A Standoff In Nong Khai

The subject of this blog is not about the North-Eastern town of Nong Khai but rather a “road rage” (I’m slightly exaggerating) incident that I observed in that town last November. We were traveling through Nong Khai and then up the border road to Chiang Khan in a vehicle owned by a family friend called Luang. The incident itself was inconsequential but highlighted the wonderful manner in which Thais handle and defuse difficult situations.

nong khai soi

The incident itself arose from the reality that the “round peg” of modern Thai traffic doesn’t always fit into the “square hole” of narrow streets and Sois in Thailand. Leaving our guesthouse in Nong Khai our driver Luang drove his Van down a narrow Soi towards a main road. We were more than half way down the lane when another vehicle turned into the Soi from the opposite direction. Instant problem- the Soi was too narrow for both vehicles to pass each other. The other vehicle drove forward and stopped in front of ours. As it approached I observed that the driver and his passenger were both Farang.

The Farang driver waved his hand at Luang and motioned him to back his Van out of the Soi so that he could move through. Luang who quite rightly considered that as we were first and further down the Soi than the “Farang” vehicle, then it should be them who had to back up. As such he waved back with a smile at the Farang driver and asked him to reverse his car. From here the situation escalated when the Farang driver started to blast his car horn and both he and his passenger started to hunch their shoulders and mouth obscenities. Luang continued to wave them back and the more agitated the Farangs became, his own smile continued to grow and grow.

In the end with an exaggerated raising of his arms the Farang caved in and reversed his vehicle back to the main street. Luang then moved his Van forward and when he passed the opposing vehicle still smiling he gave the other driver a thumbs up in appreciation. The Farang replied by saluting Luang with his index finger.

Whilst this was happening I looked at Luang and marveled at his calm. He had taken the incident in his stride and instantly forgotten about it – not even the mental ticking of a scoreboard (Thais (1) – Farangs (zero) )

Looking back at this incident and others over the years, I have observed Thais deal with difficult and boorish foreigners without raising barely a ripple on the water. Its always amazing how difficult situations can be easily dealt with , especially when personal ego is absent.

Its an attribute of character that truly makes Thailand special.


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