Anti-Trafficking and Child Abuse Center (ATCC)

On a very special day—my girlfriend’s birthday—we loaded up her friend’s car with over 30 kg of rice, 12 bottles of cooking oil, 12 bottles of fish sauce, and bulk amounts of laundry detergent, bathroom cleaner, and dish soap. We were headed to donate it to the Anti-Trafficking and Child Abuse Center (ATCC) in Pattaya.

Although the center is about a 30-minute drive outside Pattaya, it took us over an hour to get there. Before we arrived, I didn’t know the name of the place in English. As far as I knew, it was an orphanage like any other. I was led to understand that it had something to do with rescuing children from abusive situations. But that was the extent of it. So as we meandered down side streets, under overpasses, ventured into more rural-looking landscapes, wrestled with Google Maps’s completely useless directions, phoned three different people, and pulled about fifty different U-turns, I couldn’t help wondering why an orphanage would be so hard to find.

The answer became clear when we arrived. Once I understood that most of the 30 children living there were rescued from trafficking, I knew that this place needed to be difficult to reach. All sorts of scary characters—from dangerous mafia bosses to creepy Western pedophiles—could be looking for these kids, some of them even by name. The center not only harbors abused children, but plays a key role in informing and aiding police in arresting the men that would hurt them, as well as the legal proceedings that lead to the child’s deliverance and protection and the criminals’ prosecution.

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But the primary emotion I felt when we drove through the entrance with its quaint, painted wooden sign wasn’t fear or anger. It was relief, enthusiasm, and tear-jerking joy.

IMG_3823Human trafficking has been my pet issue since it became personal—my girlfriend was kidnapped and nearly trafficked a couple years ago in Malaysia. Even in her case, where nothing sexual happened to her and she was inexplicably freed, she feels shame, fear, and a trauma with which few can ever empathize. So although I’ve always found human trafficking to be a deeply disturbing issue that defies what one would assume to be our basic moral code, it has become real to me in a way I never imagined.

But in my passion for fighting the atrocity of trafficking people, I haven’t seen the face of its noble adversaries. I’ve been to websites like NotForSale.org. I’ve called the Human Trafficking hotline to find out what avenues victims have for rehabilitation and therapy. I’ve watched documentaries and read articles about the things people are trying to do to combat the issue. But the ATCC is the first encounter I’ve had with people who are actually in the trenches. And that’s why it was so moving for me.

At the bottom of this article is a link to the ATCC’s website. Unfortunately they seem only to accept IMG_3835donations of either $100 or $1000. I’m looking into liaising between them and my friends and family (and potentially other donors). But until I’ve worked out a system for doing this without putting myself or the ATCC at risk of charity fraud, this is your only avenue to help. Hopefully I’ll have something feasible set up soon, at which point I’ll post a follow up with the appropriate information.

Now enough of my own explanations. On their property they have a lot of posters explaining their mission and methods, two of which I’ve rewritten in better English:

“Thailand is one of many famous and popular countries around the world for its tourism industry. Many provinces in Eastern Thailand feature many beautiful beaches and islands. There are many tourists coming to visit this part of Thailand. At the same time, when tourism business booms, these areas are also full of local Thais and people from neighboring countries, who migrate from other parts of Thailand to seek jobs. Pattaya is particularly advanced with its high promotion of tourism, with a large number of entertainment places and activities for both Thai and foreign tourists, and often feature facilities with more advanced communication technology. The economic growth develops so fast in this area, and within specific groups, that other areas and groups cannot compete. These gaps are continuously widening. All sorts of people come to Pattaya to make money, seeking various opportunities—some good and legal, others bad and illegal. Many types of crimes are mushrooming, such as exploitation, fraud, cheating, and luring. The most vulnerable group for being exploited and victimized are the weak and the children. This phenomenon happens in Pattaya as well as in other areas around Pattaya (Region 2 under Thailand’s administratively divided regions under the Thai justice system).

