Life Lessons in Thailand

May 23, 2008 by

Asia, Best of the Viator Blog

Editor’s Note: Jordan Digby lives in Baan Pluai (aka “BP”), Roi-Et province, Thailand. If you want to find it on a map, the coordinates are 15 degrees 39′ 34″ N, 103 degrees 56′ 45″ E. Please, no ICBMS.

Lesson 1: The 10-Ticket Bus

So we’ve lost the use of the neighbour’s pickup, due to her daughter coming home and taking possession of it. Kids are the same everywhere.

So I’ve been catching the bus into town each day. Now “bus” is a loose term – there seem to be two main types of busses around here. The first are the coaches that hurtle across Isaan from one major town to another. “Speed” is the operative word here, both describing the velocity of these 15 tonne unguided missiles, and the fuel given to the drivers.

The other is the songtaew (minibus). In reality, a large cage bolted on the back of a pickup, these ply the minor routes between villages and small towns. People either clamber inside the cage, or for that extra thrill, cling grimly to the top. “Timetable” seems not to translate too well into Thai here – anytime between 6:30 and 7:15 the “7am” Cage will arrive.

The other day we arrive at the bus-stop to go home. “What time does the bus leave?” we ask. “Four o-clock” they tell us (“sii moong yen”). It’s now 3:05. Bugger! OK, we think, a decent-sized load would be about 10 people. “If we buy 10 bus tickets, what time does the bus leave?”

“Right now,” is the happy reply. So going home that day was a personalized Cage service, delivery right to our door (with appropriate looks from the neighbours!).

Lesson 2: New Car, New Family

Statue of Buddha Thailand
Buddha drives a Turbo

So we’ve bought a car (at last). Of course it wasn’t easy, it took us a few goes to find a good dealer, but we finally found a good chap in Kalasin, about 200 kms away, and we’ve bought the car through him.

So he calls us last weekend to tell us the car will be ready Monday. “Great!” my wife, Ann, exclaims, and Monday morning first thing we all pile into a friend’s car to get a lift up to Kalasin.

We arrive in Kalasin around 11am, and proudly walk into the showroom. “Welcome,” he says, “your car should be ready by 4pm!”. Only 5 hours! In typical Thai fashion, no-one batted an eye when we decided we’d wait. We plonked ourselves down in the showroom for 5 hours.

So we finally get the car, and drive home. Ann’s mum has prepared a special garland of flowers, which she carefully placed on the front bumper bar for the night. This, I’m told, is to “welcome the new Car to the household”. It’s great to have a new member of the family!

Lesson 3: Turbo Blessing

It’s good to see Buddhism is keeping up with the times. On Tuesdays — and for reasons lost in the mists of time, only on Tuesdays — the monks can perform a ‘Car Blessing Ceremony’.

So Tuesday I was summoned to race home early, before temple closes. We drove in, and parked the car right up near the temple door. The monks came out, and wrapped the steering wheel in a string, which was then attached to the temple’s buddha, and we all said some special prayers. Then the head monk daubed the inside ceiling of the car with a special protective motif in chalk. Then the monks walked around the car, chanting and sprinkling it with holy water. Then they opened the bonnet and complimented me on choosing the XLT Turbo option for the Ford F350 series. “Turbo — good,” the monks all agreed.

I guess there must be Good that is Universal, and it obviously includes turbochargers.

Lesson 4: My First “Road Tax”

There’s a stretch of road between home and ‘Yaso’ (i.e., Yasothon, I’m a local now) that’s dead straight and dead flat for about 6 kilometers. The general rule seems to be that you go as fast as your car will allow — somewhere between 30 and 130 km/hr, depending upon whether you’re in a tractor or a new car.

So we’re sitting nicely on 130km, when an oncoming car gives the headlight flash. Police up ahead, presumably, so we slow down to 100km. Sure enough, in the distance a police road block appears, and as we approach one of the policemen waves us over.

“Good morning,” he says, beaming through the window. “Where you from?”

We proceed with the usual discussion about where I’m from, where I’m going etc, I show him my licence, then he says, “Oh! Mr Jordan, you go too fast. 100km. Limit is 90.”

“Oh really?” I reply, feigning innocence. “Just 10 km over?”

“Yes,” he says, “please parking the car.” Uh-oh. I park the car and get out. “Yes,” the policeman says, with a serious demeanor, “500 baht” (AUD $20), his pen quivering over his opened notepad.

“Oh no,” says I, pulling my wallet from my pocket, “can I pay you now?”

Smiles appear. “OK, 200 baht!” The notebook and pen disappear, 200 baht (AUD $6) changes hands and vanishes. Now it’s big smiles all round, a few “pleased to meet you” hand shakes, and off we go, everyone happy.

The roads are safer, I’ve made a new friend, and Mr Policeman has some nice lunch money. Only Ann is annoyed, that I didn’t bargain harder…

Jordan Digby

Planning a trip? Browse Viator’s things to do in Thailand, Bangkok tours and activities in Phuket and things to do in Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.


One Response to “Life Lessons in Thailand”

  1. akshay Says:

    Nice to see this blog. Very well !