Racing in Thailand

As I wrote in the last article, on my trip to Thailand, I introduced the Thai folks to some good ol’ American-style car racing!!  Not real cars, of course, but slot cars and go-karts. When I was a kid, I raced slot cars at a big racing center, won a few organized races, and got free track time for every ‘A’ on my school report card. When I was raising my son, I found another slot car center with a big track, and we raced together weekly. For this trip to Thailand, I spent almost $300 on 3 different HO-scale AFX slot car track kits in Texas, crammed them into a big suitcase, and flew them to Thailand with us.  I also had to buy voltage converters for the power packs.  This gave me a good project to do over there, and I knew all our Thai friends and family would love it, because everyone loves slot cars, whether they know it or not! They have never seen or heard of slot cars, and most of them couldn’t afford it anyway, so this would be a real treat for them. My wife told them I was bringing little race cars (lot kang nit noy), and they assumed it was something for kids. They could not know the fun that was in store for them, as I knew.

Setting up the track took a lot of work. First, I had brother-in-law Dang (the same gentleman who cut the corner off the spirit-house slab in the last article) build a plywood table for the track. Thai people sit on the floor a lot, and I took advantage of that, making the table about 18 inches tall. This put the track at chest level, when sitting on the floor, and I didn’t have to provide chairs.  Dang did a great job.  Once he had the table built, my work began. I opened up the 3 track kits and put together the longest track I could, with 4 lanes. Turned out I couldn’t use all the track pieces I brought, but the extra cars and controllers came in very handy. With a custom track, the geometry didn’t work exactly right, and I had to nail the pieces to the table to keep them from popping apart. After 2 day’s work, this is what my track looked like. It might not look like much, but I had 4 lanes, 8 controllers, and 8 race cars ready for action,  for the Thai racers to choose from:

Slot car track finished

Before I opened the track for business, I examined the race cars. About 3 inches long, they were a marvel of engineering genius. Since I raced these cars as a kid, I observed the advancements made since then. These new cars had more power, angular slot pins, and magnets to help keep the car on the track at faster speeds. The car bodies were a work of art, with detailed Lemans and Formula 1 styles.   I tested the track, and ran all the cars on it. Some cars were faster than others, and some ran better on certain lanes, and I made mental notes of all this. This custom track had about 28 linear feet per lap, and these cars could make a lap in about 3 seconds.  HO scale is 1/64, so for that scale the track was about a third of a mile, and the cars were zipping around at scale speeds almost 400 MPH!! This translates into a quarter-mile time of about 2.5 seconds. A  full-size top fuel dragster makes the quarter-mile in 4.4 seconds, crossing the line at 335 MPH, so these little cars are really flying!! And if you don’t let off for the curves, they will truly fly, off the track and into the wall. Get 4 people racing at the same time, and this is a formula for great fun!! (sanook mahk!!)

A 10-year-old neighbor kid named Jing-Jong had heard I was bringing some kind of race cars, and he couldn’t wait to try them. He hung around until the track was finished, and I showed him how to run the cars. At first, he wouldn’t let off for the curves properly, and his car was flying off 3 or 4 times per lap. I showed him how to run some fast laps without crashing, and he slowly got the hang of it. He tried every car, and like me, discovered that some were better than others. He picked out the fastest car, and acted like he owned it.

Fern and Jing-Jong....

....clowning around

Ladies from the bank....

....having great fun!!

Soon everyone was trying out the track, and they all loved it. I took some photos, but this is less than half of the people who ran the cars. After a couple of days, we announced that we would hold races, and the winner would get a crisp new American 1-dollar bill (worth 30 Thai baht). We had gotten a $100 bundle of new Washingtons from the bank back home. That night, the real fun began. I did not race, but acted as sponsor and referee. I could have won most of the races, but I wanted my Thai friends to have fun, learn about racing for themselves, and have a better chance to win. In practice time, everyone was crashing a lot, and everyone was helping everyone else put the cars back on the track. Before we started the races, I announced, through my wife, that the races would be 20 laps. We also announced that when they crashed, everyone had to put their cars back on the track themselves, with NO HELP (MY CHUAY). I thought this would make them be more careful and drive better, but…….  no.  What it did was add chaos to the fun, with everyone running around the table every few seconds, when they crashed at the far end or on the other side.

Start your engines

Racing, crashing...

...reaching, running

There was also lots of yelling, because when people put their cars back on the track, the car in next lane would hit their fat fingers and crash. Then another person was running around the table, with the first person running back to his controller, and they almost ran into each other! It was hilarious!!  Everyone was smiling and laughing, non-stop. Jing-Jong added more chaos, because when his car crashed, he would lay his controller down so that the wire was on the track, and more cars would crash on that! His name was very popular.

But Jing-Jong won a lot of the races, because he had practiced the most, and he knew which car was the fastest. The other folks noticed this, but we all let him race the fast car, because he was the youngest and he was enjoying it so much. He was also enjoying all the dollar bills he was collecting…..

