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International Driving

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

Don’t know if it’s just Oaxaca or maybe it’s the whole of Mexico. However, my dentist says that drivers in Oaxaca are worse than in Mexico City! But in Xalapa they were ever so polite…big fines meted out if they are not.

But you are taking your life in your hands in Oaxaca. The taxis and buses are the worst…speeding, honoring no lanes…forcing you over. No stop signs, lights, when there are lights and when they are working, are suggestions only. And then there are the “topes” or speed bumps everywhere. Never know when one is coming up unless you watch the cars ahead and hope they slow down…however, one, with drivers from Veracruz, didn’t slow down until they got to the tope. Then they stopped. Bam. Their little car could do it. My big Toyota Land Cruiser couldn’t. So I slammed right into the back of their car. Good thing no one was hurt. Good thing for insurance.

Actually I expected this…but thought I’d get side-swiped by a bus. Now I know why Mexican immigrants in the north get into so much trouble! A couple years ago in my home town in Oregon I was T-boned by an immigrant going through a red light at about 60 miles an hour…she had no insurance. No one has insurance here except the expats.

There are rules here…just not the posted ones. And heaven help you if you don’t obey them! Boils down to buses and taxis and very small cars do what they want…and that includes just about everyone. Except the gringa with the Toyota with a US license plate. Yes, I know I should have put more space between me and car in front. You get conditioned to keep close…cars, buses and taxis will try to edge into even a sliver of space forcing you over. If you leave a lot of room…say a couple car lengths you never get to where you are going because the whole city will move in front of you.


Thailand is no better. Was rear-ended by a motorcycle there once. Today got an email from Bob who is living in Thailand: “Now if I could only learn to control my mini-rage reactions at Thai drivers,” he says.

“Earlier this week I was driving in a line of autos and a bus tried to pass the whole line of 5-6 cars. He encountered oncoming traffic and cut in front of me–not really in front more like forced me onto the shoulder.

I offered selected auditory and visual feedback. (Had to laugh because the same thing happens here in Mexico!)

But the curious cultural phenomena is that I was the heavy in that I lost my cool. But driving is very unsafe here–most trips (even to the market) produce an anxiety or at least an edge of apprehension. And the Thais cannot park. It is humerous to watch them attempt a parallel park, most often most of the car is left somewhere out on the street. And I have two significant dings being clipped me while I was parked. Oh well…..” 

I think I detect a note of Thai-speak in that syntax.

Faithful Tuk Tuk Driver

Saturday, March 25th, 2006


Nice to have someone faithful to me. I trust Supoat, in his 50’s, with soft face and warm bright eyes. I call him when I need him to drive me somewhere in his Tuk Tuk.

Most of the people living outside of the moat that surrounds the center of town are illegal Shan refugees from the border between Thailand and Burma. Today, he took me to the Chiang Mai Shan temple where very young Shan boy- children are being initiated into monkhood. They are carried in a musical procession through the streets and around the temple on the shoulders of young men. They are dressed in sparkling tribal ceremonial dress and their faces are made up like girls with lipstick and rouge. Nearby drummers are making rhythmic music. I am the only farang in the crowd and draw curious looks.

My masseuse suggested today I eat a northern Thai soup called Kang Cae for my health, a soup with many different vegetables including two different kinds of eggplant and 15 different herbs. Supoat joined me tonight at the “Huenphen,” a lovely upscale restaurant specializing in northern Thai cuisine. Learning spoken and written English in school as a small boy he got the best grades in his class he says proudly. A Chinese couple next to our table says not a word to one another during their dinner…listening to our conversation in English…seeming to be deeply disturbed at seeing us together. I do not have a good feeling about them. They leave in a huff.

Supoat suggests taking me two hours north to his home town, Fang, early tomorrow in his new (used) Peugeot car purchased with money down given him by his niece’s husband who is a mechanic in Texas. We will visit his mother and father in Fang. He will drive me another hour on up to Tha Tan, a tiny village at the Burma border, drop me off and return to Fang to spend the night with his parents and rake the leaves in their yard. As the youngest of his siblings he is responsible for taking care of his mother, he says. He will return to Tha Tan at noon the next day and pick me up to go further on to visit tribal villages before returning to Chiang Mai. I am looking forward to being out of the hot noisy city and getting into the cool mountains.

Miao Village In Guizhou

Wednesday, December 8th, 2004
1wXSp3CkNsDoJl3s0SgHmw-2006171171225701.gif In Shanghai, exploring the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree web site, I noticed a query from a young woman from Kaili in Guizhou Province who was offering to arrange a homestay in a Miao minority ... [Continue reading this entry]

Hanging Out On Olkhon Island

Sunday, September 26th, 2004
Urr0g6ZfQ7ttYL19duYJfg-2006170133924757.gif After hanging out a couple days...glad to be off the train...Gregory, a former University teacher of German, drove Bob and I, three Germans and a Pole on a half-day excursion to the north of ... [Continue reading this entry]

Free-Wheeling Moscow

Saturday, September 18th, 2004
7yBXvp82X2gVlMeZe25DiM-2006198051115673.gif Video 2004-09 Like in the big Central European cities we visited, there are cranes everywhere... old soviet buildings built during the Stalin era are scheduled to be razed and new one modern ones put up. ... [Continue reading this entry]

Four Taxis to Dinner In Mumbai

Thursday, July 18th, 2002
In Mumbai one night it was so ludicrous we just had to laugh...afterward. Taxi number one only got us to the end of our street before Bob, realizing the driver didn't know where the hell to go, jumped out of ... [Continue reading this entry]