It’s funny how familiar it all seems while being vastly different at the same time. Bangkok in particular is like a melding of every city I’ve been to, shifting to a new one every few miles or blocks. It’s Orlando; big palm trees everywhere, wet and muggy. The hot sun is the skyline’s most prominent feature, bathing everything in a moist, inescapable blanket. Modest buildings eclipsed by billboards so large that the designers consider them failures if it can’t the seen not just from space, but from Jupiter. It’s Las Vegas. Flat stretches of traffic choked streets. People all over every single corner selling everything to what looks like no one. Every corner repeating somehow at a different vibration than the last as new half dressed just jock to get noticed. It’s Houston because it has that magic that somehow makes smog and uncomfortable heat feel blue collar charming. Everybody’s got an angle, and everybody seems rather nice about it. It goes on and on like that, but as a city of 13 million, I suppose it’s more accurate to say that every other city is aping Bangkok.
The drivers are just ridiculous. I haven’t been this scared inside of a car since riding with Johnny Badass’ Cutlass in the 9th grade. Everything’s backwards, speed limits are relative, and everybody thinks they’re precision drivers with Ph.D’s a la Fast and Furious. Only there seems to be more fury here. I’ve fallen asleep in every ride I’ve taken so far and I’m not astronaut, but I think it’s the G forces from the centrifugal force that get me every time. Still… There’s no accidents. I haven’t been here long of course, but with the 200,000 I’ve personally run across I figured I’d see at least one fender bender being sorted out, but no. None. I often joke with the Vishy, himself an aggressive driver in the states, about whether or not he’d prefer a world of drivers like himself. Would it be better for everyone? Would traffic move more gracefully or would it just be Twisted Metal mayhem? While little more than a fun thought experiment back home, Bangkok for now seems to have proved the former.
On the surface, it’s horrifying. Motorcycles and scooters piercing traffic at a perilous rate. Pedestrians that seem to completely embrace their mortality as they calmly cross busy streets and allow cars to miss them by inches. Every tuk tuk (3 wheeled thrill taxi) or cab ride is little more than multiple replays of my own life flashing before my eyes. Nevertheless, with all the reckless velocity, impromptu lane making, and crazed mass of movement, no one gets angry. Tuk Tuks stop on a dime to pick up a fair and nearly cause a pile up; traffic just shuffles and everyone goes on their way. No fist waving, minimal horn honking, and not a single Muay Thai showdowns or gun fight. It’s just life. If this was Texas, everyone would be dead from road rage in some cowboy version of Mad Max, because Texas drivers are the most entitled and angry bunch of people on Earth. Bangkok, you’ve amazed me. You’ve also horrified me and convinced me to never drive in you ever.
Actual Footage of Draving in Thailand NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART!