Wednesday, August 01, 2007

What happened after the previous entry

I was so eloquent about the start of the Buddhist Lent in the previous entry that I was really shaken by what happened later on in the day.

As I was driving back from the health club, two teenagers on a motorbike rear-ended me. Fortunately, I was driving really slowly. One of these things I'll never forget is hearing the thud of the motorbike hitting the back of the car and looking up in the rear view mirror and seeing the driving of the motorbike hitting the top of the trunk.

Surprisingly, of all the possibilities present, the realities were not so bad. The kids only had cut lips, the police came quickly, followed by the kids' mother. And the insurance guy came to the site and declared the boys at fault for following too closely, a common Lao practice.

I was really shook up though. Since I've lived in Asia, I've seen so many horrible accidents and have lost friends to the flow of traffic. It really could have been much worse.

When I first visited Lao in 1994, Vientiane was a city of creaky one-speed bicycles. There were a few motorcycles then, but they were old and covered with rust and not capable of much speed. As years went on, the roads filled with motorcycles bumping over the rutted dirt roads. The city started to pave the roads which allowed bigger cars to start dominating the streets. The Volgas and Moscowitches gave way to newer used cars. Now, Landcruisers and sleeker modern cars create traffic jams - and when there's no traffic, they race along like maniacs.

The kids' motorcycle was of the new generation of bikes - cheap bikes from China. It disintegrated on the road. I was surprised that my car, a ten year old Korean knock-off, survived with its plastic bumpers.

Anyway, I hope that the rainy season retreat will really mean more mindful driving and fewer accidents.

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