Apart from genuine tourists, this growing concentration of tourism brings in many perpetrators, either living temporarily or permanently in Pattaya. Such people include gangs, pedophiles, child abusers, and other child trafficking rings. Some of these perpetrators are individuals with warrants for arrest, either in Thailand or in their home countries, while others belong to organized crime.

The ATCC has been established in Pattaya in order to deal with the problems of human trafficking as well as child sexual abuse. The Director of the ATCC and his team have been working in Pattaya on child protection, child trafficking, and related for more than 15 years, under different names and umbrellas. The main target group is the vulnerable street kids and children at risk of any forms of exploitation and abuse. Until around the end of 2011, this newly established center has become a part of FACE Foundation, whose objectives, activities, and strategies are similar.

The ATCC aims at providing assistance to victimized children of sexual abuse and those who are victims of trafficking—for example, children for are forced to beg, children in prostitution, and children being coerced or lured into being used sexually by foreigners (the traffickers get more pay from foreigners than from locals).

The main activities, therefore, are two-fold:

  1. Monitoring cases of child sexual abuse in the prosecution process with a concentration on helping the victimized children both in social and legal aspects.
  2. Provide assistance and help for these victimized children and children of other kinds of vulnerability in order to help them develop with life-skill learning and training in our ATCC center. In so doing, these children can remain in the safety and justice of our protection, as well as grow up with qualitative life-skill development, and thus happily reintegrate into their own family, or into normal society. The activities under this project are called ‘Child Protection and Development Life-skill Center’ (CPLC).

Working on these issues, we normally cooperate and coordinate with the government officials—particularly social workers, medical personnel, the police, and prosecutors.

Beyond case work, we also advocate with concerned authorizes at all policy levels—local (Pattaya City), provincial (Chonburi), and national (Thailand). This advocacy work aims to push for changes and improvement of the laws to build and augment legal and social mechanisms and services for the protection and justice the vulnerable target groups.”

You can read about their objectives and methodology in the photos below.

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Methodology

http://www.atcc.or.th/

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Advanced Vocabulary Lesson

One of my biggest challenges (and obsessions) as a new teacher is preparation, especially finding resources and materials that suit the needs of my students. Luckily, there are hundreds of ESL websites, many of them providing free materials, as well as articles that help teachers refine their techniques. I’m greatly indebted to my anonymous internet-based colleagues for the time they’ve taken in designing and sharing their worksheets, lesson plans, game printables, PowerPoint files, articles, and more.

In an effort to show my gratitude, this will be hopefully the first among a few posts where I share my successful lessons and materials. So if you’re an English teacher, particularly an ESL teacher, hopefully you’ll find the following lesson plan and attached worksheet and PowerPoint file useful.

            For you non-teachers, you might find this generally interesting, but even if you don’t, skip ahead to the Chain Stories section, where you can read some entertaining meandering stories, which feature all the grammatical errors one would expect from such a class of varied ability. You can read about the Chain Story activity in the Lesson Plan to understand why these stories feel so incoherent.

 

Context

First, I’ll share a bit of the context for this lesson. The class is a mix of Upper Intermediate to Advanced Learners, in Secondary 6 in Thailand. Their ages range from 17 to 19. Their nationalities include Thai, Russian, and German, and many of them are mixed nationalities—that is, their fathers are usually Westerners and their mothers Thai.

Some of them speak English so well you’d swear they’re native speakers. A couple of them write so well you can’t wait to look for their novels on Amazon. Then others…need a lot of work.

But they all share a deficiency in vocabulary. So I’ve implemented a learner-directed component to the class to help them expand their vocabulary. Essentially, they have to write down in their journals any new words they encounter in their weekly reading activities. I’ve even allowed them to include words they encounter outside my class.

At the end of each week, I check their notebooks and make a list of their words, keeping a tally of the ones that more than one student identifies. By doing this, my students essentially get to “vote” on their vocab for the following week. The following Monday, I give them the definitions of the words, clarify any nuance or connotations, and spend the rest of the week drilling the vocab before a weekly test.

