In the meantime, I have been scoping out bikes since my arrival in Thailand, where they play a much different function than in the US. Scooters occupy the vast segment of the transportation market here, with Yamaha and Honda dominating and Kawasaki and Suzuki coming in a distant third. Much like other second and third world countries, Thais use the scooter for daily commutes, for family outings, and for hauling.
When there is a rider with a helmet, it is inevitably the driver and never the innocent passengers. Probably the law but it hardly seems fair given their lack of ability to control their destiny. This particular scooter is in great shape and the family look to be well off. Jeans are expensive here and even acceptable as garb at nicer parties for adults.
I first started getting serious when this gang of Harleys rolled into NKP. I was sitting in the cafe behind them, having one of the few available american coffees when twenty or so parked right there. One of their number was an ex-pat brit (the only one not on a Harley - Yamaha R1). We bonded discussing my Triumph and our mutual disdain for Milwaulkee Iron (Quietly and politely since all his friends were riding them). In my dream world, I would go right out and find a nice 650 dual purpose bike or 750 or larger road bike, but they actually cost more here than in the states. My whopping budget is $800- $1200 including insurance. Beyond this, the first hurdle was a license, for although many riders clearly do not possess them ( I have seen riders as young as 9 or 10 riding) I felt if something does happen I preferably wanted to stay out of jail. I thought I had taken care of that with an international license I received in Maine before I left, which clearly lists Thailand as a participating country, but the reality on the ground is trickier. Online the information said that Thailand honored these for 90 days and after that a Thai one was necessary. It did say that by having the international version I would be spared a written test, but that I would have to go for a drive. My policeman friend Rambo really wasn't sure it was good at all, but he agreed to take me to a nearby city to the motor vehicles. Then it turned out that one of the teachers at Thai Samakee has a daughter who works in the bureau right in NKP. I was given a list of what I needed (a health certificate- had to go back to the hospital again for a second one- letters of reference from both of my schools, and my Maine driving license). None of it corresponded to the online requirements, but with a connection in hand I wasn't going to raise questions. I went with my director, handed over my paperwork (I actually brought the international one and it was rebuffed without comment), had my photo taken, and voila- I was a legal motorcycle driver for one year. Oddly, I am not allowed to drive cars - that is issued as a wholly separate card. I thought I told my Paaw Aw that I wanted both, but thanks to our "Tenglish" issues, we left without it. I didn't feel like I should push it since we took most of the school day to get the one.
I have more or less settled on a very cool little bike not available in the states, a Honda 150r or 150CBR. Not much power, but from what I have read they handle very nicely. These retail for about $3500 new, so used ones fall into my range. I face the same issues with buying a used bike as I do with all things involving speech. I have checked craiglist thailand, and there are a few, but they are down in Bangkok and these bikes are simply too small to ride that far. So I am talking as much as I can to anyone that looks like a gearhead, which led to my meeting with Kuang, owner of the bar we all drank at in Surin, when we went to the elephant roundup last weekend. This is why I haven't been blogging lately; I am still catching up. And for all of you who could give two shakes of a dead rat's ass about bikes and are wondering why I am not posting about the hundreds of elephants I saw this past weekend, I can only say, It's coming! Be patient!
Okay, okay. One more shot of their super cool club jacket. There is your elephant!
As long as we're stretching the rules, here is a peddy cab I saw in Sakhon. None of these in NKP.
Now back to the actual two wheelers.
Remember the broom dude? This is how you make a living with brooms. They work well, since they are tailored to differing surfaces and cost a few bucks each and are biodegradable for the most part.
And here is tonight's closer. This guy passed me yesterday in NKP. He had a little squeeze horn attached to the handle that he tooted every 20 feet or so. I was going the other direction and almost- blew it off- is there a less stupid saying that conveys that same idea a little more sharply? My brain is fried. Send it to me if you could. Anyhoo, I kicked myself in the ass and dug my camera out and ran back a block to follow him up an alley where, when I pointed my camera at him he lounged so perfectly as if he had been waiting for me to show up and notice how fantastic he was, that the run was worth it.
Comment Contest! The first person who can identify the source of the allusion in the title of this post (don't use google you cheating slacker, just reason it out. I am an English teacher) will get a Thai gift when I get home - promise! Also the best suggestion to replace "blew it off" will get something...