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    The Motorbike Reigns In Southeast Asia!

    Motorbikes reign in Thailand and throughout South East Asia!  And yes, that's not surprising. 150cc type motorbikes are a primary means of transportation here.

    There's several reasons for that: many here simply cannot afford cars. And cars are impractical on the narrow city streets where sidewalks, if they exist, serve as parking spots for cars, trucks, bikes, varieties of animal stock, or, areas an enterprising entrepreneur decides to spread out over for that his or her latest startup business in front of or attached to a home.

    Drive or ride down the street, just about any city street in Thailand, and you'll face motorbikers cutting in front in you from behind, the right, left, and against traffic the wrong way up one-way streets — and more. Yes, lane splitting — as they call it in the west — is quite common here. It's all part of the culture, and to some degree, the charm of the country.

    And it's understandable. City streets in Thailand were around long before there were cars and trucks.  There's hardly any room on most sidewalks.  The dearth of parking lots and the sprawl of home-growth businesses and the stands daily market sellers set up in the streets and over the sidewalks are a prescription for traffic congestion.

    See Them In Action

    What's interesting is to see them in action over here.  It's not unusual to see five (5) — yes FIVE people riding one motorbike.  We've got the pix to prove it! We saw the family — thats right — an entire family — riding on the motorbike in the picture below!

    RoverTreks — Five on a motorbike, Thailand
    RoverTreks — Five on a motorbike, Thailand

    But, this doesn't cap our eagle-eyed bike watching record. We've seen six! Now, you might wonder, how can that be true? The answer? A mother was swaddling a newborn in a make-shift carrying strap across her chest! Hey — it's better than walking!

    You’ll see riders with no helmets everywhere!  Some project umbrellas over and in front of their heads in the driving rain. Others wear paper masks to limit inhaling fumes. Others still wear hats, jackets, and gloves in 100° (40° C) weather.

    Here’s a typical “parking area” during rush hour in a small town outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand around 4:30 in the afternoon. There are no parking lots around. Riders park anywhere they can find a spot.

    "Storefront" for the Seafood Buffet
    “Storefront” for the Seafood Buffet Restaurant near Chiang Mai, Thailand

    It’s all a hoot! The  traffic police from the highly regulated western nations would have a field day over here if they could superimpose their laws over this place.

    In a way, the lack of withering traffic enforcement here as seen in the US is somewhat welcome. It’s nice to see “freedom” alive and well.

    Yes, there’s some downsides to this somewhat wild west like driving environment over here. Thailand has the second highest rate of traffic deaths stemming, largely, from motorbike accidents over here according to a U.N. study. The World Health Organization reports Thailand registers the second highest traffic death rate in the world. Seventy-four (74%) percent of traffic deaths stem from head injuries to motorbiker's.

    Western safety standards aside for the moment, the police are cracking down on “informal” driving and riding practices in the cities. It's only a matter of time before this practice touches those in rural areas. The military junta in charge of the country has announced a ban on helmetless riding. It will be interesting to see what effect new laws and regulations are visible during our followup visits to this country.

    These bikes are even more popular (we hear) in Vietnam.  We’ll find out … stayed tuned!

    Somehow, it all “just works”.

    You've come this far. If you leave your Email address with us you can find out about our latest stories when we post them. It’s free!  And we won’t share your data with anyone – period.

    Thanks, Tom @ RoverTreks


    We’re Karla & Tom, travel content creators and founders of RoverTreks.com. When we are not international travel, we explore North America in our Leisure Travel Van (LTV) Unity to discover new stories for our readers. Our stories connect the past, present and future to inspire audiences and span an array of topics to include culture, history, law, public policy, space, technology security, travel, and the future. You'll find some of our stories about RV Life here and on the blogs of Leisure Travel Vans and the Family Motor Coach Association.

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