To follow up the ending from my last post and calm the nerves of those who are worried about me or my travel partner Mindy riding motorbikes around SE Asia while other travelers drop like swatted mosquitoes, I wanted to write this article quickly. (This is bad, but the injured guy just hobbled by me on his crutches.) Let me clarify this post will probably not calm your nerves; it will probably leave you thinking I’m an asshole.
As I said motorbike “incidents” happen all too often in SE Asia. In literally every town I have been to, I have seen at least one person sporting a cast, covered in bandages, or just proudly showing off the road rash from their accident. Some of the injuries are minimal- like a burn on the leg from a muffler- others are more serious, and at that point crutches are usually involved. Here comes the asshole part. All of these people have something in common, a quality of sorts; it is best explained as “quirky”. The definition of quirky from urbandictionary.com is – a peculiarity of behavior; an idiosyncrasy. I like that, but I’d rather go with – there is something a little off with them.
When renting a motorbike I have one solid word of advice – go with the crappy looking bike from the bum on the street corner rather than the brand new bikes from a travel agent or nice shop. Chances are they will run the same, and the crappy ones might actually have some petrol in them. The nice shops all siphon the gas out when their customers return the bikes so they can use it themselves, or resell it in old liter coca cola bottles. (Anything to make a buck.) The nice shops make you sign your life away on paperwork and take your passport as collateral. I like it when I hand the guy on the corner 150 baht ($5) and he gives me a motorbike with no strings attached. He doesn’t know my name, where I am going, or if I will ever return the bike. You might not believe it, but this happens all the time here.
Truth be told; I am very safe when riding a motorbike because I am aware of the dangers. I follow the local laws (there are none), stay in my lane (lanes don’t exist), and don’t speed (no posted limits). Seriously though, I am very careful when driving a motorbike, especially if Mindy is on the back of it. I slow way down for any kind of bumps, stay away from pot holes, and constantly check my mirrors. Safety first when driving a motorbike – and that means always wear a helmet! More than half the people driving bikes around here don’t wear helmets. We always do.
Here is the bottom line if you have never driven on a scooter, dirt bike, or motorcycle at home, then why would you think SE Asia is a good place to learn? It takes just one look at the shitty roads, crowded with horn happy crazy locals, to figure out that it’s going to be interesting once you are driving along with them. If you know you’re clumsy, have no coordination, or just can’t drive then don’t get behind the handle bars of a motorbike.
Click here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gWKJ4WW5xs to watch episode 2 of the Motorbike Diaries.