Archive for the ‘vehicles’ Category

Lao Minivan in Bangkok

December 31, 2009

I do not see many vehicles with foreign license (registration) plates in Thailand. I can recall four in the past year.

This Lao registered Hyundai Starex minivan stood out in my local supermarket car park a couple of days ago. The owner must be very rich. Laos is still a Communist country and one of the poorest in the world. The country is small and landlocked and I think most of the world has forgotten about it after the tragedy of the Vietnam War.

Lao Hyundai Starex Minivan in Bangkok

Lao Hyundai Starex Minivan in Bangkok - front

Laos uses a different alphabet to Thailand so I can’t read the plate or get any of my Thai friends to help. Wikipedia has articles on the Vehicle Registration Systems for most countries but it does not have one for Laos.

Lao Hyundai Starex Minivan in Bangkok

Lao Hyundai Starex Minivan in Bangkok - rear

They do not sell the Hyundai Starex in Thailand. The styling is quite distinctive.

Kässbohrer-Setra Coach

December 20, 2009

Kässbohrer-Setra Coach in Thailand
This is the first Kässbohrer-Setra coach I have seen in Thailand. It’s entering the Dusit Thani Hotel. The coach is operated by a big private coach operator Namptech for Assumption University (ABAC) “The First International University in Thailand”. Unfortunately it wasn’t loaded with students.The language of instruction at ABAC is English. Their graduates are prized by many businesses as the normal standard of English taught here is low.

I usually see an ABAC coach outside the Dusit Thani on weekends when I go to the nearby Subway Station. The university must have a regular meeting or function there.

Due to the high tax on imported chassis many buses and coaches in Thailand are re-bodied. That’s why this one looks newer than its registration (license plate) implies.

Oldsmobile Cutlass in Bangkok

December 18, 2009

I re-found this picture on my Flickr photostream by chance when somebody made it a favourite.

Oldsmobile Cutlass in Bangkok
It bought back memories because I rented a car just like it (even the same colour) from National Car Rental in California in 1982. I’d never been in anything so huge – let alone driven it. My car in England was a Mini.

I cannot imagine it’s a practical drive in Thailand for many reasons, its size being just one of them. But you definitely get noticed.

Thailand Motor Expo 2009

December 4, 2009

As planned, I went to see the Thailand Motor Expo 2009 show on Thursday afternoon. They have a free shuttle bus from Chatuchak Park Subway Station / Mo Chit Skytrain Station. The problem is the small Golden Dragon buses are very cramped and the driver waits until it is full with 19 passengers before departing. This took twenty minutes and the overall journey was the best part of one hour through heavy Northern Bangkok traffic.

IMPACT Link Shuttle Bus

IMPACT Link Shuttle Bus

Then I found that a member of the Thai Royal Family was visiting the show at the same time. Thus the exhibition was surrounded by hundreds of army and police officers. The Thai forces are extremely efficient when members of the Royal Family are involved.

They were not letting any guests into the building so I had to hand around outside. After about 45 minutes a convoy drew up to the main entrance. The police kept us well away from that area. But I was able to photograph the vehicles. After the Royal Person (I don’t know who it was) went into the hall the cars came near me to turn around for a speedy departure.

That group consisted of a cream Mercedes-Benz S-Class, four red BMW 5-Series and two escorting police cars: a slightly older BMW 5-Series and a Toyota Camry.

Royal Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Royal Mercedes-Benz S-Class

A military band played as the Royal Person entered the hall.

It was all very impressive.

When I finally got into the exhibition hall I was running a bit late. I had to pay 80 Baht entrance fee. If I had bought a ticket at the Subway Station I could have got one for 40 Baht but they were out when I asked. Still, 80 Baht is very cheap and it included the return bus to the Subway.

The exhibition was in three halls of the enormous IMPACT Muang Thong Thani Exhibition Centre. It’s the biggest in Thailand and maybe in the region. It’s also a well-known venue for concerts.

I only had time to visit one hall, but it was the one with the major manufacturers’ stands.

I was not disappointed: almost every stand had a team of pretty girls promoting the vehicles.

