Returning to the Mundane

You can tell that the political excitement has faded – at least for the moment, thankfully – when I have to return to blogging about mundane topics.  After a two-week interruption because of the protests and their aftermath, I finally concluded an errand to the Nissan dealership.  Our Cefiro, pushing a dozen years old, is starting to have all the little aches and pains that accompany aging.  In this case, it was a dead window motor.

Normally, that wouldn’t be much of a problem, considering that, generally, the weather here in Thailand and, specifically, the polution here in Krunthep rarely allows for windows-down driving.  But it was the driver’s window motor that had died and at every expressway toll booth and the entrance to every car park, I had to open my door and reach over it to pay the toll or receive my parking ticket.  I felt like the driver of one of those old taxis around town, whose windows no longer roll down.

To get a new motor would have taken twenty days (shipped from Japan!) and would cost 6,000 baht, about US$ 185.  Thankfully, the dealership was able to locate a second-hand motor and installed it for only 1600 baht.  The expression “second hand” exists in Thai just like in English.  Literally, “hand two” as there are no ordinal numbers in Thai.  The dealership pointedly explained that they would only warranty “hand two” parts for seven days after installation.  What do you want to guess I’ll be blogging about in another two weeks? 

While at the dealership, I took a look at the Nissan March, a so-called “eco car” that recently had its debut in Thailand.  I have yet to figure out what the “eco car” label means as it doesn’t mean hybrid or electric.  [Okay, a little research and I discovered an eco car, the manufacturers of which receive something like a 17% tax credit, are defined as cars with a 1.3 L engine or smaller, get at least 56.5 MPG / 24 KPL, and release less than 192 grams of CO² per mile / 309 grams per kilometer.]


Since our car has been showing more signs of aging, we’re starting to consider what would be an appropriate replacement vehicle.  While I like the size and comfort of a midsize car, I don’t think they are very practical or economical when driving here in Krungthep.  With the amount of time one spends sitting in traffic, a hybrid would be a great choice.  Unfortunately, the Toyota Camry is the only hybrid sold in dealerships here and it is very pricey.

The March has received good reviews in the local auto press and gets high marks for value when compared to the Suzuki Swift, Honda Jazz, and Toyota Yaris in the B segment and Cherry A1, Proton Savvy, and Kia Picanto in the A segment.  Technically, the March is a B segment car but with a slightly narrower body than most B segment vehicles.

At about a half-million baht (US$ 15,600) it is relatively affordable.  I think it is cute enough although not great – I prefer the Yaris.  The size is small enough for the narrows sois of Krungthep.  Still, I’m not ready to do any serious comparison shopping.  It is enough to just start thinking about potential candidates.


How About this for Tawn’s New Car?

We’re driving a Nissan Cefiro, what in the US was basically the Infiniti I30, which is approaching a dozen years old.  While it has held up pretty well other than a few cosmetic scrapes and scratches, it is starting to show its age and has required more frequent visits to the mechanic for various small problems.  The signs are clear: sometime in the next two years or so it will be time to buy a car.

Of course, major purchases are often the source of potential conflicts in a relationship.  Different styles, different expectations, different buying habits, etc. all influence what each person thinks is the right purchase.  So over the next few months as we start the process of thinking about what car might be the right fit for us, I’ll share our thoughts on the blog.  That way you can get some insight into how we think about these things.

Tawn’s expressed his interest in a “statement” car, something that reflects his personality and sense of style.  Of course, you might correctly imagine that I’m looking at things from a much more practical perspective.  But let’s not delve into those depths quite yet.  Let’s just keep things fun.


A few weeks back we were at the local car wash and there was this convertible for sale.  It is a Sunbeam Alpine Series IV, a beautiful British car from the mid-1960s.  If there was anything that would work for Tawn, this would be it – except for the fact that it is a convertible and Tawn is not a fan of the sun!

What do you think?  Could you see us driving amongst the rice paddies of central Thailand in this?  The red color would certainly look nice against the lush green of the paddies!  Of course, the reality is we’d be sitting stuck in traffic in Bangkok, breathing the fumes.


Four-Way Intersections

As I travel around my adopted hometown of Krungthep, I sometimes see things and think, “Oh, that is so very Thai.”  These things usually seem innocuous enough at first glance, but I think they illustrate the differences between Thai culture and other cultures.  Four-way intersections are a good example.

When I drive in the US (or pretty much any “developed” country), there are rules and laws and signs and to some degree, everyone follows them.  Very little is left entirely to human nature and the good will of the drivers.

Italy seems to be an exception, actually…

Anyhow, here in the City of Angels, we have many uncontrolled intersections.  Much of this is a result of how the network of roads and streets developed out of a network of canals and waterways.  What worked well for boats isn’t always so effective for cars.

Whether a major street like Sukhumvit or a small, twisting back soi, you encounter these intersections where the drivers’ best behavior is all that governs right-of-way.


Most of the time, it works alright.  In fact, like the use of traffic circles, drivers are forced to be more attentive and drive slower because there are few rules to rely upon.  Other than the occasional marks on the ground, spray-painted by an insurance company investigator after a crash, there are few signs that the uncontrolled intersections are really a problem.

Here’s a 90-second video clip (set to pleasant music) for you to see the above intersection in action:

In a chicken-or-egg dilemma, it is unclear whether these types of social confrontations (uncontrolled intersections) work so smoothly because of the Thai people’s culture of patience and friendliness towards others, or is the culture a result of having to negotiate these types of confrontations in everyday life?

In either case, it is interesting to observe and even more interesting to experience firsthand as the driver behind the wheel!