So the lesson you’re about to see incorporates vocab words that the students selected themselves. Feel free to download the worksheet and PowerPoint file and alter them to fit any lexis you wish to cover in your class.

 

Lesson Plan

NOTE: The staging of this lesson basically follows the CELTA staging for a text-based lexis lesson.

Materials: Jeep Story Photos & Jeep Story Vocab Worksheet

  • Lead-in: Ask the students about any experiences they had spending time in nature. What was their most memorable experience? Since my students are fairly compliant, I allow them to choose their partners for this and future discussions (NOT the CELTA way!). Then sample some of their responses.
  • Pre-Text: Show the students the Jeep Story PowerPoint. Show them each photo one-by-one, and explain that they are to predict what happens in the story. Show the last slide (all four photos) to help them discuss these predictions with their partner. (You can also print and pass around a handout of the PowerPoint if displaying it electronically isn’t feasible.) Sample their predictions.
  • Text: Read the text to them once (the full text is in the notes of the fifth slide of the PowerPoint), and instruct them to compare their predictions. Then hand out the worksheet. Tell them to complete the gap fill as you read the text a second time (a third reading might be needed for the slower students). Check their answers as a whole class.
  • Clarification: Have the students answer the multiple-choice questions. If you want, you can have them compare answers before checking them as a whole class.
  • Practice: Story Chaining. Tell the students that they are going to write their own stories (which don’t have to be the same theme as the model story) using the vocabulary words they identified from the worksheet. But tell them there’s a catch: they won’t be finishing the stories on their own. Tell them to take out a sheet of paper (lined paper makes this activity easier to perform; no notebooks).
    1. Choose a vocab word at random and tell them to write the first sentence of their story. Tell them to write one sentence only.
    2. When they complete their first sentence, have them pass their paper to their left (facilitate the end students passing their papers). Choose a new vocab word, and instruct them to write the next sentence of their new story. Make sure they start this sentence on a new line.
    3. When they complete their second sentence, tell them to fold the top of the paper over so that it covers only the top sentence, and still shows the sentence they just wrote. Have them pass their papers to the left. Pick a new vocab word and have them write a new sentence on a new line in their new story.
    4. Repeat step c, instructing them to cover all except the sentence they just wrote before they pass the paper, until they have written a sentence for each vocab word.
    5. On the last vocab word, have the students open their stories and read them.
    6. Have a few students read their story aloud, highlight good vocab usage, and correct poor vocab usage.

 

Results

It was such a fun lesson. Make sure students have ample time on the practice stage. With feedback at the end, it took almost 30 minutes in my class. As you can see in the stories below (included purely for amusement), some students demonstrated very good understanding of the vocab words. Others, not so much—but that’s why it’s important to leave 5 to 10 minutes at the end to offer feedback and help them understand their mistakes.

 

Chain Stories

Chain Story A

The snowflakes beguiled me as I walked past the pine trees. It literally held my breath for a minute. Everything started to become blurry and dark and the next thing I remember is waking up inside a pothole. I got myself out of there and astounded when I saw the elephant. My feelings at that moment was deliciously full of joy and excitement. And I would bewildered to do more things. But the things we do is also limited.

 

Chain Story B

We were driving beguiled. And the driver literally couldn’t find the way out from this dark forest. My car was in the pothole, because we’re sticked in a mud and were starting to sink down. But then all of the sudden, an astounding horse came out of the nowhere, with it a man who put a rope on the car, and the horse started to pull us out. Back at home we eat horses, so deliciously I looked at the horse and said, “That would make one great dinner.” My neighbors are so bewildered that I will kill a horse for dinner. The horse was limited edition. It was a pink horse with a rainbow tail.

 

Chain Story C

The new guy in class was so beguiling he made all the girls blush and giggle. Literally, they want to embarrassing me. I was soooo shy. So to cover my shyness I put a horse mask on my head so no one could see my face, and I ran away, running into a pothole, and I was about to fall. My astounding belly broke my fall. I’m deliciously enjoying myself I’ve done. The old man was bewildered of what you done he got an heart attack. But lastly, he couldn’t make it through the limited time that he needs to operation.