BMW Pretty

BMW Pretty

There were plenty of photographers around, many with some expensive kit. I took my Canon EOS-30D with the Canon 580EX flash and my widest angle lens. It is, I confess the old “kit lens” from the EOS-300D – the Canon EF-S 18-55mm.

Photographing the Pretties

Photographing the Pretties

I know serious photographers deride this lens, but for my purposes of taking “record” shots for display on the web it was fine and I appreciated the 18mm wide-angle. Of course it was the wrong lens to have when I was photographing the Royal vehicles outside. But I had enough high quality pixels shooting in RAW that I obtained adequate pictures after cropping in Lightroom.

I think the ideal lens for this job would have been my friend’s fast Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM with its high speed and thus shallower depth-of-field. Maybe he’ll allow me to borrow it some day.

Canon EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM

Canon EF-S 17-55mm f2.8 IS USM - the ideal lens for the job?

I saw a small but high-quality exhibit of older vehicles including this Jaguar E-Type.

Jaguar E-Type

Jaguar E-Type

The Tata Nano was on the Tata stand. I don’t know if they plan to sell it in Thailand. I think it is too small for the market. Outside Bangkok people haevily favour light trucks like the Isuzu DMax and the Toyota Hilux Vigo – both made in Thailand.

Tata Nano

Tata Nano

The show runs through 13th December. If I have time I’ll go again and take more time to look around. There were some exhibits on the outside of the halls like a 4×4 obstacle course. It was not in use when I went to look. Perhaps it is an evening attraction.

Overall I was impressed with the Motor Expo. It was easily as professional and interesting as those I have been to in England and America.

Here are slide shows from the 2008 and 2009 shows.

Singapore Vehicle License Plate Check Character Calculator & Validator

November 23, 2009

Here’s something extremely obscure!

A few years ago I spent a lot of time in Singapore and, as always, wanted to understand their system of vehicle registration places (license plates).

The basic system is easy to understand.Wikipedia has some basic documentation here.

Here’s an illustration from Wikipedia of a current private vehicle plate design (front and rear).

It’s British heritage is obvious but the Singapore Government made an enhancement that’s unusual. Almost every license plate (apart from military and diplomatic plates) has an alphabetic character at the end. It’s not a “year letter” like the old British system but a “check character”.

The check character is calculated from the values of the other characters in the plate and serves as a validator. If you make a mistake recording the plate the check character will be wrong.

As far as I know the Singapore Government does not document the check character generation algorithm for the public. I had a big database of Singapore license plates I’d observed and back in 2002 I tried to reverse-engineer the algorithm.

My mathematics isn’t the best so I got some help from somebody on the Internet. He quickly helped me understand the system and I wrote some Microsoft Visual Basic code to calculate check characters and to validate them.

I published a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with the code on my web site, but I closed it down in 2007 as an economy measure. When I discovered Scribd I decided to re-publish it as a service to anyone else who’s interested in the subject.

In the spirit of open-source I placed the code in the public domain under a GNU General Public License. I don’t know how many people are interested in this obscure subject but if you are, you’re welcome to the code.

After the break is an embedded form of the spreadsheet from Scribd. Don’t worry about the “VALUE” errors in the preview – Scribd rendered the preview incorrectly.

I am not a great Visual Basic coder so I’m sure many people can improve the code. I’ve tested it on hundreds of Singapore plates of all types including the new “SMB” bus plates and it works. But of course that isn’t a formal proof of correctness. As the license says – no warranty!

When I wrote the code I put lists of validated registration plates for the various classes of Singapore buses on the Singapore Buses Discussion Board on Yahoo Groups. They’re still there in the “Files” section over seven years later.


The Honda 50 Motorcycle

October 15, 2009

Honda 50 Motorcycle
According to the Honda 50 or Honda Cub is “the best-selling vehicle in the history of internal combustion, and there are now more than 60 million of them on the road”.

The Honda 50, its variants and competitors from Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki are everywhere in Thailand. The Honda 50 was a major factor in giving rural people mobility and freedom. Even the very poor have one available and they go on for ever.

I like this old Honda 50 with the single seat. I saw it outside Chatuchak Market in Bangkok. I wish the owner didn’t cover it with stickers, but apart from that it looks great. Every time I see an old Honda 50 or similar bike I take a picture.