Joy helps Jing-Jong count $$

I'M RICH!!!

My other “racing”  goal was to take Thai people to a go-kart track, to drive real racing machines on a real track. There are no tracks in our area of Thailand, but I have driven karts when we went to Phuket in the south. This time, we rented a van and took a total of 10 people to Chiang Mai, in the mountains of north Thailand. I knew there was a go-kart track there, and I did some research and had the locations of 2 of them. The van driver knew about another one. He called that one and said no answer. I had the phone number of a second one, but not the third one. I gave him the phone number I had, he called it and said out of service. I was very bummed out…..  I was about to be deprived of my fun.

Thank goodness I had bought a plug-in internet “air card” that you plug into the USB port of your laptop for 3G internet. It is slow, but it works. Riding in the van, I found the website of the third track, and found the phone number. He called it and it was open!! Thank God, I thought, now we can have some real fun instead of visiting temples, no matter how pretty, or tourist shopping traps, no matter how charming. We made it to the track, and I told all the folks with us I would pay for them to drive the karts. Three of them took me up on it, including the van driver. This cost me 3200 baht, over $100, but it was well worth it, to give them a chance to do something they had never done before, race real karts on a real track! Too bad Jing-Jong wasn’t along, he would have loved it.

This track was different than any other track I have driven, because it was highly-polished concrete with a metal roof over it (protected from rain and sun)….. and they called the carts “drifter” karts. And drift they did! After a couple of laps I was almost going sideways thru some of the corners. It was a blast!! Just needed more power to maintain the drift. The tires left no marks on the slick concrete. They found the right combination of concrete polish and tires. I don’t know if there is a track like this anywhere else in the world, but there should be. It was more fun than the indoor electric karts at “Pole Position” in Las Vegas that are hyped so much. They told us 15 minutes of karting, but they gave us a little more.

Me catching Yong outside

me about to pass Fern

The others had no kart experience, except the van driver had done it once at another track.  But they were having great fun, learning how to slide the karts.  The photos don’t capture the sliding very well, but we were sliding all over the place.  I made the most of the time, going as fast as I could, having a blast. I lapped the others 3 or 4 times in the 15 minutes. I usually had to set up on the outside, slide early, and pass on the inside when the other driver slid wide coming out of the turn. My wife was taking the photos, and the other folks were with her, taking it all in. They had never seen anything like this before. Her sister-in-law said I was “chasing” the others, that I was “being mean to them.”

I was proud of my wife’s reply…..  She said no, that is what they are supposed to do. The others are passing each other, too.  This is racing, and everyone goes as fast as they can. If that means passing, then you pass. That’s what she told them….. So she has actually learned something from all my years of riding and racing.

Check out the website of this place, called X-Centre, http://www.chiangmai-xcentre.com/chiangmai_gokarts.htm , actually this should be the webpage about the karts. You can check out the other pages about the dirt bikes, dirt buggies, bungie jump, paintball, and zorb balls. I tried to get the 17-year old niece with us (Fern) to do a zorb ball, but she wouldn’t. My wife wouldn’t let me do a dirt bike ride, which have to be pre-scheduled, anyway.

If you are into non-motorized  mountain bicycle riding, Chiang Mai is a rare treat. The mountains are awesome, but fairly gentle, as mountains go. There is a business called “Mountain Biking Chiang Mai”, that caters to tourists who are bikers. Here is their website  http://mountainbikingchiangmai.com/index.html   For less than $100 for a day ride, they will provide good bicycles, helmets, pads, and other gear. They will truck you up to the top of the mountain, and you ride down, with a guide. Elevation drops from top to bottom are as much as 5400 feet. That is over a mile!!! This would be an epic ride in tropical mountains, but sadly I did not get to do it this time. If you go to Thailand, and crave adventure on 2 wheels or 4, Chiang Mai is the place to go.

Here are some other pics from Chiang Mai. It is a beautiful place with many centuries of history, as a city-state with its own king, then as a part of the kingdom of Thailand:

Angry "MOM"

Quiet "MOM" (No DAD lizard)

Emerald buddha at mountain-top temple

Yow rings bells

Top of stairs at mountain-top temple

Fern at bottom of stairs

Aquarium at shopping mall

Aquarium + cars at shopping mall

Hot springs with geyser

Water dragons at mountain-top temple

Thai Ronald McD

Gate guardian at temple

Tribute to King and Queen

Stunning temple grounds

Beautiful temple front

Awesome temple interior

Life-size elephants and huge buddha

Fern on swing at temple

Family monument at cemetery

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Amazing temple grounds from Ferris wheel

 

 

 

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About goldenmeantx
Truth seeker, fact finder, amateur philosopher, amateur historian, ex-soldier, ex-motorcycle racer, world traveler, rancher, hunter, gun owner, dirt bike rider, mountain bicycle rider, husband, father, grandfather, hard worker, good friend to all who put up with me, and even some who don't.

One Response to Racing in Thailand

  1. Anonymous says:

    Looks like a fun racing setup (both slot-cars and drifting carts).

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