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I now have my Thai (automobile) driver's license.  The entire process took just under two-and-a-half hours but really wasn't very difficult.

Franz and I arrived at the Provincial Land Transport Office in Phuket City just before it's 8:30 opening this morning.  There were already a dozen or so Thai people waiting.   As soon as a few workers appeared behind the counter, everyone rushed up without any semblance of order.  A couple of workers tried to form the mass into a proper queue but it didn't really work.  The application form was in Thai but we didn't have to fill any of it out ahead of time.

Once I got to the head of the line, I handed my pile of papers to the lady behind the counter.  She asked if I wanted a car license or one for motorbikes.  I told her both and she said that I could only use the International Driving Permit for one license and that I would have to take the motorbike test.  If I only obtained the car license today, I could come back another day and use the IDP to apply for the motorbike license without taking a driving test.  I, of course, opted for this since I can't actually drive a motorbike that doesn't have a sidecar attached to it.

Also, I didn't bring any copies of the IDP (nothing I'd read mentioned they needed copies) so I was sent over to the photocopying queue.  They didn't accept Franz's tabien baan (house registration book) as proof-of-residency so he was sent to the Immigration Office to get the proper form.  (Supposedly, this isn't allowed for driving licenses anymore but he returned an hour later with the 100-baht address proof and this was readily accepted.)

All of the proper copies in hand, I once again handed the pile to the clerk.  She stapled everything together, had my write my name at the top of the application, and sent me upstairs to a testing room.  The queue snaked out of this room and down the hallway.  There were several other farangs staring through the windows trying to figure out the purpose of the various exams we were to undergo and hoping the administrator spoke enough English to give them instructions.  While waiting, we watched a number of Thai people struggle with the tests; the lady in charge had a good sense of humor and allowed each person to try until they passed (we figured she didn't want to lose face by failing anybody).

The first test was for reaction time.  There were two pedals on the floor; we had to give "gas" to the right-side pedal and when a series of green LED's began lighting up we had to quickly stomp on the left-hand pedal before the LED's turned to red.  Many of the people seemed to struggle with this greatly but I got it on the first try.

You then had to pull two long strings to align a pair of uprights (reminded me of football goalposts) inside of a large block.  One guy pulled the string so hard that it broke!  After that, the lady pointed to various cirlces of color on a large board (reminded me of a psychedelic poster from the 60's) while you called out which color she was pointing to.  The trouble with this was that most of the color circles were so small that her pen would completely cover them when she pointed.  Finally, your peripheral vision was tested by placing your head against a dot while she flashed colored lights opposite of your ears.  Everyone struggled with this one. I couldn't tell the difference between the green and yellow lights but I seemed to guess correctly as I didn't have to retry this one.

The lady then signed your application (the top sheet on your stack of paperwork) with a flourish and sent you back downstairs.  Someone told me to take a number and wait until I was called.  The numbers were called out in Thai and I ended up helping a few other farangs by telling them when their numbers were up (I'm glad I've mastered that bit of the language!).

When it was my turn I approached the counter.  The lady asked to see my passport and she compared it with the photocopies.  I was then asked to sign all of the copies and if I wanted the license laminated.  I was given the blank driver's license card to sign and then pointed to the cashier.  I paid 105 baht and was given a receipt.  Ten minutes later they called my name ("Khun Mark") and asked for ten baht for the already-laminated card.

The first driver's license is good for one year.  The day after it expires (you can't do it before or on the day it expires), you take the old license back to the transport office and they swap it (no tests of any kind) for a five-year license.

I'll report back on how that goes next year...