Taxi rides deserve their own blogs? Well in Bangkok they do!
Taxi drivers were the reason why I actually learned the Thai language. They kept going to places I did not want to go to or had no idea where I wanted to go to. So, telling them how to get there is essential in Bangkok. Most of them do not speak English or very little English anyway. A recent training that Bangkok Post reported on in July will surely change absolutely nothing. 1000 drivers where trained but there are more than 100.000 taxis in Bangkok and it's neighbouring provinces. The training was held to prepare Thai taxi drivers for the upcoming Asean Economic Community in 2015 and I can only imagine that the cabbies will continue just like they always have:
- Most of them do not say anything or speak very little. I have had some nice drivers but generally they will not say much.
- One typically has to "ask" the driver before getting in, if he is willing to go where you want to go to and if they are willing you are met with a nod. If not, they will just shake their head.
- Traffic seems to be a key decision factor if they want to go your way. If there is any danger of traffic backing up, they will simply not go.
Twice this week I had to walk for an hour because taxi drivers did not take me (plus, I gave up waving them down, the closer I got to my destination). Bangkok's traffic is known world wide for being one of the worst. So it should not come as a surprise that there is a traffic jam everywhere. To go around the traffic jam (and to screw Caucasians) they offer to go via Expressway and will make a huge detour, which the customer have to pay for.
In my years of traveling to Bangkok I have always been annoyed with the drivers. Up to a point where I even employed my own driver for a number of years. Which in the end also ran up a huge bill!
Taxi drivers are supposed to study for a licence and are being tested for the streets of the city they drive in. However, I have met many many drivers who had no idea where my main street, small side street, Hotel or temple was. To not lose their face, they curved around for a while, until I asked them to stop and continued to walk.
Where the taxi drivers are good, is to be politically active. They supported mostly the red shirt demonstrators because most drivers come from the North or North-East of Thailand. Very few supported the then yellow shirts. Stickers on the cars actually identified them as either/or! They are also known as groups who block the traffic to support their demonstrating fellows and who organized transportation to and from the demonstrations.
They never seem to have change, but to be fair, a taxi ride in Bangkok is very cheap. I usually go from the city across the river to temples and pay about 80 to 100 Baht for a one-way trip. In comparison, a Grande Caramel Macchiato at my favourite Coffee Shop costs 135 Baht!!
A word which one better knows in Bangkok is รถติด (rot̄h tid) ...Traffic Jam! You will hear it a lot. Not surprisingly in a City which is known for it's notorious traffic jams.
My German friend who shared this weeks experience with me categorized taxi's as follows:
1) find one
2) find one who is empty
3) find one who is empty and willing to drive you where you want to go
4) find one who is empty, willing to drive you where you want to go AND switch the meter on
Well, happy travel experience everyone!!!