One of the words I have heard most frequently used to describe this crazy city is ‘easy’. As in, ‘Bangkok is so easy,’ ‘everything is so easy here,’ ‘I’m hungry at 3am, no problem – KFC deliver! It’s easy!’ And there are plenty more examples of the, shall we say, convenience of Bangkok into which I will delve another time. Today though, the feature I want to dwell upon is the taxis.
Oh the taxis, in their many hues and states of disrepair or pimped-outness, roaring or crawling around the streets at every hour, to convey you and your shopping home from Tesco Lotus, you and your bottle of cheap whiskey (but not your dignity) home from Patpong or Soi 11, you and your hangover to work. And it is on these journeys that I have been lucky enough to meet some of the finest inhabitants of Bangkok, the drivers. While some are perfectly quiet, polite and efficient and others are sullen and look at me disapprovingly (usually – but not always- with good reason) and with that certain venom that some Thais seem to reserve for farangs (more on this here), there are a few among the vast taxi driving numbers who are utter treasures. Either because of their charm, banter or quirks, I’d like to regale you with a few examples of these gems.
There was the fellow who, on pulling up to my block at 4am and turning to see me scrabbling around madly in the footwell, calmly opened the passenger door, discreetly averted his eyes as I stumbled out, leaned in and fished my lost earring out of the passenger door pocket in one fell swoop. Hero!
There was the charming, toothless chap in Rankamhaeng wearing a very fetching alice band who, whenever we were paused, took the occasional sip from an elegant teacup which he had wedged in by the handbrake.
There was the driver who deserves a medal for putting up with a group of my friends from home as they joked, squawked, slipped the handbrake on and the gearstick into neutral, leaned out of the window and opened his door whilst in motion, waited for a motorbike to pass close by and banged on the window so that he jumped, thinking he had hit it. In the face of all this, he had nothing but good humour for them. Show me a London cabbie who would react similarly.
Another friend and her boyfriend were delighted by their driver who merrily chatted to them, asked them their life stories and, on arrival, had them sign his guest book in which he pointed out a name that apparently belonged to a man from England, ‘a black man! Black man from England! You know him?’
But my favourite so far has to be the wizened and smiley owner of the most enormous collection of badges I have ever seen, pinned all over the dashboard and roof, they clinked and jingled cheerily as he drove. When we were temporarily stationary in Bangkok’s notorious and preposterous traffic, he eyed me in the rear view mirror and asked, ‘music?’ I smiled and, assuming he was going to turn the radio on, found myself completely unprepared for him to retrieve a wooden flute out from the sun visor on which he proceeded to toot prodigiously, every moment we were at a standstill. I was overcome by delight and now want to launch a search for this superstar. Have you seen him? Let’s track him down, spread the word!
Meanwhile, do share your experiences of the truly unique taxi drivers out there, they are the unsung heroes of this city and should be celebrated somehow!