Was I safe? Probably not.
Did I survive? Alive and well to tell you all about it.
After my day in Ayutthaya, I arrived in Bangkok with intention to find my way to Lumpinee Boxing Stadium for a Muay Thai match. After a number of taxis turned me down, I thought maybe I got the name wrong. Journeying into the subway, knowing I could at least find my way back to the hostel, I asked the attendant down there how I could get to the stadium. He pointed me back up the stairs to the street to wave down a taxi. So to my frustration, I tried again.
I ended up on the back of a motorbike, who’s biker seemed more than happy to give me a ride. He had a helmet; I didn’t. We were soon on our way- speeding, weaving, and dodging by all the taxis that told me no; seeing them gridlocked for the distance of my trip, I could now understand why in what seemed to be rush hour.
The motorbike, or more simply, the moto or the bike, depending on where you are, not only runs the road, but are a way of life in Southeast Asia. This is not just the case in Thailand but also seems true of Cambodia and Vietnam which I traveled to afterward. Making my way from the airport and into the city, I noticed at every red light growing swarms of the motorbikes, overcoming cars and overflowing crosswalks- occasionally one or two slipping through the still red light. I had read about it in articles and seen it in travel shows, but for some reason to see the degree to which life is shaped by the bikes, I was still amazed.
They’re used not just for the obvious getting from point A to point B, or Z, but also to transport entire families, banana bunches, furniture, the grocery payload, the family pet, etc. I saw a tree growing out of one! There were some with adaptations built around them, including food carts and more accommodating passenger space. I don’t know if its technically right to say so, but I believe Thailand’s tuk tuks- or three wheeled taxis- are one of the morphs of the Southeast’s transportation.
The tuk tuks seemed popular in Bangkok and can be seen in Siem Reap, but mostly among tourists who don’t already have a bike of their own and are less likely to well play the game of haggling. The screamingly colorful carts have a windshield in front of the driver and a low-lying canopy built over the top, but nothing else to hinder the breath of the streets from running through your hair or up your nostrils. My feet didn’t have much room for running though. The space was kinda tight, like sitting in in a quarter of the space in the flat bed of a truck, with two or three of your friends.
In my travels, I’ve learned if you’re going to take to the streets, the bike is probably the way to go. The fast lane isn’t simply one of three or four lanes on the road that the adventurous go-getters choose to ride in; the fast lane is ever moving and the motorbikes seem to do the best job of following the lane wherever it takes them.
Arrived at Lumpinee, I climbed off the bike, grateful to have found the place. I readjusted my wind stretched face and headed inside. Entertained by the match, it would be a great time for the goodies I’d lugged all the way from Pastry Architect…I’d left them on the bike!
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