Thailands Killer Buses and the explosion of Chinese tourists are terrorizing the country’s residents and devastating Thailand’s infrastructure with no end in sight. Let me give you a few keywords and phrases for why this terrible state of affairs is unlikely to change such as:
Chinese tourists, greed, police incompetence, money number one, fearless leaders of Chinese tour groups,
Here in Thailand tour buses are completely out of control. And the number of rampaging tour buses is exploding along with the numbers of Chinese tourists who ride them. In Thailand’s cities, notably Pattaya where I happen to live most of the streets are too narrow to accommodate them while the cities planners never created enough parking for the 1.3 billion wanna bee Chinese tourists who want to come here. Traffic problems are getting to be horrendous due to the vast increase in tour buses and the total incompetence and greed of government officials and police who have been entrusted with the public safety. So just how deadly have these tour buses become? Just two examples should be enough to give you the real picture of this sad state of affairs:
Last week, a friend and I were crossing North Pattaya Road on the Best Supermarket (East) side of Naklua Road. There’s a traffic light here where motorized vehicles are supposed to stop when the light turns red before turning left onto North Pattaya Road from Naklua Road. There’s also a cross walk for pedestrians and a pedestrian walk/don’t walk light. So here’s my friend and I walking in the cross walk with the pedestrian sign giving us the “Walk” go ahead and we are supposed to be crossing the street in safety?
No way. In seconds we are reduced to the status of rats darting between the speeding cars running the red light. And as if that’s not bad enough, a tour bus suddenly speeds through the light, around the corner, and we are reduced to a state of quivering jelly as we freeze in the middle of the intersection hoping that we are not gunned down by the moron the bus.
Two days later we are once again crossing North Pattaya Road at the same pedestrian cross walk. And sure enough, we find ourselves pathetically dodging all those cars again. Luckily we emerge unscathed on the other side of North Pattaya Road where Naklua Road suddenly becomes Second Road. But this time there’s a police officer just thirty meters away from us on the other side of Second Road. This police officer’s been stationed there for one purpose alone and that is to stop motorcyclists who are not wearing their helmets and for other “victimless crimes” such as having a license plate that is 2 days out of date. But is he doing anything about all the out of control motorists across the street? No way.
My second example concerns the death of a friend who died a few months ago from his injuries that were inflicted by another tour bus (note that I did not use the word tour bus driver here). The man was driving his motorcycle to the Tiger Zoo in Siracha with his son sitting behind him. I wasn’t there, and I never had the chance to talk to him about it later because the victim wound up with permanent brain damage. But a very good friend of mine back in the United States who was a very good friend of the victim and the victim’s wife reported by e-mail:
“yes the details were and are sketchy…but hes bk at home reading a lot of ebooks…but is terminally..due to brain tumor…on his accident..I got a broken thai/English message that said he and his kid were on motorcycle..tour bus pulled out in front of him..no way to stop…kids was sitting in front but marty leaned over and took the hit with his head so the kid didn’t get hurt…during this time they found or it caused another tumor”
I seem to recall that the official position on the accident was the victim had fallen asleep while driving his motorcycle and that he rear ended the tour bus as a result. Yeah, right! When’s the last time you ever fell asleep driving a motorcycle?
The Chinese have recently replaced the Russians as the single largest foreign visitor group coming to Thailand. But here’s the key difference. Russian tourists just like their American, British, or German counterparts are not nearly as driven by the herd instinct as the Chinese. Like their fellow Westerners from the U.S., Europe, etc Russians are not typically herd animals. They are individualistic and therefore inclined to arranging their own transportation as individuals, couples and small groups using taxis, baht buses, or motorcycle taxis. The Chinese are different and travel everywhere in large groups that I condescendingly refer to as the “Chinese Army”.
Here’s the way such Chinese Armies work. A company that arranges tours in China books a tour for a group, and this company is out to make the largest profit possible. Either before or after the tour group of Chinese reaches Thailand a “Fearless Leader” is assigned to shepherd the flock of sheep to all the tourist attractions, restaurants, bars and hotels that either he or his bosses decides the herd cannot do without. Commissions or kickbacks are given to the fearless leader from all the bars, restaurants, hotels, and other tourist attractions the herd is taken to. It is the fearless leader’s mission in life to get the maximum amount of commission money from his flock (I mean herd).
