|"Hey there, sailor. Drive here often?"|
Oh, wait...did you think this was the beginning of a road-romance? Sorry, let me fill in a few more details:
Riding my motorbike the other day, I came around a bend [making an illegal U-turn], prepared to make a left turn [in the wrong direction down a one-way street]. At the same time, a handsome man [wearing a traffic-cop uniform] was driving his motorbike towards me. Our eyes met, and I flashed him my winningest smile. He smiled back. We slowly eased our bikes around each other with a smooth, graceful dance-like harmony, and went our separate ways. There. That's more accurate.
To be fair, (and to put my parents' minds at ease), there was construction nearby making all traffic a bit of a mess, and my normal, legal route home was blocked. I don't usually drive so haphazardly. Nonetheless, the encounter did make me think that now, after two years of 'practice', it was probably time for me to actually get my license.
After spending 7 and a half hours at the DMV yesterday, I was almost regretting that decision. Since my driver's license is all written in Korean, I couldn't simply exchange it for a Thai one, write a 15 minute multiple choice test, take a 2 minute drive around a closed course, and merrily head home with a legal license. Instead, I had to take a 4 hour road safety course...all in Thai. I dozed through some of it, but when I did listen, all I understood was, " ....... left turn..... motorcycle..... maybe .... car... 10 minutes... train."
After the 4 hours, and a 1/2 hour lunch break, the next 3 hours were spent waiting for and taking the written test. 3 times. I took it once for the car and failed, then I took the same test immediately again for the motorbike and passed, then I had to wait 30 minutes before I could take the same test once again for the car. The test was theoretically in English, but that didn't mean that the words tossed together made much sense!
While waiting for my 3rd round of 'decipher the question', I took the practical component for my motorbike. I drove around a closed course, and the official may or may not have looked up from his desk while I did so, to make sure I hadn't fallen off, or careened into a bush.
Next, I went to get my licenses printed. They printed both a motorbike license, and a car license, but won't give me the car one until I've borrowed a friend's car and taken the road test. The photographer took my picture 5 times, until she was satisfied that I was smiling, and looked pretty enough to have my face plastered on a permanent ID. That was nice of her. I wish she also worked at the place that does passport photos.
In the end, even after a full day at the DMV, I'm still no closer to understanding Thai driving rules. The only think I learned for certain is that it's illegal to park by a black & white striped curb, like this one:
|Motorbikes (including mine) illegally parked at the DMV.|
Now, if the handsome traffic cop ever pulls me over, at least I'll be wearing my prettiest smile on my new license.