Updated on April, 2017
As I drove my rickety Honda Civic to high school every morning, I have to admit that I felt like a bad ass as I passed the school buses with my screamo band of the day blaring through the windows.
Sometimes I got to keep my feeling of vehicle superiority but other days it was stolen from me by one of my classmates. Jen. We weren’t friends in high school but I couldn’t help but notice her as she pulled into the lot on her motorcycle. Jen, she was a badass….a real badass. I mean, she even drove that thing to prom. So I’ve heard (that was an event I neglected to attend.)
Years later, with a push from my stepdad, I became interested in learning to ride one myself. After researching what would be entailed to obtain a license, I concluded that all of the costs and efforts wouldn’t be worth it. I didn’t have the time to jump through the hoops of lessons, driving tests, coming up with the money to buy one and paying high insurance fees, so I let the dream go and went back to my new and improved (yet still used) Honda Civic.
When I first came to Asia, the wide use of motorbikes was something I noticed right away. Although I made various Asian cities my home, I never took to the idea of riding one myself amongst the infamous and terrifying traffic.
However, when I moved to Chiang Mai and got a job that required a forty minute commute, the realization quickly set in that I would have to learn to drive one of those things or spend over $100 a month on taxi fees. So, as the frugal lady that I am, I decided it was time to live out my motorcycle dreams (motorbike, close enough.)
My fantastic boyfriend took me up to the local university to practice in some vacant lots. After a lesson on the technical stuff, I started driving around in circles and soon graduated to the larger roads at a snail-like pace. With a general understanding of how to work the bike and enough confidence not to fall over, I started to drive myself to work.
After a few days spent driving into oncoming traffic, (I’m not used to driving on the left side of the road!) giving the bike gas instead of hitting the breaks when I wanted to stop and nearly toppling over at traffic lights, I started to make sense of it and now can drive like a pro, kind of.
I’m sure that my boyfriend is resting easier now that I have stopped returning home wide-eyed and telling him
“I really don’t think I should be driving this thing.”
Here are my tips for anyone learning to ride a motorbike in Thailand.
-Start with an automatic as there is less to think about.
-Even though it’s scary, the more gas you give it, the easier it will be to balance and drive.
-If you’re breaking, turn the throttle away from you so that you don’t accidentally give it gas.
-Give it gas and quickly put your feet up onto the bike, even though you feel like you might fall down.
-Practice several times in an empty lot before hitting the roads.
-Always focus on what is in front of you as driving in Thailand can be like a real life video game and there will always be cars cutting you off, chickens crossing the road and tourists aimlessly walking the streets while looking at their phones.
-Get yourself some tools that can make driving a motorbike safer and easier. My boyfriend and I used to take motor bike trips every weekend and we found it difficult to communicate during the drive. Instead of having to stop off to discuss a wrong turn or that I wanted to stop to use the bathroom, a motorcycle bluetooth headset would have really helped. It allows you and your motor bike partner to chat without raising your voice over traffic or taking your eyes off the road! Get one! You’ll be glad you did!
-Wear a helmet god dammit! A head injury is going to mess up your hair more than the helmet will.
-If you happen to be learning in Chiang Mai, Mango Bikes is a great little shop to rent your bike from! I haven’t had any problems with the ones rented from them and the staff speak fantastic English too.
Not only am I able to get myself to work now, but I have learned a new skill that I am able to use for the rest of my life. What I love about learning this in Thailand is that I didn’t have to jump through the difficult hoops presented to me in America. My next goal is to learn how to drive a manual so that my dream of looking like a badass on a motorcycle can finally become a reality.
What do you think, do you want to learn to drive a motorbike in Thailand too?