Let me give you a couple of examples. Back in 1982 I was on a tour of Americans visiting Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok. When we got to Hong Kong from Japan, we picked up, Larry, our fearless leader, a young Hong Kong Chinese, who quickly became a good friend of mine. Our group went practically everywhere by bus. In our group there were a number of Jews from Los Angeles who all knew each other quite well. There was another Jew from New York, named Al, who no doubt detested his Jewish brethren who probably despised him just as much in return. Now all these people might have been Jewish but there was a huge difference between Al and all those West Coast Jews.
When we went to the Royal Palace in Bangkok, everyone went on the bus except Al. Everyone of us had to pay a bus fee and an admission fee to the Royal Palace. When our tour group got to the Royal Palace, our fearless leader, Larry, handled everything for us. Meanwhile Al arrived on his own, having figured out early on how to use Bangkok’s taxis and bus services. And at the Royal Palace, Al went up alone to the ticket counter where he paid his own price of admission at half the price the rest of us had to pay through our fearless leader.
Al made is a point to learn how to get around in every city he visited. And more often than not, he’d choose his own restaurants at one third of the cost or even less that the rest of us were paying at the restaurants that had been chosen for us by our fearless leader.
Then there were all those handicraft shops and factories we’d visit as a group. We’d go somewhere to see jade figurines being made in a small factory. The next time we’d go to another outlet where glass objects were being made. The next stop would be where clothing was being made out of silk. And you should have seen all those West Coast Jewish women went wild in all those factories and handicrafts shops. Their eyes were literally bulging out with greed as they all went on a spending frenzy. But not Al and his wife. If they bought anything at all it was at other shops that had not been carefully picked out by Larry or his bosses which sold comparable goods at one third the costs these pre-selected shops were charging.
Later Larry confided in me about all the commissions he was getting for his boss back in Hong Kong. The man had two, not one Rolls Royce limousine at his opulent home on Victoria Peak, Hong Kong’s most prestigious and expensive residential area.
Well guess what—Times have not changed. All those “fearless leaders” of tour groups are still raking in all those commissions and all those Chinese with their herd mentality are just foolish enough to go along with it. (Not that those L.A. Jews weren’t or that Al proved the complete outcast of any such herd).
Now here’s a real classic. One of my neighborhood bars is owned by a Thai woman I’ve known for years. She typically charges 85 baht for a bottle of beer. One day a Chinese man stopped in and the bar owner asked him if he wanted a beer.
“No Thank. I wait for Fearless Leader. Then we decide.”
Along comes the rest of the tour group. The fearless leader draws the bar owner aside and asks her what she charges for a bottle of beer. She tells him 85 baht.
“I want you charge special group price he tells her. We pay 145 baht one beer, Okay? You give me 50 %..”
“Fuck off the bar owner tells the Chinese Army Fearless leader”.
And off trudges the Chinese Army as each Chinese carefully places his foot in the footprints of the Fearless Leader. I suppose that’s why many of us Thailand expats have been going to this Thai woman’s bar for the past nine years. It’s like a small island in an ocean where money is always number one. Gotta love the old gal.
But here we must step aside for a moment to consider that here in Thailand money is truly number one and that China is ruled by the same lack of ethics. Speaking for Pattaya, which is the only place in Thailand where I”m actually living and can therefore be writing about from the perspective of having a lot of first hand knowledge, the government officials and police have zero respect for public safety or even human life. If such people had even a little love for their own countrymen or self respect for doing their jobs well, all these tour buses would be immediately expelled from the city as soon as they discharged their passengers to whatever hotel the group was staying at. All those Chinese would then be reduced to the same sorry state as all those Russians, Germans, Canadians, Japanese, Americans, etc who somehow manage to arrange their own transportation whether it’s by baht taxi, motorbike taxi, mini bus or by just plain having to walk.
And just think about this. If Thailand’s cities such as Pattaya actually started to enforce its traffic laws, it might actually become reasonably safe to cross the street. Driving motorbikes would become much more safe if all these city officials and police ever got their faces out of the cesspool bucket of money number one excrement. Shops either at the hotels or at outside shops could start renting both bicycles and small motorbikes. Unless it’s raining, what better way is there to get around? For that matter I can drive my motorcycles 365 days a year, even on those days it is raining so long as the downpour is not too severe.
But oh well, I am just a visitor here. I am not Thai so it’s not up to me to tell Thais how to do things. For that matter I cannot get my fellow Americans to stop voting for the Traitorous Republican Party which is now being led by the Neo Nazi lunatic fringe. of the Far Right wing.