Bangkok’s main shopping – the pulse – occurs in an L-shape. We stayed approximately 3kms away from the hustle and ever since that invention of Henry Ford, we are so not going to walk. Thailand – like India – sports swarms of tuk-tuks. Capitalistic logic dictates that a 3-wheeler should be cheaper than an air conditioned metered taxi. Not. An average tuk-tuk of questionable hygienic seats and dodgy bodywork charges 150B (R34.27) for the short trip, where as a reasonably well looked after old Toyota Corolla with impeccable air conditioning charged us 80B (the cheapest was on a Sunday morning for 50B … R11.42). It became a non-brainer and aircon taxi it was then. One has to wonder about the logic of the foolish (read: dumb) tourists who kept on using these open air caskets – with the heavy traffic, it is not like they will be at their destination any faster.
Taking a taxi was relatively easy. You wave one down, you climb in, you ask for meter to be switched on and you repeat “China Town” about 4 times. Honestly, how many ways can one pronounce this? And then, about 500 meters later, the driver will say “oh, China Town”, like we have been pronouncing it wrong all along. The choice Afrikaans swearing one indulge in, is enough to even make me blush, was it not for the heat which gave me a rosy glow in any case. After 21:00 the sequence changes somewhat. Despite the “taxi meter” sign on the roof, the driver is reluctant to switch the meter on, and rather negotiate a flat rate … usually double, now I might be a lot of things, but stupid is not one of them. If we paid 80B to get here, we want to pay 80B to get back to the hotel. Thailand doesn’t share Zimbabwe’s inflation rate. I cannot guarantee, after a full day of intense retail therapy that my swearing was kept exclusively to Afrikaans. Normally, by opening the door and starting to climb out, the driver gave in and switched the meter on. It was the first time we had to do this that my initial opinion about them not being as opportunistic as the Indians started to change. Cannot really hide the fact that we are tourists. I am double their size and less pigmented … sort of a dead giveaway.
Taxi drivers’ courteousness is directly related to payment. 1B = R0.23 and their smallest note is 20B (R4.56). Thus, if the fare is close to a hundred, give a hundred, otherwise they give you a bag full of coins that all look the same. It was only when we paid them more than what was on the meter, that we got ‘happy new year and a smile” as we climbed out. Suppose my mother was wrong when she taught me that a smile costs nothing.
Some taxi drivers were indeed humorous. We had a guy who saw the need to sing-a-long (a loud) to a CD he had going. Every time my giggling became too loud, he would skip to the following track.
Continue reading Thailand – part 3 (of 9).