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July 25, 2006 - Chiang Mai, Thailand

Stepping Out of Sawng Thaews

There are essentially two ways to get around in Chiang Mai - tuk-tuks1 and sawng thaews2. Both are quite differant beasts, the tuk-tuk a glorified motorized tricycle with a small roof over the driver and bench seat in back, while the sawng thaews are red trucks with two bench seats in the bed under a roof and a rear step in the back for overflow passengers. Both are usually fairly rickety and cheap. 20 baht seems quite the rip-off most hours, more is usual late hours.

That is just forestalling the real story though.

We had just spent a nice dinner at a pretty authentic yet white table-cloth establishment and the 5 of us were on our way back to UNISERV. Thats when I realized that I had left my backpack under the table. With my camera in it. And my passport. Action Allister took over. Playing Indiana Jones I confidently stepped onto the rear step and surveyed the traffic behind us. We weren’t going so fast. Traffic was clear. Looking forward to make sure the driver wasn’t about to change lanes or step on it. Everything looked good.

I stepped off.

And I watched the sawng thaew drive away. But something was wrong. The angle was off. Thats when I heard the truck full of guys in the lane over laughing hysterically. At that point I decided it would probably be best to pull myself out of the fetal position I had assumed on the pavement and get the hell up.

Ending on a more positive note the laughing bunch happened to be a police truck more than happy, after determining that I wasn’t drunk but rather stupid enough to step out of a moving sawng thaew, to drive me back to the restaurant.

Passport and camera back in hand I enjoyed my walk back to UNISERV. I figured I had had enough of sawng thaews for that night.

[1] Three-wheeled deathtraps serving as taxis. Essentially a tricycle motorcycle with a bench seat lashed on the back.

[2] Ranging from old beaters to new Dodge Rams these “Red Trucks” serve larger groups than the tuk-tuks.

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