 

Chain Story D

He was absolutely beguiled because of what he saw. The woman literally looked like an angel. But we looked like a potholes on the road. And it was astounding that no one stepped in one of the potholes. In a home I had deliciously dinner, I ate a lot of food which I didn’t try before. It was delicious. But then all of the sudden a friend told me there was horse in the food, and bewildered me, and I threw up all the food. Everything that we had to eat was full of horse meat. The food I could eat wasn’t even limited because literally everything had horse in it.

 

Chain Story E

“Stop trying to beguile me with gifts, you deceptive hobbit. Your gift literally smells like fish.” My feelings were like going through a hundred of potholes. And it doesn’t seem very astounding at all. When we came to a restaurant not far away from we all thought the food looked deliciously good. I was so bewildering, because the food was tasted deliciously. I’ve never try it before. And for my surprise it was horse meat—limited horse meat. Since then I love horse meat more than everything else, and eat it every day.

 

Chain Story F

She beguiled me with her unusually high voice. I literally slapped her to teach her a lesson…and made her face looks like a pothole. It was astounding in a negative way. But it could be deliciously as well for some reason. But then suddenly we all got bewildered when the car suddenly stopped and a bear was standing in front of us. But was have limited time to thinking about it, we’re running away from the car.

 

Chain Story G

That man beguiled the woman with buying her a drink at the bar. When she was literally smile at him and started to talk to the men. She was like a pothole, deep and unexpected. It was astounding that she was just ten years old. I found it deliciously satisfying to steal her candy when her mom wasn’t looking. I unwrapped the candy, ate the wrap, then threw away the sweet, then bewilderedly started choking. With limited oxygen in my throat.

 

Chain Story H

Her family beguiled her with money and love. Her family literally gives her everything thing she wants. But her family has a pothole of secrets that never been reveal. They knew people would be astounded if they found out what it was. It was deliciously teasing to keep this secret inside. I felt absolutely bewildered. At the end of the day they limited my choices of options.

 

Chain Story I

So there was I, standing in front of that horse, holding that carrot to beguile it into letting me ride it. I literally felt an immediate deep connection with the horse that I wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. We’ve been through good and bad times. Yesterday the horse ran into a potholes. Luckily it didn’t get hurt. It was an astonishing news that the horse didn’t get hurt. It was deliciously dangerous what the horse going through the night. But they are afraid of everything. Even one unfamiliar noise can bewilder them. They were too limited in time to save their lives.

An International Look at Patriotism

My first Independence Day living abroad has led me to do some thinking about patriotism. But I’m not contemplating only American patriotism. Instead, I’ve been pondering patriotism in general.

I come from a country where patriotism is not only highly valued and honored, but also where the word itself is a buzz word–both a shield and a weapon in American political rhetoric. And now I live in a country where patriotism is almost universal; love of country is basically a given among the Thais. In fact, I’d say that the Thais exceed Americans when it comes to national pride. They demonstrate a pride in their country that is so widespread, so resolute, and so dedicated that it almost makes a joke of the word “patriotism” as used in American conversations. If Americans imitated or emulated the Thais in patriotism, we’d have a more united, cohesive, or even homogenous society. And that is what scares me about patriotism.

Now this is where American “patriots” would quip that the Thai sentiment I describe isn’t patriotism, but nationalism. They’d insist that there’s a difference. But I beg to differ, at least among their kind. The Americans that would defend red-white-and-blue “patriotism” are usually the same that would deny, not denounce, America’s transgressions. They would insist that Nazis, Communists, and obedient citizens of other tyrannical regimes are nationalists, not patriots. I say “bullshit.” Patriotism and nationalism are two sides of the same coin–the unwavering love of one’s country seeded and nourished by propaganda, whether by the state or by the culture.

