Monday, February 13, 2006

bangkok taxi drivers are dangerous assholes

An educated Thai friend of mine recently remarked in awe: "It's fascinating because the way they drive, you can tell they don't care about getting into an accident or anything, and so many of them do."

The Nation

Re: “Taxi ordeal followed by tuk-tuk nightmare”, Letters, February 13.

The letter from A Concerned Thai Resident prompts me to add a few words to his or her description of the shabby treatment many (most?) foreigners are subjected to in Bangkok by unscrupulous, unpleasant and often reckless taxi and tuk-tuk drivers. What are the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and Thai Tourism Authority doing to rectify this outrageous situation? Don’t they hear or see anything?

Why not launch a courtesy campaign to teach these people the basics in decent human behaviour and also, by the same token, have them take some driving lessons and teach them the geography of Bangkok? (So many of them are at a loss finding their way around.) Don’t the municipal and tourist authorities realise that these guys give a bad image to the travellers? They are the first Thais dealt with outside the airport. Or does the fact that some big shot courts them by organising lotteries and distributing cash to them place them out of the reach of the law? It is a real shame.

I, for one, never fail to warn my friends and colleagues coming to Bangkok to be on their guard when taking a cab; brace themselves (no seat-belts in the backs of taxis), because speed limits are no obstacle; check that the driver turns the meter on and get out immediately if he refuses to do so; and make sure to carry small change, to avoid being short-changed.

Of course, you occasionally meet a nice and honest driver, but these are the exceptions that prove the rule. As for the police, tourist or not, I wouldn’t bet 10 satang on them (although again, there are exceptions). Bangkok, you still have a long, long way to go before hoping ever to become a hub a la Singapore, and no amount of pretentious commercial centres or six- or even seven-star hotels is going to change that as long as nothing is done to improve services at street level.