossroad or the next driveway , or the next Duck Crossing , ha ha . Good post and pictures . Malcolm

  6. Hoo Don says:

    Malcolm I haven’t come across any ducks when out in the motor apart from a few in the village, it always amazes me how the dogs leave them and the chickens alone. What bothers me is the cows on the roads in the morning and late afternoon, I’ve had to shut my eyes a few times when passing through them. Hiring a car is a heart in the mouth experience at times, especially with all them country road pot holes.

  7. Mike says:

    Martyn very appropriate seeing as I am renewing my Thai licence tomorrow. I would really love to know how many Thais actually have a DL-not many I fancy.

    Mind you the test is a joke, round the traffic cones….if Paul has only driven here perhaps Ireland is not a good idea 😉

    I really do need to let Duen drive and sit in the co-pilots seat with the camera and try and get a few great shots like yours.

    Actually Duen is a good driver, has a licence and I always feel safe when she is behind the wheel. That said i shudder when we visit here family and they see how many bodies they can get in and on the truck.

  8. Hoo Don says:

    Mike this is the first time I’ve had a comment from a medical tourism reporter on this blog, I am honoured and will try not to harp on about my own country’s NHS system while I reply.

    Wilai took her test in Udon Thani about 3 years ago and passed with flying colours. If I recall correctly she had to drive through the city itself during the test but I got the impression she’d have to had run someone over to have failed it. Like you I do wonder how many people actually hold a licence.

    I went to my doctors the other day and I bloody couldn’t believe…………

  9. Snap says:

    Martyn…I’ve already started collecting the photos 😉

  10. Talen says:

    Martyn, some great pics. It always amazes me at the sights a Thai road will bring to you. I always smile when I see a car loaded up with baloons and wonder if the driver even stopped to think about his own safety for a second.

    One of the best sights I saw in Mukdahan was a Thai guy driving his tractor down the wrong side of the road behind his buffalo…I guess he didn’t want his buffalo to get hit and assumed people would see him and slow down…don’t know what his plan was for the blind curve in the road and I wasn’t sticking around to watch.

  11. Lawrence says:

    Great post, Martyn, and you’ve put up some good pics too. I’m usually driving but even when not I’m not very successful through the windscreen.

    I’ve driven in lots of countries (including Ireland where they didn’t seem that rule-abiding to me) and I think it’s a matter of getting to know what other drivers are likely to do. That varies from country to country. I find a lot of motorway drivers in UK very scary indeed. And I regularly see big pile-ups on the M5.

  12. Hoo Don says:

    Snap I’ll look forward to your post on Thailand’s amazing and dangerous paths. There’s plenty of material about for that one.

  13. Hoo Don says:

    Talen the buffaloes in the countryside are a nightmare especially in a rented car. We always see plenty when we’re out and about, though it’s best to get back home early or you get caught up in their return route. I’m not sure how you stand if a cow or buffalo smacks your motor. I think after a certain time of the day the herdsman is responsible. After dark I believe.

  14. Hoo Don says:

    Lawrence I’m pleased you enjoyed the photos. I’ve never learned to drive and have no intention of doing so. I’m happy on foot, sat on a bus, paying for a taxi or sat in the passenger seat of a car. I don’t know why but cars never had a lure for me.

    The UK does have major pile ups but I think that’s due to traffic congestion and the westerners attitude of busy busy busy, rush rush rush. The Thais accident problem has possibly got a certain amount to do with alcohol.


  15. Catherine says:

    Good post Martyn. I no longer have a drivers license (yeah, ouch) so I’m going to have to work my way though the classes or whatever they require on the day. If it’s anything like Brunei, the laws change often.

  16. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine my apologies for taking so long to answer you but I have been busy at work and in my free time I’ve been organising my apartment revamp. At long last things are now moving along and the new kitchen has been fitted.

    If you do retake your test then best of luck if you have to battle the roads of Bangkok on judgement day. Your regular taxi rides appear a far better way of getting around the Big Mango.

  17. Catherine says:

    No apologies needed Martyn (but you have been missed!)

    The only reason I need a drivers license is to travers the roads of the UK. With an aging mother-in-law, I might be called upon to hold down the fort at some point. In no way could I afford getting around via taxi in Devon for an extended amount of time.

    Bangkok taxis 1
    Devon taxis 0

  18. Hoo Don says:

    Catherine let’s hope it is a few years before you need to hold the fort. If there will be any positive about it then Devon won’t be too bad a place to stay. Beats a big city.

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