Don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing inherently wrong with being proud of one’s country. There’s especially nothing wrong with cherishing our background, heritage, and culture, and embracing the fact that we are who we are largely because of where we come from. Moreover, I admire at least the gratitude that comes with appreciating the benefits of one’s nationality. But national pride should not overlook the accidental nature of nationality, nor the global circumstances that often contribute to a nation’s power, wealth, or resilience. Upholding the values of our forebears can be a good thing, if thoughtfully and sensibly done. But patriotism often discourages such thoughtfulness and sensibility. For example, American patriotism celebrates the American Revolution, but often ignores or deemphasizes the French role in the victory of our forefathers. Thai patriotism celebrates Thai culture, but remains mostly ignorant of the influences of Chinese and Indian culture, while ironically belittling the Chinese and Indians.

I should also pause to acknowledge that patriotism doesn’t come in one flavor. For example, American and Thai patriotism have keen differences. Some of that stems from distinct variations in culture, forms of government, and social structures. Whereas Thailand fosters a pious adoration of the crown, America was founded upon a rejection of absolute authority. This distinction plays a large role in the way each country’s citizens view criticism as either a value or a liability to national worth. Similarly, American patriotism celebrates the strength of the individual as a testament to national supremacy; Thai patriotism emphasizes the need to “toe the line”–every citizen has a role to play towards the greater good of society. But the irony of American patriotism is that, for all its individualistic sentiments, a “true” American conforms to American Exceptionalism. To suggest that America is not the greatest nation on earth is to be “un-American.” And therein lies the key similarity between Thai and American patriotism–the fundamental characteristic of national pride: your country can do no wrong, and is an invaluable gem among the world’s nations.

It’s also important to acknowledge what’s at stake for Thais and Americans when it comes to patriotism. Unlike Thais, Americans enjoy the rare privilege of being free to criticize their own government. In truth, this is something for Americans to be proud of (even if not uniquely American). But while ideological disputes about governance, especially those that fall along party divides, are the focus of criticism, hardly is the presumed moral standing of America among other nations brought into question. To suggest that America has unapologetically wronged any part of the world is to be “un-American,” or even “anti-American.” It’s such a sanction that makes the don’t-tread-on-me breed of patriotism virtually identical to any other.

Patriotism is more than a philosophically flawed form of arrogance. It has practical implications, with harmful results. Few things have impeded world peace and international cohesiveness than patriotism. Even where other evils are to blame–such as greed or corruption–patriotism has aided and abetted. Patriotism protects multinational corporations who profit from human rights violations. Patriotism absolves nations of the responsibility to deal with the human suffering that persists within their borders. It’s almost banal to point out how many wars have either started or escalated thanks to deep national pride. It encourages the repression of minorities–in the same way an American patriot might warn against the “browning” of America, Thai patriots refuse to offer asylum to the Rohingya. In the same way the Thais have a long history of expanding their territories by warring with the Burmese, Lao, Khmer, and Lanna peoples in the name of Siam, America systematically wiped Native Americans off the continent in the name of Manifest Destiny. Thailand insulates itself from foreign labor, thereby concealing its educational deficiencies, deteriorating the skill of its labor force, and crippling the Thai standard of living; America provides inadequate support to its ultimate “heroes” of patriotism–the veterans–who return with a myriad of mental and physical health issues. And if the human condition isn’t enough of a reason to worry about the ill effects of patriotism, look at how the environment suffers. Neither America nor China will prioritize curbing carbon emissions because they prefer volleying blame and responsibility. Patriotism fosters this finger-pointing and scapegoating. Nothing could be more counterproductive to the amelioration of our planet than the adherence to a stubborn tribal mentality–the insistence that our interests surpass the interests of others.

No nation is great simply because it’s “good.” The strength of a nation should be measured by its efforts to improve humanity as an international whole. No history, no propaganda, no anthem, no pledge of allegiance can conceal the evils of arrogance, no matter how much we pretend they can.

Getting a Thai Driver’s License

Getting a driver’s license: it’s a nuisance many foreigners avoid here in Thailand. Absurd as it may be, many foreigners come to a country boasting the sixth most vehicular fatalities in the world, to drive a vehicle they’ve never driven before without a license or a helmet. I was one of those foreigners (plus a helmet) until just over a month ago. Maybe it was the 400-baht tickets I got two days in a row, or maybe it was this growing need to settle in more and become a legalized member of society. Oh, who am I kidding? It was the tickets.

