If you’re thinking there are a lot of motorcycles in the above photo and video, you’d be wrong. I shot both of those in the middle of the day on a Sunday here in Bangkok, and traffic was substantially lighter than normal. During the week, the crowd of bikes at any stop light might be four or five times the size of the groups you see above.
So what’s this blog all about? Hey, I promised I would tell you a bit about the different kinds of motorcycles and motor scooters here in Bangkok, and this is that story.
Bikes dominate Bangkok’s urban landscape. I know that sounds like a catchy thing to say (it’s snappy writing, if I do say so myself), but it wasn’t intended to be literary lavishness. It’s just the way it is. In traffic, the bikes filter by on the left and on the right. In front of any business or in any parking area, there are hundreds of bikes. And at every stop light, a hundred or more bikes filter to the head of the line. The excitement builds as the countdown stop light nears green (they tell you how many seconds until the light changes over here), and in the last few seconds before the red goes away, a hundred motorcycle engines start revving. It is glorious.
There are no big bikes in Bangkok. Oh, you’ll see one now and then, but they are a rarity. Over here anything over 200cc or 250cc is just wasted displacement. I’ve been here a week and of the tens of thousands of motorcycles I’ve seen (and those are not exaggerated figures), there were exactly two big bikes. One was a Harley Sportster and the other was a Triumph Bonneville. There’s just no need for more displacement.
Here’s a lone Triumph Bonneville, tucked away in a Bangkok parking spot…
One moto thing that’s noticeable right away are the orange vests. When you see a rider with an orange vest, that means they are using their bike as a taxi. Yep, they give short rides (the folks here tell me typically under 2 kilometers). The riders have to wear the government-sanctioned orange vests and a helmet; passengers don’t wear any safety gear. A lot of the female passengers wear skirts and ride side-saddle.
I’d say roughly 10 percent of all the bikes are being used as taxis. Most of the drivers are men, but you do see women riders occasionally.
Surprisingly, it’s rare to see more than two people on a bike. You do see it, but not like I have seen in China or Colombia (I once grabbed a photo in Colombia of a motorcycle carrying six people). Here’s a shot of one of few times I saw this sort of thing here in Thailand…
There are scooters (you know, the things that are styled like Vespas), step-through motorcycles (like the old Honda Cub), small sport bikes (small displacement CBR or Ninja type bikes), plain old motorcycles, and (surprisingly) a lot of Grom-styled bikes.
The flat black bike in the front is a scooter. The orange, red, and blue bikes to the right are step-through motorcycles (these are very popular over here)…
When I was last in Bangkok 6 or 7 years ago, I saw a few Kawasaki motorcycles that looked a little like the Honda Grom. Today, the Grom style is very popular in Thailand, with motorcycles of this style from several manufacturers. Here’s a guy on one that looks a little like a Ducati. I’m pretty sure these are made in China, as we also saw them for sale on our ride across China last year. The bike in the photo below sells under the “Demon” name. We saw a lot of them…
Today is our last full day in Bangkok. We’re up early tomorrow for out flight back to California. It’s been grand. We’re staying in the top floor of a 5-star hotel in downtown Bangkok (the Pullman Grand Sukhumvit) and we’re living in the lap of luxury. The room is awesome, there’s a pool and a gym, there’s a free tuk tuk ride wherever we want to go, there’s free booze and breakfasts and dinners, and it’s costing less than what a Holiday Inn might cost in the United States.
We’re going for a dinner cruise up the Chao Phraya River tonight with our good friends Kevin and Nan, and we’re going to hit another one of the temples today. More photos, more good times, and more fun. We took a grand long boat ride on the Chao Phraya yesterday and if I get a chance I’ll post a few photos of our adventures yesterday. That’s a big if, though. I may be having too much fun. We’ll see.
Later, my friends.