Traveling does things to a person. It changes you on a fundamental level. If you asked us to describe ourselves in one word, we’d say “total rebels”. Go ahead, tell me that’s two words. I double-dog dare you. We are Josh and Jen no longer; let me introduce you to Scrappy and The Wild Card. We’re traveling the world, breaking the rules, and living life on the cliff’s edge. Yesterday, our mothers’ upstanding little citizens got caught up with the seedy underbelly of local law enforcement and got a ticket in Thailand.
We Were Set Up, I Swear
The plan for today was to visit the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Forest about 40 miles out of town. We mapped out our route, packed some water, filled up the gas, and hit the road on the motorbike. Josh… ahem, Scrappy has become quite confident with his driving and we are getting a feel for the layout of the city and the traffic patterns… which is why we thought it was strange when the traffic ahead of us had come to a stop for no reason.
Being the rebel duo that we are, we’ve learned to recognize a police road block when we see one. There were cones and at least 12 men wearing police uniforms. So, you know, it was easy to spot, really. The whole thing seemed very legit, except for one thing: most everyone was just getting waved through. The cars hardly even slowed down and the motorbikes only stopped briefly before being ushered through.
Caught in a Lie
It’s almost our turn. Decision time. The Wild Card wanted to bolt, leading the cops on a medium-speed chase to nowhere. Scrappy urged caution, choosing a cool demeanor and a silver tongue to get us through. In the end, we followed the lead of those in front of us. We slowed down a little, smiled, and gave a quick wave before getting ready to take off again. That was when we realized that maybe we were in trouble. Unlike everyone who went before us, we got ushered off to the side and asked for our licenses.
Our rebellious reputations had preceded us.
Scrappy handed over his Utah license with an innocent smile. “International license?” asked the police officer, returning the smile and looking a little disappointed when we said no. “You sure? You need for drive in Thailand.”
“Oh, really? I can’t just use this one?”
It was no use. The copper had seen it all before. He took the license and escorted us to a table on the side walk. As we parked and walked over, we knew we were busted. Our days of resentful, but respectful, conformity were over. Except…
Everyone in line was a foreigner. It wasn’t us they were after; it was our wallets.
Paying the Price
That’s right. We found ourselves in the exact situation our housesitting host had warned us about. We lined up with about five other foreigners, with more piling in behind us as we waited. There was a mix of emotions from our fellow rule breakers. One young lady stood off to the side, worried to tears as she watched her date get closer to the front of the line. A Japanese man was arguing with one of the police, quoting something from his phone. He assured Scrappy that even if we had our international license, we still would have been pulled aside for some sort of fine. That’s when the cops offered to double his ticket. He was pretty quiet after that.
One couple was waiting very impatiently and getting more and more upset with each passing moment. They explained to any of us that would listen that they had already been pulled over once that day. A policeman stopped them a little out of town and said that if they didn’t give him 300 baht, that he would be forced to write them a ticket for 1000 baht.
Once at the front of the line, everything went very smoothly. It was obvious that this was common practice, just another day on the beat for these fellas. We were written a ticket in Thai, and asked for 500 baht. “This good for drive all day”, the officer said, handing us our ticket. Then, we were sent on our way, with not a single one of them realizing who they’d just let go.
The whole experience was… different. Obviously, getting shaken down by the cops isn’t super fun, but it was done in the most friendly and non-threatening way possible. It was the middle of the day, the table and line were kindly placed in the shade, and the officers were all very friendly and helpful. Also, calling it a shakedown probably isn’t accurate; after all, we were breaking the law, and we knew it. Getting off with a quick, on-the-spot fine is way better than than having to show up to a court date, or worse. We stood in line for 20 minutes, paid 500 baht ($16), and now had a license that allowed us to drive worry free for the rest of the day.
It did suck being singled out, though. We saw plenty of Thais driving without their helmets (also against the law) who got to pass right through the checkpoint. But hey, it just comes with the rebel lifestyle, baby. You get used to the man coming down on you unfairly.
We hopped back on our bike and rode off under the blazing midday sun, a couple of bona fide rebels in search of a tasty lunch and cool new nicknames.