Anyway, this is a detailed play-by-play of how to get a Thai driver’s license. This particular post will be more accurate and detailed than my other articles about settling in Thailand. The reason is that there are some details that the other articles around the web have left out. So if you’re a newcomer to Thailand, rest assured this will be accurate detailed information, as long as it remains relevant. And if you’re just a faithful follower, then I hope you’ll appreciate the tedious simplicity of the process.

Let’s start with the requirements.

To qualify for a Thai driver’s license, you need to satisfy essentially three requirements:

  1. Be of sound mind and good health (that is, not having mental or physical handicaps that will prevent you from safely operating a vehicle)
  2. Be over 18.
  3. If not a Thai national, have a Non-Immigrant Visa. (So tourists, you can bugger off!)

Car or Motorcycle?

Do you want a license to drive a car or a motorcycle? As in many other countries, these are not the same. You can get both, but must apply to each one separately. If you already have either one (International or from your home country), you can bypass the driving and written test for the one you have, as long as it’s in English. For example, I have an automobile license from California (written in English, of course), but I don’t have a motorcycle license of any kind. I didn’t have to take either the driving or the written test to get my automobile license in Thailand. But I had to take both tests for the motorcycle license.

As would be expected, there’s paperwork

To apply, you’ll need to bring the following paperwork to your local Ministry of Land Transport office:

  • Application (which can be obtained at the office, or online)
  • Valid passport with valid Non-Immigrant Visa
  • Signed photocopies of your passport’s first page, the Non-Immigrant Visa page, and the page with the stamp of your last entry.
  • Valid International Driver’s License(s) or license from your home country (as long as it’s in English)
  • Signed photocopy of your driver’s license
  • A letter from the doctor verifying that you’re healthy enough (mentally and physically) to drive
  • Proof of address, which certifies that you reside in Thailand, from your country’s embassy, or from the Immigration Bureau (document must be no more than 30 days old), OR
  • Your Work Permit along with your tax identification number

You can use your work permit instead of the proof of address, but you’ll need your Thai tax identification number. If you’ve been in Thailand less than 12 months, you probably don’t have one, in which case you’ll need to go the embassy/immigration route.

NOTE: If you’re applying for both the car and motorcycle license, you’ll need a set of paperwork for each one. So double your application, certification of residence, and photocopies.

Proof of Address

Since I went to Immigration to get my proof of address, I’ll detail the process here. At least at the Jomtien Immigration office, it’s pretty straightforward. Talk to the people at the counter and tell them you want a letter certifying your residence. They’ll give you an application (make sure you get two if you’re applying for two licenses). Photocopy your passport main page, non-immigrant visa page, and your work permit main page and address page. Submit the completed application(s) and signed photocopies, along with 250 baht per application, receive a number, and go to the window where your number is called. A stamp here and a stamp there, and you’ll have your letter(s) certifying your residence in Thailand.

Head on over to the Land Transport office to submit your paperwork. At the Banglamung office, I did this at Window 11. (It’s a good idea to get there early, as there are usually a lot of people and you could end up there all day. The doors open at 8:30. I arrived at 7:45.)

Color Blindness, Reaction and Depth Perception Tests

Once you turn in your application bundle, they give you a green card with a number. When they call your name, you’ll be asked to line up with other applicants for your color blindness test. This involves a large grouping of colored dots on a poster about 2 to 3 meters away. They point to a color, and you say it. They perfectly understand the English color names, so don’t screw it up by trying to show off your Thai.

Then you and the other applicants gather around a chair that’s positioned behind reaction and depth perception testing apparatuses. For the reaction test, you sit in the chair and hold down an acceleration pedal. A set of green LEDs resembling a volume indicator illuminate. Once they climb into the red, you have to push the brake pedal immediately. The depth perception test involves holding a remote with a red and a green button. About two meters away, and above the green and red LEDs from the previous test, are two sticks. One remains stationary closest to you. The other moves horizontally towards you (and the stationary stick) when you press one of the buttons (I don’t remember which one, but the testing personnel make it pretty clear which). If you allow the moving stick to pass the stationary one, you fail. You get three attempts at both tests.

