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13 Jan 2018
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IMG 1371On my first weekend, we decided to rent scooters in Chiang Mai. 

I had already been clearly warned about the rate of motor accidents in Thailand being amongst the highest in the world (around 80 deaths a day nationwide, for the record) and the consequences of an injury regarding outdoor work. However, I believed that I was competent enough for a 125cc scooter having ridden a motorcycle in England for a few months, which paved the way for perhaps a little too much complacency. The rules of the road, navigating and sharing the road with other motorists gave me no trouble, which probably led to overconfidence on the winding mountain road to wat prathat doi suthep. Sadly, thin tired scooters don't lean quite as well as motorcycles with thick wheels and a combination of sand and dust on the road, a sharp corner and far too much speed sent the wheels slipping underneath me and I had to lay down the bike with one of my feet underneath (see figure 1...). I collected a nice set on my forearms, thumb, toes, elbow, knee, shin and the worst by far, still not quite healed, on my ankle. We had to turn around to get to a pharmacy immediately to wash the sticky tar out of the grazes with alcohol, which is one of the worst pains I've ever felt. The cuts also made outdoor work (wearing shoes, walking) difficult. I was pretty lucky nothing got broken.

We tried the same route later that day and went a lot slower, and it was 100% worth it. The temple is an amazing sight with fantastic views of the sprawling city and a modest but interesting stretch of handicraft/street food stalls.

Mistakes:
Overconfidence (and overspending)
Lack of protection: some jeans, shoes, even shin pads would have been nice

I don't actually regret any of this happening, as it turned out OK in the end and the day still ended up being one of the best of my trip. I don't want to put anyone off, but you have to be competent on a scooter already, extremely careful and cover up properly.

IMG 1462Scooters can be rented for as little as 250 baht a day (24hrs morning to morning) for each one, and two people can fit on. They give you a great deal of freedom and while riding you get a real sense of adventure you can't get doing many other things. The rental companies are very meticulous about damage to the bikes and will keep your passport or 3000 baht as a safety deposit. I ended up having to pay 1500 baht for the damage caused and on top of that they piled expensive parking fees and arbitrary administrative costs on a whim to bring it up to 3000 baht. In conclusion, just be careful...


 Staff comment

As you can see from Theo's account and photos, you can get badly injured from riding motorbikes over here. To be honest, his injuries are mild compared to many we have seen - volunteers are not indestructible, immortal, or outside the laws of nature.

We strongly recommend that volunteers do not hire motorbikes, especially if they do not have a full licence at home. Even then, we discourage it - the law and the everyday rules of the road are not the same as at home.

Our province has one of the worst RTA records in Thailand, and the country as a whole has a fairly bloodcurdling history of traffic accidents.

But, having said all that, we are not here to stop you doing what you want at the weekend, during your time off. But, we have certain rules and advice regarding motorbike/scooter/car hire.

Rules

  • You cannot rent a vehicle during your working week, and bring it/use it onsite at our foundation, or offsite at a work location
  • You cannot stay onsite at the weekend if you wish to rent a vehicle and use it
  • You cannot visit our foundation during your time off using a rented vehicle
  • We do not support financially any medical costs, repair costs or any other costs, so don't ask
  • Non-compliance will result in a warning and possible dismissal from the programme

Advice

  • Don't hire a vehicle. Seriously, don't do it.
  • If you hire one, make sure you follow the rules above
  • If you hire one, don't hand over your passport to the hire company - find another company
  • If you hire one, take photos all around the vehicle for damage already sustained before handing any money over, and/or driving off
  • If you hire one, always wear the crash helmet and drive defensively
  • If you hire one, only drive locally - not on the motorways
  • If you hire one, learn about the idiosyncracies of Thai driving, before you hire
  • If you hire one, understand that you can, and sometimes will, be stopped by the police. Crash helmets are mandatory for passenger as well as driver. Always carry your passport or a photocopy (including the visa stamp page)
  • Don't hire a vehicle. Seriously, again, don't do it.

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