As I travel around my adopted hometown of Krungthep, I sometimes see things and think, "Oh, that is so very Thai." These things usually seem innocuous enough at first glance, but I think they illustrate the differences between Thai culture and other cultures. Four-way intersections are a good example.
When I drive in the US (or pretty much any "developed" country), there are rules and laws and signs and to some degree, everyone follows them. Very little is left entirely to human nature and the good will of the drivers.
Italy seems to be an exception, actually...
Anyhow, here in the City of Angels, we have many uncontrolled intersections. Much of this is a result of how the network of roads and streets developed out of a network of canals and waterways. What worked well for boats isn't always so effective for cars.
Whether a major street like Sukhumvit or a small, twisting back soi, you encounter these intersections where the drivers' best behavior is all that governs right-of-way.
Most of the time, it works alright. In fact, like the use of traffic circles, drivers are forced to be more attentive and drive slower because there are few rules to rely upon. Other than the occasional marks on the ground, spray-painted by an insurance company investigator after a crash, there are few signs that the uncontrolled intersections are really a problem.
Here's a 90-second video clip (set to pleasant music) for you to see the above intersection in action:
In a chicken-or-egg dilemma, it is unclear whether these types of social confrontations (uncontrolled intersections) work so smoothly because of the Thai people's culture of patience and friendliness towards others, or is the culture a result of having to negotiate these types of confrontations in everyday life?
In either case, it is interesting to observe and even more interesting to experience firsthand as the driver behind the wheel!
I never drove when I was in Thailand...I don't think I would have survived!! I would have never made it across the intersection...since I would have been too afraid to stick my nose out there !!! I must say the taxis look MUCH nicer and MUCH cleaner than they did when we were riding in them back in the 70's Ruth Ann
You are right! It is similar in Indonesia, India, Nigeria, and many developing countries. That is why I let you do the driving when I was in Bangkok last year. I have trouble walking across the road, let alone me trying to drive there. I am amazed that you even ride bicycle there. If I were Tawn, I would have sold your bike long long time ago, lol. Teasing you.
pretty cool! it's like you just "get in where you fit in" without the road rage. i think this would never workout in the U.S.A....too many lawsuits and road rage. other countries never seem to be much of a rush anyway.
@Dezinerdreams - @choyshinglin - You sure that wasn't shot here in Bangkok? =) They cheated a bit, though, and sped up the video. It makes it look crazier than it is. Although I did consider speeding up my posting, too...
Wow, I can't imagine that I would do too well driving over there. I would be so nervous. That's great and so refreshing that all of the drivers are so polite to each other. I live in the land of aggressive drivers (driving on the beltway here is still scary to me; my parents wouldn't let me drive it until I was in college). I hate how people drive here!
I was going to say, India is just like that, except people in India don't smile when they are crossing the intersections.They ALL think it is their God-given right to make it through that intersection before any one else does.
However, Chris, I have seen streets in Paris with similar chaotic problem. Yeah not too different from Italy.
@Redlegsix - A few years ago, the government mandated that all taxis switch to compressed natural gas for fuel. This went hand-and-hand with a mass updating of the fleet, so most of them are relatively new Toyota Corollas.
@murisopsis - "color inside the line" - LOL That's hard to do here. No lines but lots of color.
@yang1815 - What's the expression? "Don't knock it till you've tried it."
@iso_whiteSnow - Interesting comparison. Yes, viewed from above, it does kind of look like a colony of ants hard at work, flowing smoothly around each other.
@stevew918 - Interestingly, it is this uncontrolled chaos that makes bicycling pretty safe. All in the all, the drivers really do pay a lot more attention and have a lot less of this "this lane is my rightful space" attitude that I find in the US.
@XXKimPossibleXX - That's eactly how to describe it. Make room where there is room, yield to someone who has already started to cut in front of you, and don't lose your cool. You'll get where you are going.
@lil_squirrel4ever - My experience, though, is that Canadians are a little better on the roads (just a teensy bit) than their American neighbors. Generally, speeds seem slower up there. My first trip to YVR, a drive up from San Francisco, I was pulled over in downtown for making an illegal left turn. They left me off with a warning, thankfully, as I was a lost tourist.
@TheCheshireGrins - With your nice personality, I'm sure you'd do just fine driving here.
@Jillycarmel - Yes, Tawn is a native of Bangkok. We've been together more than nine years now.
@Wangium - That is what really amazes me, Jason. There are so many fewer accidents than you would expect. Sadly, when Thais get out on the open road, their inner speed demon is unleashed and there are some horrific results.
@ZSA_MD - I like to say that my training for driving in Bangkok was a week spent driving in Milan. =)
@ElusiveWords - Yes, it is the amulets. See, you're getting past your farang-ness. =)