If this sounds confusing, don’t panic. At least at the Banglamung office, the testing guy had a really good system for making sure everyone understood—he simply gave instructions to a Thai applicant, and as the Thai applicant followed directions, all us non-Thai speakers saw how to do it.

If you don’t need to take the driving or written tests—in other words if you have a valid license (auto and/or motorcycle) in English—this is where you’d skip the next few steps and go straight to Payment and Photo.

Driving Test

Motorbike driving tests take place first thing in the morning (I don’t know about automobiles because I didn’t need to take one). So by the time you finish your paperwork and pass the color blindness, reaction, and depth perception tests, you’ll have missed the driving test for the day, and will have to return the next day. That’s honestly the most annoying part of the whole process.

When you arrive for your test, you should line your bike up with everyone else’s at the entrance to the course. They should already have your paperwork when they’re ready to begin. At the Banglamung office, once they verified our paperwork they had us gather in the center of the course. When we were all assembled, they explained to us (in Thai) that we were to watch a staff member drive through the course to see where to go and what to do.

It’s a pretty easy test. Its most notable “obstacles” include a short incline and decline, a cone slalom, remembering to stop completely at stop signs, signaling turns at intersections, and a 30-meter rubber plank, the length of which you must drive over without falling off (hint: increase your speed moderately). It’s over and done with fairly quickly, consuming only about 90 minutes of your morning, waiting time included.

Written Test

The written test is also basically a no-brainer, and there’s one available in English. If you’re American, and haven’t taken international driving courses or tests before, you might want to bone up on your knowledge of international signage and road markings. Our signage and markings in the U.S. vary in many ways. If you already have a good knowledge of international signage and road markings, and also possess even the slightest common sense, then the test is mostly straightforward.

As this is Thailand, however, there is one challenge to the test—it’s poorly translated into English. So on some questions the wording can be confusing. On a select few other questions, the “correct” Slide1answers are actually wrong. Then on a couple of other questions, the answers don’t pertain to the question. Take note of my mocked up example to the right.

Luckily, there are seemingly exhaustive cheat sheets available online. You’d be wise to read through them two or three times, especially to be aware of the “trick” questions. You have to score a 90%, which means getting no more than four questions wrong. If you fail, you have to come back the next day to retake it. Try to avoid something so ridiculous.

NOTE: when I took the written test, they had me wait in a video room, where a driving safety video was being played. However, the video had hardly begun before they called my name into the testing room. Maybe the safety video is optional, or maybe it depends on what time of day you take your test.

 

Pay Up

Once you’ve passed your tests, they’ll have you sign a form, and send you to window 3 to pay the fee. It’s so dirt cheap you’ll wonder why you ever risked getting an instant ticket or bribing a police officer. For a motorcycle license, it’s 155 baht. For the automobile license, it’s 205. Pay the money, get your receipt. Simple as that.

Say “Cheese”

Along with your receipt, the cashier will give you a blue plastic card with a number. After a 15- to 20-minute wait, your number will be called. Sit in front of the lovely lady and get your picture snapped. I can’t remember exactly, but it seemed there was a certain color or pattern shirt/blouse that doesn’t work well with the cameras and the background, but they have shirts and blouses available to put on over yours if that’s the case (so don’t sweat it). The “photographer” will ask you to verify your information (name and date of birth) on her computer screen. Then sit back down to wait again.

NOTE: They will in fact give you a separate card for each classification. So if you get both the automobile and the motorcycle licenses, you’ll end up with two physical licenses. It’s not a mistake; it’s just typical Thai inefficiency. And for that reason you’ll probably have to take two separate photos for each license.

After just a few minutes, they’ll call your name, and hand you your shiny new driver’s license. Easy, right?