Imagine you want to cross one of Chiang Mai’s busiest roads during the rush hour. Without any help that endeavour is bound to fail. Traffic is so dense that you would have to force your way through it, risking accidents and severe injuries.
Fortunately every now and then there are pedestrian crossings with traffic lights. They look the same as in Australia, they sound the same but they work differently. As this is just a pedestrian crossing and not a crossroads one has to consider the basics of Thai traffic law. Which is basically a combustion-engine-powered version of Darwin’s survival of the fittest.
This law puts you as the pedestrian at the very bottom of traffic hierarchy. Thus the assumption that crossing the road is safe as soon as the green light flashes is wrong. The red light showing to the cars is by no means an obligation to stop for them.
Firstly one has to look out for suicidal scooter drivers swerving around the cars and either ignoring or overlooking the red light completely. Once it’s clear none of these menaces are approaching one can begin to carefully set foot on the street. This is a bit like dealing with a wild dog. Don’t show your fear, they can smell it.
As soon as you are past the first lane of cars they will continue driving, again showing that the red light is merely an item of decoration.
That leaves you in the middle of the road with traffic rushing past behind you and one or two more lanes of frantic drivers to your side. Again, do not panic, keep an eye on them, cross the road as fast as possible but always have the eager-for-reincarnation scooter missiles in mind.
Thailand is one big adventure.