Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What's Scarier Than Barrelling Down a Rural Thai Highway at Ludicrous Speed?

How about barrelling down a rural Thai highway at Ludicrous Speed at night.  In the rain.

On July 3, the majority of Thais exercised their mandatory right to cast a ballot in national parliamentary elections.  It was my privilege and duty to venture to Nakhon Ratchasima (colloquially called Korat, the gateway of Thailand's northeastern region known throughout Thailand as Isaan - อีสาน) and Buriram provinces to observe the election on behalf of the US Embassy.  Totally cool experience, not the least because I was interviewed by five Thai television stations about the United States' position on democracy and elections in Thailand.  In Thai.

That said, the drive back to Bangkok that evening was probably the most harrowing experience of my time here in Thailand.  I do not say this lightly, my friends.  Part of my duties have required me to make multiple trips to Thailand's southernmost provinces, the site of a very active separtist insurgency.  Somebody gets shot or blown up down there every day.  Add to that near-daily excursions through the red-shirt protest site last year, and you'll know that I've had some interesting experiences here.

But those do not even come close to comparing with the level of white-knuckle anxiety I experienced coming home Sunday night.  Thank goodness that our driver decided to take his foot off the accelerator a bit after we passed the third accident.  Didn't stop him from driving like the rest of the Thais on the highway, though, constantly changing lanes, even driving on the shoulder of the road to pass other cars.  It was bad enough, but when the rain started it just raised the pucker-factor.  It also didn't help that literally thousands of Thais were doing the exact same thing we were, that is trying to get back to Bangkok after spending the weekend upcountry.

I did have the common sense to not kiss the ground until I was safely inside my house and the front door was closed.

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