What is going on on the Thai roads and the ones from everywhere else in southeast Asia really gives the impression that we have landed in a completely different world. The people from our countries that make the traffic rules would go crazy if they knew about this.
You should also know that in Thailand, we drive on the left lane .
So what is this big difference ?
First, there is no radar, which is a really good point, but let’s not go out of the frame.
1. The vehicles
If there just was a major share of cars on the road, it would be too easy. The people here do with what they’ve got and most of them drive a motorbike (a Honda Wave )
There are not so many personal cars, even if there are a few though. There is also plenty of pickups and some of them are Songthaew (shared taxi, or tourist transportation vehicle).
There is also a lot of tuk tuks.
Then, there is plenty of
Let’s not forget the freaking loud heavy big polluting trucks.
Finally, there are a lot of “exotic” vehicles like the “kitchen-custom” with parasol honda wave, which make them side cars even though they are not so adapted to the road, but they provide you food and that’s all we need.
2. Distribution of the lanes
On a normal road, there are two lanes. One for each direction.
In Thailand, it is quiet similar except the shoulders are also used by the small motorcycles (a Honda Wave can do up to 50 mph but is rarely going at this speed, it is more around 35 mph which would block the way of the cars and minivans
in a hurry)
3. The fundamental rule of priority
Here, the bigger you are, the more priority you get, as simple as that. No matter if there is an intersection or not. Let’s say that when you are riding your bike (and often without a helmet), you don’t want to be a smart ass when there is a huge truck going full throttle coming ahead of you and that sends up a massive cloud of dust, in addition to the cloud of diesel smoke that bursts your lungs.
4. The horn
The horn is not really used to warn of a danger. Well, let’s call it a potential danger. It’s used to warn at all. Every time you will hear a horn behind you, understand “Clear off the way with your little crappy bike if you don’t want to get ran over cause, don’t care, even if someone is coming ahead of me I will force through within ten seconds”. At least, you know what to expect now.
The passing paradox
Given the variety of vehicles that share the road, and the disparity of the speed these vehicles go, that leads to everybody passing everybody all the time, it’s just crazy.
In general, the bigger a vehicle is, the more likely it will pass anything that blocks its way. There is an exception though : the minivans who pass absolutely everything, no matter what.
Long story short, the buses pass the trucks, that pass the cars, that pass the motorbikes.
And it doesn’t matter if another vehicle is coming up front, it is MANDATORY to pass, the guy from afront will step aside on the shoulder anyway.
An apparent mess no so messy after all
Despite everything you have just read, it is not so much of an anarchy. The thing is, everyone one the roads are well aware of all this and they know how to deal with this, and even in the driving schools they teach you to use the horn to warn that you are coming.
Since everyone knows this, they pay more attention and this is the way they have always been driving anyway. For example, if a vehicle goes slowly and annoys everyone behind, the driver will manage to let them pass as quickly as he can. People are trying to respect each other somehow.