Friday, June 28, 2013

A Million More Cars on Thai Roads

Welcome to Bangkok
Thai people are one of the few rare species in the entire universe that prefers to spend more time with their cars then with their families. Normally people only spend so much time in a vehicle when travelling to another galaxy. This trend is exponentially growing. Is it just me or has the traffic gotten worst in recent years? My recent trip to Hua Hin which I blogged about had me cinder in stress and anger, much different from the earlier years when I just moved over to Thailand. Driving to Hua Hin then was an enjoyable ride through the country.

Beating the traffic, is there a method? Drive a large snow plow and shove them all aside in a pile of carnage. That is my fantasy. I am pretty sure this idea had definitely cross other driver's mind. The fastest I ever got from home to work, some 30 km away, was in 30 minutes. That was when I left home at 5 am in the morning. Now, leaving at 6 am, it took one and a half hour. Leaving at 6.15 am, two hours. Leaving at 6.45 am reach work in three hours. Tried going to work late and left at 10 am, one and a half hour. Left home at noon, one hour. Defies logic ain't it. You gotta start building a profile of the travel times and then from there on choose a sweet spot in the middle of all those bitterness. The return journey home, you gotta pick a time too. Its either leave before 4.30 pm or after 8 pm for me. Now I understand why many are buying condominiums that are sold at ridiculously inflated prices dotted around the inner city.

The effect of school terms on traffic are also significant. When the schools are closed, you can generally take 25% off the travelling times. When schools sets in, it's like everyone is rushing out early morning to get reincarnated. In addition to all the daddies and mommies sending younglings to school, there is an influx of teenagers driving thanks to the first car ownership scheme introduced. True or not remains a debate. But I remember in my school days we can't afford cars. Here, consider the fact that in addition to legitimate parents buying cars for their spoilt legitimate sons and daughters, there are many sugar daddies out there sponsoring their sugar daughters. I no money, I no honey, I am not one of them daddies.

The basic criteria for driving is you need to have a brain. Grow one if you don't have. With heaps more cars on the road these days, there are exponential heaps more stupid drivers. If you ever been through a driving test here, you will know there are no such things as reading up on highway code and driving rules. Passing the test is a matter of if you can drive a bumper car in an amusement park, you can pass the test. Brain is not a criteria. There are no rules that you need to log learning hours with a legal driving instructor. Stupid drivers with bad judgments and little experience contributes to stupid accidents, which contributes to stupid congestions. Ok, not all of them are stupid, there are careful drivers who knows their limitations. But careful drivers equates to careful slow driving leaving huge gaps up front and a tail back so long which results in the same congestion. When it rains, stupidity triple folds. Driving in the rain, sometimes you will think a speedboat had just overtaken you in a furious wake of angry spray. Drivers here have never heard the word aquaplaning before probably because there is no Thai word for that. Most likely also, they have brain mass deficiency. So when they crash, the motorway jams for miles and miles behind.

I come from a time when a liter of petrol was way much lower than a liter of soda. When the petrol prices crossed that line, everyone was so much complaining back then. Humanity had accepted the fact that cars drink more expensive juice then us. No one in this era does a comparison like that no more. As we feed the hunger of our machines, petrol conglomerates' wealth just blossoms skywards in what seems to be a conspiracy. Look, in jams, cars ain't moving, they just burn petrol and this is energy wastage. So all the talk here about going green, save the world by reducing energy consumption and yet the traffic congestion which is purely in contradiction. Kinda feels like the authorities knows about the issue but they also know that on the other side of the same coin, the more petrol we burn doing nothing in jams, the more money they make. In jams, we actually have our own climatic system surrounding our cars. This is definitely not global warming friendly but who gives a damn about that here really?

The folks here are generally blaming the first time car buyer's scheme for the traffic situation. This scheme allows first time car buyers to enjoy a tax rebate amounting to 10% on the value of cars under a certain specification - eco cars generally. But look to the streets and no we don't see an overwhelming percentage of boxy miniature Japanese or Korean makes that can sail along with the onset of gust. Thais are just getting richer, this is no more a developing country but a developed one. The scheme didn't turn out well for many. People did not really understood the rebate system and assumed they will get 10% in returns after purchase. So many had loaned money for down payment and booked their cars, only to realize later then that they have difficulty servicing the loan. The returns are on tax deductions only and are stretched over several years, not any near future full amount rebates to pay off their debts. So many cancellations on the million purchases made in 2012, this I hear from the circles I in.

Bangkok sizzles with cars and we are glad it ain't the worst in the world. Population increasing uncontrollably, we are the parasite of Mother Earth. The flood of automobile will only increase and soon Bangkok will top the records. Traffic, you live here and you will know. It takes a car to get around, it is a necessity. We just have to embrace the situation and live with it.

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