Many of you won’t know that Gaun’s lovely daughter Peng developed a medical condition when young, which required an operation and has since left her with some limitations in her ability to walk. I am hopeful that some of the actions we have and are about to take shortly will make an improvement but in the meantime Peng is more housebound than other children of her age, she has just turned 14.
Because she has little power in her legs she can’t hold up a bicycle or motorbike and can’t walk long distances comfortably. Thai kids can use a motorbike from the age of 12 legally or younger illegally but ignored largely by the police to go to and from school or around their village so the inability to use one is a real handicap to “normal” life here.
When in Chiang Rai last year we came across a very old three wheel motorbike produced in the 90’s by Honda with a small 50 cc engine. I did some research on the web and was disappointed to find that they were no longer being manufactured and that there are almost no alternatives on the market. Three wheeled transport for the elderly or disabled tend to be electric battery based.
Earlier this year in Chiang Mai we came across a lady who had a new looking Gyro and stopped to have a chat – well Gaun chatted and I just looked interested. It turned out there is a place in Chiang Mai that reconditions old Gyros. We got their details and called in to see them. It ended up that for 30,000 THB, which is about $1,000, they will provide an old Gyro and turn it into something that looks pretty good and works.
I recently decided that we would get one of these motorbikes for Peng so that she could do simple but liberating things like go the the local Moo Baan shop and see her friends without having to rely on other people to take her. We ordered the bike and selected a colour at the beginning of this month with a delivery date a week later. I wanted it to arrive in Isaan when we were visiting there from the 10th of June, so on the 9th we took possession of the Gyro and had it delivered to the Thai Post Office for shipping to Si Bun Ruang.
We were disappointed to hear from the Post Office that it could take up to 10 days to deliver, which would be after our time in Isaan at the family home. However as long as it worked for Peng then that was the main thing.
We arrived in Si Bun Ruang on the 10th after a trouble free full day’s drive. We had a very active and fun time there, which I will cover in several blog entries soon. Have you ever seen a 30 foot firework that brings down commercial aircraft? I have video!
A few days after we arrived a call came through telling us the bike was ready for collection at the local Post Office. It had only taken four days to get there. Great excitement all round in the Gaun household.
Despite our best efforts the motorbike addition to the Vansutha household hasn’t been a total success for Peng yet. The design of the bike has the two wheel section, the gray part below the seats at the back, stable on the ground. However the rest of the bike pivots or leans around that stable base as a normal motorbike would although in a more restrained way. Therefore it is still possible to tip the riding part of the bike onto the ground if not held upright, something Peng isn’t able to do. When stationary the bike has a locking mechanism that stops the tipping action but it is designed more as a parking aid than a regular option. The starter motor also packed it in shortly after arrival, a problem when 600 km from the people who rebuilt it.
The situation was saved by Gaun who is observant in a way I never will be and remembers her photos down to the last detail. Do you remember the first photo of the original Gyro Gaun took in Chiang Rai? Here again:
The two springs at the back installed post production are designed to hold the non-stable part of the bike upright and prevent that part from tipping over. Eureka! All we needed to do was replicate this solution and Peng would be able to use the bike knowing it wouldn’t throw her off.
The motorbike was duly delivered to the local bike repair shop to have the starter motor repaired, the spring system installed and a full mechanical check made. Total cost including all labour – $130.00. I had confidence in the bloke we let it with. Anyone who can keep this running as his daily transport has to be worth using:
So a story without a happy ending so far but looking good. I hope to report this week that Peng is fully mobile and whizzing around the Moo Baan visiting friends and having time to herself. In the meantime I will show you how the bike should be ridden by an expert.
Thanks for reading.