My notebook is full of little sketches of maps that I’ve made after glimpsing something exciting from a taxi. I will have scribbled down shop names or soi numbers as landmarks and made cryptic notes like ‘basket shops’ or ‘red Chinese drum things’ to remind me what I’d seen from the taxi that I’d thought worth going back to explore. My Thai doesn’t stretch to ‘Ooh, can we stop for a second? I want to take a picture/see what’s in that shop but I'm not doing a runner and will be back a minute.’
The other day I was intent on going to Mega Bridge to take photos. Mega Bridge is, well, it’s mega; huge so there’s no mistaking it but it’s not a destination in itself. ‘I want to go to [destination]’ is part of my every day Thai but equipped with the new phrase ‘I want to take photographs’ I set off downstairs to find a taxi.
Taxis are plentiful but it’s a lottery what sort of experience you’re going to get. They’ll often refuse to take you (either because they don’t know where it is or because they don’t want to go that way (wtf?) or because your pitiful Thai hasn’t worked.) We have a family tactic to get into the taxi before telling him where we want to go: a sort of ‘bums on seats are nine tenths of the law’ attitude.
Astonishingly the first taxi didn’t tell me to get out. Our conversation (in Thai) went something like this:
Me: I want to go to Mega Bridge.
Him: *disbelief* Mega Bridge?
Me: Yes, Mega Bridge. I want to take photos.
Me: *squinting, placing imaginary camera in front of face and clicking*
Him *Grunt* Sort of assent.
We set off in silence and I began to doubt that it was a result. As soon as I spotted the bridge, I began to take pictures so he’d get the idea. Very slowly, he began to thaw. He asked me would I like him to go over the bridge; we did and then we came back over to the starting shore. We stopped at the side of roads, in the middle of the bridge (yikes) and under the bridge. When I thought I was being dropped at a destination and I tried to pay him. No, no, he said, not finished.
When I got back into the taxi, he was on the phone. He passed the handset to me to speak to a Thai man who spoke perfect English. “He wants to know where you’d like to go next.” We agreed a route, winding up alongside the river, taking in two more bridges and I passed the phone back to the taxi driver. We set off again, stopping at a park that was shut and he got out and asked the guard if I could go in and take pictures…
He was wonderful. I had the best adventure.
(I'm under no illusions that I'm a photographer. I take pictures for reference only.)