After my previous blog about license plates I decided a follow up was in order. I have never seen a "9999" license plate pulled over by Thai police and watched the exchange. I figure it's kind of a Thai albatross of sorts. However, I have been part of a few stops during my time and have heard several other stories of encounters with police. All of the following did happen.
1. Arai naaaaa?
I had just made a down payment on a Honda City to make the commute to see my girlfriend at the time easier. My school was in Kantaralak, a district in Si Saket about 35km from the Cambodian border and an hour drive from Ubon Ratchatani. I came into Ubon for some baguettes and a KFC, as my district did not possess those lovely Western delights. As I was driving out of the city a cop flagged me down.
I had my Canadian license, but no international one. I also had no supporting paperwork, as it was all in my girlfriend's name. At the time my Thai was strong, but I made a conscious decision to play dumb and use only English. After some awkward exchanges (cop's English wasn't good) he managed to convey that he was going to take me to the station to write me up and do who knows what else. A few more words, I handed him 800 baht and was on my way home. I gave his family a nice meal at MK and he didn't bust me or empty my whole wallet. Thai Thai.
2. Government ID's
When I had my Honda City we had a regular license plate, but my girlfriend was a Thai government high school teacher with full benefits and the ID card to go with it. These are the teachers who have the brown uniforms with gold shoulder boards on Monday's and have special all white outfits for auspicious occasions. Side note: I love the way Thailand uses the word "auspicious" to mark occasions.
Anytime we got stopped at a checkpoint she simply flashed her ID and we were waved through without a second glance. My Thai homestay mother is a government dentist and it was the same thing with her. After I got hit with the 800 baht pay-off my girlfriend yelled at me for being an idiot. I got stopped several times after while driving alone and simply picked up the phone and called her. Thirty second explanation of her government status to the officer and I was good to go.
3. Youth Factor
Before Kantaralak I was stationed in Sakon Nakhon and my transportation was a 100cc Honda Wave bike. The high school was next to the rajaphat university, technical college and primary school. You can imagine the mad dash in the morning with all the students. I had a helmet, but wasn't particularly fond of wearing it. Mainly because I'm super cool and a bit of a moron.
There would be traffic cops at the U-turns close by the schools a few days a week. The first few times they stopped me and asked about the helmet. I played the "No Thai" gag and explained that I was a teacher at the high school. They waved me through. Teachers are highly respected in Thai culture and in a smaller town like that I got the nod. I was also smart by smiling a lot and showing my gratitude for their kindness. For the rest of the year they got to know my face and we would just smile and nod at each other in the morning. No 200 baht ticket for me. Did it have anything to do with the fact that I was a 24 year old Caucasian male with blue eyes and light hair who smiled? Absolutely. Is this a topic for another article? You betcha.
A security dude on the Skytrain once came sprinting down and almost tackled me because my foot was on that stupid yellow line. My friend, who lived in Bangkok and was with me when it happened, made "banok" (country bumpkin) jokes at my expense for the rest of the night. This has nothing to do with cops. Just shows the difference between the city and country and the way people follow rules. I would've probably been busted for the 200 baht helmet thing in Bangkok regardless of my age and physical features, but in Sakon Nakhon? You're laughing.
5. Fourty Four
My homestay father owned the Honda CRV with a "44" license plate as mentioned in the previous article. He paid 120,000 baht ($4,000) for it. During that time he drove like a bat of out hell all around Isaan and never had a problem. No accidents, no tickets and VIP treatment. And in case you wondering, bat out of hell speed is 150-160km/h.
Currently, he owns a Toyota Camry Hybrid with the license plate "11." I asked if he paid for that number, but it was actually the 11th Toyota Camry Hyrbid purchased in Khon Kaen province for that year's model. Neat. So sometimes it might just be the 15th Mercedes that was bought in Nakhon Somewheres. Does he have extra pull driving an expensive car and being the 11th person to buy it? You better believe it. Now imagine you had "9999" on a BMW or Porsche. Yowza.
The reason I came to Thailand in 2007 was to visit my mother who was already working at a temple school in Nongkhai. She worked with the Thai teachers who were also monks and they would travel around together. It was always a borderline gong show. A 50-something Canadian woman riding along with a 30 something Thai monk doesn't happen often in Thailand, much less the rural parts. As you can imagine, they were met mostly with slack-jawed stares of pure befuddlement from the local coppers. They were too confused to even ask a question. If you want to make Thai heads explode as a farang, befriend a monk. Also, my mom could've made millions smuggling contraband across the Mekong into Nongkhai from Laos with that sweet transportation setup. Talk about a wasted opportunity. We could've been the first farang kingpins. Ugh. Moms are the worst.
Note: This is not a commentary on anything, nor is it meant to show the Honourable Royal Thai Police in a negative light. It's simply a few stories about things I experienced.
If you've had any funny, wild or crazy encounters with the boys in brown and want to share, drop me a line