Our life is an apprenticeship to the truth, that around every circle another can be drawn; that there is no end in nature, but every end is a beginning.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Like the Doodah Man

For those of you too young to know it, go illegally download Truckin by the "Dead", listen to it, and the title will make more sense to you...The Grateful Dead were being illegally downloaded before there even was an internet. When I was at Colorado College, they were so popular that the hippest band on campus was called The Damaged Banana Band, and they did nothing but Dead covers and there was NEVER a party where someone didn't throw in some pirated live-Dead tapes. I was not a "Deadhead" but I did sneak in to see them at Red Rocks once and it was pretty damn enthralling, I must say. Perhaps it sounds stupid, but I wonder what YOUR kids are going to say about Lady Gaga...Anyhoo, I have been meaning to do an entry on conveyance here in Isan, but I have so many photos that I have to split it up into categories, of which this one is..........cue the Bob Seger music...TRUCKS!!!
Here is a pretty typical truck for someone with means, probably an adjan (teacher) like myself or a Paaw Aw (school director) ferrying the team somewhere. And they might ride like this for quite some distance. I have ridden for several hours in the back of pick ups just like this one. They come in most of the same makes as in the US- mostly Toyota and Isuzu and Ford and Chevy(by the way I just read that GM posted a 2 billion dollar profit!) and they are compact- never full sized and almost never four wheel drive. Interestingly, they are typically diesel and they run quietly, peppily, and powerfully. As far as I know there are no compact diesel trucks like this at home- wish there were and I don't know why not.
 And then there is the Saawng Tao, or literally, Two Benches, which is the main transport between the larger towns such as Pla Pak, where we did orientation, and Nakhom Phanom. People use them to get to work in the city, or to university, or to go shopping. They have bigger ones for the early morning and last run evenings, usually around 5:30 pm. You can flag them down anywhere along the way and they have yellow roofed stops where you can wait for one. They average about 1 baht per kilometer, so it costs me 25 baht (about 90 cents) to travel the 25 minutes to town.  I love riding them. It is a way to get some instant breeze on a hot day and you get to crowd in with all kinds of students and grandmas and they are all eager to help you tell the driver where your stop is. When it is really crowded you hang in that cage off the back. Here is the downward view from there:
They also use a similar vehicle for school buses to and from the high schools. Most of the kids, after attending primary schools such as the ones I teach at in the country, head to Nakhom to attend one of the big high schools. It is my understanding that students can go wherever they want. The ones in NKP are close to 3000 students, while the high school up the road from me, where Ben teaches, is closer to 600. I have no idea if the students pay to ride these school buses or if the schools in the city are any better. This is a nice saawng tao, but some of them give you pause as you look at the rusty welds and the sagging framework flying down the main road at 50 kph. I have heard that when it is very crowded people will climb on top, but I have not see this. Speaking of loading trucks up, this next one was loaded with furniture for a vendor's stall at the Fireboat Festival I wrote about earlier:
I have no idea how far they drove with that load, but it couldn't have been through any windy districts or over any speed bumps. Like a rock indeed! If not for those pesky lawyers, this would make a hell of an advertisement. But then, you see enormous loads on a daily basis, be it on bicycle, moped, or truck. Speaking of which, here is quite the bunch of... okay, I'll grow up:
Besides the hauling trucks, there are the local work trucks, outfitted for special purposes such as with a rice thresher or here, a cement mixer. You have got to love the cool dudes driving this baby.
This set-up seemed relatively insane to me until I considered its utilitarian construction. You are not going out on the main road with this, never going more than a few miles, and that very slowly. This is built just to get that back part to a job site where the materials will be on hand to mix. This next one, I have no idea what it is for so I just can't say, but I assume it is a similar deal. Reminds me of the ranch vehicles we used in Wyoming, or the island cars in Maine. Talk about the simple bear necessities of life!

In and around the bigger cities like Nakhom and Sakhom, you see many bigger work trucks like these, obviously kept on their feet through many poor drivers and lots of hard work. That right front tire tread give you an idea how difficult inspections must be. All over Thailand you see small, one man shops with guys welding on mopeds and cars and trucks. Often you will have a body shop in the open air, guys polishing away and putting in bondo. When I do an entry on cars you will see that customizing cars is popular here to an extent, particularly putting large decals along the sides and putting in dark, tinted glass. I have no idea what the inspection rules are for vehicles of any type or whether these half trucks and broken down old jalopies could incur fines. As with the houses, once you get into the city you do see some very expensive looking vehicles, including trucks. Here is a typical example- still a compact truck, but four wheel drive, raised, and a bit pimped out:

But here is tonight's winner of Best In Show. There are typically a few of these at the Owl's Head Auction, and I have lusted after one since I was a teenager. They look like you could roll over Godzilla and think it was a speed bump. They make a Hummer seem like the true piece of modern garbage they are, and this one was really a work of art. Blow it up full size and check out the tires on this beast!


  1. Now that is one #$%^&! nice truck!

  2. My new idol is the owner of that truck loaded with furniture! By the gods- that is so cool!