The most important thing I learnt while on holiday in Thailand

by: Gerhard - 22 April 2013

So as some of you might know, I recently got to make the long flight to Thailand. I spent 2 weeks there in total of which 1 week was in Bangkok, 3 days on the super boring Phi Phi islands and then the remaining time in Karon, Phuket.

The very first thing that caught my attention, while there, was the super scary power line system they have going there, but that’s not what this post is about, the thing I actually want to write about is the second thing I noticed. The complete lawlessness (or so it seemed) in general.

We all know that the DP DA is busy bombarding us with old people laws and on top of that the ANC’s campaigning to make the working few pay for more and more with stupid red tape, laws and regulations. So I think it’s fair to say that we know how to live with a ton of laws that’s supposed to keep things in check.

I could be wrong, but because I traveled alone I didn’t do a lot of the tourist crap. I spent a lot of time walking around exploring and blending in (as good as a 1.89m tall white dude can), but the situation in Thailand is as follows:

In the entire 2 weeks I didn’t see a single toll gate or speed camera, actually I only saw a traffic officer once. He was stopping people at a traffic intersection who weren’t wearing helmets. Most of the people had one under the scooter’s seat, in which case they could go, but the one guy didn’t and you know what the traffic officer did? handed him a hefty ticket? nope! He simply told him that he couldn’t ride on, he had push the scooter to the pavement and call a friend to bring him a helmet. That was it, he got inconvenienced.

As mentioned in the last point, helmets are considered very optional by the average man on the street, in Bangkok I have to estimate that about 60% of all people on scooters and bikes did not wear a helmet, and in Phuket that was probably closer to 90%.

Driving is insane, there is tons of traffic, but nobody seems to get extremely upset, bikes and scooters take any gaps they can get between cars and trucks. while the tuk tuk taxis basically occupy the yellow line on the side of the road (I can’t remember if it was actually yellow, but you know what I mean), so the fastest way through traffic, going anywhere, is to jump on the back of a bike taxi (without a helmet) and they will speed you there. This would be considered very dangerous in Cape Town, but all I thought the entire time was how much fun it was.

In Phuket you can walk into any one of the many bike rental shops and just rent a bike, they don’t even check for a license, just identification to ensure they get their property back.

And while we are on the subject, they seem to completely lack basic safety regulations. None of the construction crew on the building site of the giant Buddha wore hard hats, they just had cloths wrapped around their heads to keep the sun and dust out. The long boats in the canals just outside of Bangkok and around Phi Phi island had open drive belts and other spinning parts and the guy driving the boat sits almost against the engine.

Then there is alcohol. You can buy beer and other alcohol everywhere and at any time. You can walk into your local Seven Eleven and buy anything from a Chang Beer to a bottle of Johnny Walker. They never close the shelves or decide how responsible you should be for you. And when you buy your beer you are also allowed to open it, right there, and enjoy it while you walk to your next stop.

These are only some of the highlights, but it’s a general wild west mentality that exists and if you ever get the chance I would seriously recommend visiting Bangkok.

“So what is this big lesson you learned G?” I hear you say? Well let me tell you:

All of the above things would be considered illegal and bad for you in South Africa. We are also made to believe that we need all of these rules, laws and regulations otherwise we will just collapse as a society. What I’ve learned, while in Thailand, was that this is not true. It’s the land of the lawless over there and things are running smoothly.

They have an amazing public transport system, in my 2 weeks I saw one beggar (an old blind lady), and zero car guards. I saw people running small businesses everywhere and trying their best to do something to look after themselves and their families. I saw giant corporate entities investing in the country, large office buildings, large malls and well maintained roads.

I walked everywhere within a 5 block radius and for the rest I took meter taxis, tuk tuks, bike taxis and the sky-train. I didn’t feel threatened once. I was able to walk to my hotel alone at 11 or 12 at night from a bar or club without even spotting any loiterers or potential threats. When last did you try that in South Africa?

Does Thailand have its problems? Yes, I’m sure they do, but from a general point of view I don’t think they’re worse off than we are, and they seem to be a happier group of people in general.

3 Responses to “The most important thing I learnt while on holiday in Thailand”

  1. Darren says:

    I couldn’t have said it better. The Thai people really rock. Glad you had a good time G.

  2. mijkle says:

    Nicely put and food for thought. I do think there are complex social and cultural factors that come into play that just work but expect it is like a highly evolved Eco system, one small change in some obscure area and things can change. Does make me wonder though, are there many other places like that?

  3. Rob says:

    Sounds a lot like Bali, nice write up!

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