Thursday, February 3, 2011

Motorcycle Riding in Nepal

You all read about my first head accessory purchase here, and this post documents my second: a motorcycle helmet.

When I showed up to the office on Monday for my first field visit, I learned that I would be riding with Sanjeev on his motorcycle. To clarify, I am fine with motorcycles -- they are, after all, a way of life here. Instead of the family minivan, you frequently see the family moto, with two parents and up to three children packed onto one. Moto taxis are also common in many Southeast Asian countries, and one of my fellow Kiva Fellows has reported that her host office dispatches a moto taxi every morning to pick her up and sends her home on one in the evening. Not bad! And, as I wrote in this post about crossing the street in Nepal, city traffic moves at relatively slow speeds, so my scary associations of motorcycle drivers zooming down highways at 100 miles per hour simply do not apply here.

My only qualm with motorcycles here, and in other parts of South and Southeast Asia, is the helmet law, which requires that only the driver wears a helmet. Clearly, that is not going to work for me, so when I realized that a motorcycle might be a frequent transportation mode out to the field, I knew that I needed to buy my own helmet pronto.

For advice, I turned to my friend Heather, who has been driving a motorcycle here for several years. She recommended a Thailand-made helmet, which is higher quality than the helmets manufactured here. She also insisted on a helmet that covers the rider's jaw, and not one of those dinky round caps that covers just the top of the head. Good tips.

Yesterday I went hunting around Patan for a helmet shop and found one within about 15 minutes. After eliminating the previously mentioned dinky caps and non-Thailand made helmets, I was left with just two choices in the smallest size. One was 1,500 rupees (about $25) and the other was 2,600 rupees (about $35). So, in my mind, I really had only one choice: the more expensive helmet. To be sure, this was not a time for frugality.

Meet my helmet:

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Now I know you may be thinking, "That thing is just not Claudine's style." Yes, it is flashy and frankly looks rather ridiculous. But I think I am going to learn to love it.


Brian said...

Sweet! I'd like to see a photo montage of you wearing the helmet in banal, unrelated situations (washing dishes, reading a book, ballroom dancing).

Claudine said...

Excellent idea. I will work on that.

Rebecca said...

I spy a marketing niche for J.Crew---the moto-prep....