Monday, October 06, 2014

The Happy Dangers of Thailand

If I wanted to get around in Thailand, I had to either walk or ride on the back of Amy's motorbike.

Now, in Oregon, there is absolutely no livin' way you would find me on a motorbike, let alone riding behind someone else, with a helmet but no leather gear, in traffic so heavy you could reach out and pat the cement truck beside you.

But context is everything.  And that is how you do it in Thailand.

So I do it too.

At first I was terrified because I'd heard stories of the back person leaning wrong around a turn and throwing the whole operation into a nearby bus wheel.

So I would try to lean scientifically around the turns and Amy would shriek that I was throwing her off.

"Mom, you need to RELAX," she instructed me after we stopped safely. "Just RELAX."

I told her she sounded way too much like her dad when I was in labor with her.  "Ok, relax," he said in a friendly monotone.  "Just relax."

I had said some harsh words back then, but I was nicer to Amy.  "Let's figure this out," I said.  So we went around a few turns in the mooban [village/gated-community/cul-de-sac] where she lives.

The key, I learned, is not to lean or consciously do anything, but to pretend you're a loose sack of pinto beans getting hauled to market.  You concentrate on the back of Amy's neck and zone out like a tired sack of beans would zone out, et voila!, you'll be zipping around corners with no trouble at all.

Which is what we proceeded to do, driving for miles on a busy highway, with the sun on our arms and the hot wind in our faces, passing dogs and cars and many other bikers, jungle and canals and shops and people.

It felt fun and terribly dangerous all at once, and I felt exactly what I felt way back in 1986 when we had our first ride on a small plane in the North and suddenly there was fuel streaming out of the wing and the pilot made an emergency landing on a lake--"I might die, but what a fun way to go."

We went all the way to the old market where the fabric shops spill their heavenly bounty onto the sidewalks from infinite supplies inside, tall rolls of every fabric you can imagine, wound around long cardboard tubes that are placed vertically on the floor in large islands surrounded by tight little canals where two people cannot pass each other without one of them leaning tight against the nearest bolts.

This sometimes proves a dangerous operation as well, as someone--thank God it wasn't me--kicked the wrong bolt and down it went, and then the next and the next, breaking away from the cluster and avalanching down right over Amy's feet, trapping her in the narrow aisle.

Danger lurks in the strangest places in Thailand.  But, like I said, it manages to be both fun and terrifying.


  1. Oh how well I can identify with you. I NEVER rode one of those bikes ever and I was so scared of them. I never did go out of the mooban on it, we paid the price and rode the trucks down to the market. I had a bad ankle when we were there and missed one of the crazy steps at the fabric store and about do me in for sure. I am glad she is showing you the town. It's a never to be forgotten experience, Sounds like you'll have stories to write for a while!!

  2. "I might die, but what a fun way to go."
    That should describe all adventures! It is good mom/daughter time.
    I hope Amy wasn't severely injured.