A little bit about chaos: traffic in Bangkok

Once upon a time while walking along the streets of Paris and Rome, I was bewildered by the traffic on their streets. It seemed to me that there was complete chaos on the roads. Nobody observed the rules; everyone was screaming and constantly beeping.

The occasion was a circular motion around the Arc de Triomphe on The Avenue des Champs-Élysées. In the dusk of falling twilight, I was observing the blurred round dance of bright headlamps, and there were only two questions in my head: “How haven’t they crashed yet?” and “Why haven’t they crashed yet?”. But I hadn’t visited Asia yet.

Every person, blogger, traveler writing about Asia considers it is to be their sacred duty to enlighten, or rather even to frighten future fresh tourists about the most careless and insecure traffic on the streets of the Eastern Hemisphere.  The fact that just crossing the street is a whole little adventure. Albeit an Extreme one. No-one stops at red traffic lights. They ride without helmets and indeed rarely observe the rules of their own and other people’s security. But in principle, it can be told that the ‘informers’ sometimes even underestimate the whole picture.

Bangkok is synonymous with transport. Not cars or buses. And not even colourful, dressed up like a Christmas tree tuk-tuks. On red traffic lights, they all are equal and stand still in excruciating, sun-fired traffic jams. Here the roads are ruled by two-wheeled creatures – scooters and bikes. They are the most brisk, mobile and crazy. Only red lights at a major intersection can stop them, at least for a while anyway. But, the slightest opportunity to continue will be immediately used.

There is a feeling that the owners of two-wheeled horses drive according to their own rules. Most of which they don’t even know themselves. They move in their own stream maneuvering between large unhurried buses and dusty cars like the waters of a mountain river sweep between boulders and stones.

The flow of scooters never stops. And while everyone is standing, they are riding. Non-stop. It is possible that during that half of an hour while the cars slowly crawled a couple of kilometers through the evening traffic. The same biker drove near it several times having done all his business and happily hurrying home.

From the outside, it all seems to be just the wildest chaos or some kind of Brownian movement where each permutation of participants is absolutely random. But in any chaos there is a particular order that is incomprehensible from the outside. To feel it you need to jump into this stream. In the case of Bangkok it’s not even a tuk-tuk. It is a place behind the taxi driver of a scooter.

It can be wildly dangerous. But in such moments, you learn to trust the world. And you let the speed and movement fill you. Your heart is pumping with adrenaline and wild euphoria. There are no words to describe this feeling. As if being back in the good old company of friends with whom you have done crazy things. Now this entire legion gives a tribute to the great road praising its concrete skin. You blend in with the general flow, being simultaneously an invisible part and an important component. The vibration and the heat of the bike engine. You are the speed and the wind in the hair. You are the smile of a young woman on the scooter nearby. You’re the roar of engines and the overflow of impatient hooters.

After an unsuccessful attempt to get elegantly off the scooter you give the helmet and money to the driver and sincerely thank him. You have just washed in the wild streams of Bangkok, passed the rite of initiation. Now the beast is not so terrible, and its growl and hum arise only pleasant memories. You were inside, and now you know that as long as you trust you’re safe.

Any phenomenon or happening can be considered a metaphor. It can be found in the traffic of Bangkok or any other city for that matter. From the outside, the movement seems so terrible and dangerous, but when plunged into it, giving yourself to the stream, we safely reached our destination. Maybe this is the secret and the central principle of life – choose your own best route but at the same time remain a part of the whole and just observe the safety rules for yourself and the others.

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