I think it's perfectly normal to issue a tiny prayer every time I get into a Bangkok taxi. And that's not even when the taxi has answered my wave by swerving towards me over two lanes. In that circumstance, I'll offer up a pretty big prayer.
There is no 'Knowledge' here. I think if you want to be a taxi driver, you probably just apply to the 'taxi permit' office, pay your baht, and off you go. Sometimes we have such awful, hideous journeys and we stagger out of the car, astonished we didn't die on the way." Did you give him a tip?" I ask my husband. "Yes," he says, "I told him to change his break pads." Still, it's amazing how quickly you adapt. I'm quite shocked when I discover a seat belt AND a plug! Usually there's a seat belt but no plug; the plug gets sucked through the join in the seat and the backrest, never to be retrieved and after a run in with a GIGANTIC cockroach, yomping towards me on the backseat recently, I'm NOT putting my hand in there.
And we don't have a car. We don't really need a car because we live in the middle of Bangkok, near to the skytrain and underground trains which are strictly limited in the ground they cover in Bangkok… still, the taxis are plentiful...
|From my notebook|
The other option is a motorbike; a motorbike taxi. These congregate at specified points every few hundred yards: at busy junctions or at the ends of sky train routes and they are tempting because they can weave through the Bangkok traffic. (Oh dear, I sense a theme.) It's hot here; walking can be unpleasant and if you are Thai you can perch delicately sidesaddle on the back of a bike and get there much, much quicker. But if you're farang (Foreigner) and scared like me, you sit like a man, legs each side. Fares are fixed although there seems to be the inevitable Thai rate and farang rate. In our early years I took a few bikes down our soi... (Don't tell my Mum!) It was a small road, two way but only one lane on each side. I have to tell you, it was quite exciting. It contravened everything I'd been programmed to believe. I'd heard tales from my Dad of young men who clutter up the orthopedic wards having come off their motorbikes. He theorized that there was a direct correlation between the higher the engine size, the shorter their life expectancy. (He really, bless him, didn't like motorcyclists and used to propose the use of shoulder-height piano wire outside the house as they raced up and down the 30 mile limit.) One day I couldn't get a taxi and took a motorbike up a different soi on my way to the chiropractor. I underestimated how much faster that road was than my tiny soi (it was Ekkamai, for any Bangkokians reading this) and it had at least three lanes in each direction. Terrifying. We flew. And then screech to halt as the traffic would slow and we'd weave over to another lane. Sometimes we'd be unable to get up between the vehicles and we'd find a dropped kerb and mount the pavement. There's always this awful dilemma of whether to allow my long farang legs to be kneecapped or whether to grip this strange Thai man tightly between my thighs.
Anyway, I came to my senses after that trip up Ekkamai. I was a Mum; there are no leathers, no helmets even. Then one day I got a call saying someone I knew had come off a bike on her way home; would I visit her in hospital? And that was the end of my foray into motorbike taxis.