Posted by: facetothewind | December 29, 2009

Embracing the machine

To live in Bangkok is to bow down to the petroleum god, to embrace internal combustion as if it were your own, to breathe deep the fumes, to enjoy the gentle caress of cars grazing your arms as you walk down the street, to be soothed by the rumble of a diesel engine, the birdlike tweet of motorcycle horn, the guttural gurgle of a tuk-tuk’s tailpipe. It’s Asia. To embrace Asia, you must also embrace the machine. In fact, yesterday, I saw a household that brought their motorcycle into their house on their meticulously polished white floor, and set it right in front of their altar with their Buddha, fruit, flowers and pictures of the king.

Today in Bangkok, I went on a rush hour adventure with Peridot on his motorcycle. He’s an extraordinary driver and savors the adventure of navigating through stopped cars. The bike never stops except at the stoplights, and then only some of the time. After 2 hours of weaving through the stinking congestion of traffic, he only delicately clipped 2 side mirrors and he immediately threw up an apology hand signal – sort of like one flips off someone in the US, only without the extended middle finger. What makes this work in Thailand, is that the drivers here are probably the best I’ve ever witnessed anywhere: they don’t possess any sense of entitlement to their vehicular space, are very alert, and as a result they don’t honk and never yell or flip anyone off. Aggression is simply not part of their daily life. Instead, they simply move on, go around and go with the flow. For such a truly pathetic display of public transportation failure, Bangkok pulls it off beautifully.

But when I say Peridot is an extraordinary driver, I mean that he takes you on a mad hatter’s ride like a local – as if you were in a video game. Up on sidewalks, in between cars and buses, through painfully narrow passages where you have to pull in your legs and tilt the bike to avoid mirrors, wrong ways in the roundabouts, driving in the lane of oncoming traffic (hell, if they’re not gonna use, why can’t we?), in the exits, out the entrance, past the do not enter signs, past the cops who are too busy texting their girlfriends to care, and all the while inhaling the fumes in 92 degree heat under the tropical sun. The ride had me squealing somewhere between sheer disgust and delight.

Watch the video. Oh, we went to feed the fish and go to the fabric market…but really I think we went just so Peridot could surf the rush hour…


  1. I would be scared shitless.

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