No trip abroad can go completely without an interesting story; the same is true whether you’re planning to be gone for one week, or one year. Something interesting is bound to happen! Laura definitely had a good story to tell thanks to our eccentric trekking guide, Chet, but clearly Thailand wanted to give her one more memory.
On our last day together we had a great day getting out of Chiang Mai and seeing some of the surrounding attractions. On our way home, just as we were coming back into the city Laura said “Weird they must be looking for someone”. Not knowing what she was talking about I looked up to see police officers all around the intersection where we were stopped. I didn’t give it much thought but as we got the green light and started across the street I realized what it was. One of the officers motioned for me to pull over where I noticed a row of foreigners waiting. Immediately I was asked for my license, which I obviously don’t have in Thailand, but I tried to play stupid claiming it was with the rental agency (you do have to leave your passport there). We tried conversing with the two men for a few minutes but it eventually ended as expected, us with a ticket them with my keys.
They pointed us to the traffic police headquarters, conveniently located around the corner, where we were to pay our ticket, get a receipt and return for our keys. I was slightly pissed off but also extremely curious as to how much the ticket would be. Laura couldn’t grasp why the rental company would give us a bike if we didn’t have a proper license, but I knew it was all about money, as it generally is in Thailand. The rental company doesn’t care, they still get their 200 baht for the bike.
Once inside the station, we spotted a few other foreigners, one of which seemed to be extremely pissed off. We had to wait a while but eventually were called over to pay our 200 baht fine. I was actually expecting much worse, so this was a pleasant surprise (in the context of the situation of course). Sure I didn’t plan on throwing away 100 baht that day (Laura split the fine) but I took it as another opportunity to blog, share a story with my friends, and laugh at the antics of Thailand. The best part is, after showing our ticket to the police officer he handed back our keys and away we went, although I think he did instruct us to return the bike at that point – oops.
A friend of mine had previously told me about these roadblocks Thailand has been known to set up in order to catch foreigners, so I knew the risk of renting the bike. Like I said, I can’t really be mad at the situation, the fine was only 200 baht, they let me have the bike back and they were efficient about the matter. I guess I can also use this as a word of warning to others; if you’re renting a bike in Thailand without a license be prepared to get stopped by the traffic police and make a donation to their funds. Also be sure you’re wearing a helmet as that can and will be an added fine on top of your no license ticket.
High on the tourist track for a reason, home of good food (mostly) happy people, rich history and culture. Thailand as many tourist soon learn is just easy. Easy to visit, easy to get around and even easier to stay.