• Monday, February 19, 2007

    The Bangkok taxi driver...

    I've blogged before about Bangkok taxis. Generally I enjoy taking taxis in Bangkok because it's a great opportunity to practice a bit of Thai and chew the fat. I took a taxi earlier to Banglamphu with a really interesting guy who told me all about what it's like to be a Bangkok taxi driver.

    It was one of those pink taxis that are rapidly increasing in number throughout the city, the ones that my daughter insists we go in everytime because they're pink. He works twelve hour shifts from 0400hrs to 1600hrs everyday, and then hands the car over to a buddy who will work it for the other twelve hours. For him there is only one car for the job, Toyota. His Toyota is three years old and has worked 24/7 since new with nothing more than regular service and tyre change. So no surprise that about 99% of taxis in Bangkok are also Toyota.

    As with most of the taxi drivers he pays a rent to the taxi company of 600baht per twelve hour shift, everything else is his own, after fuel. The company pays for maintenance and he's responsible for repairs due to accidents.

    His biggest problem is increasing competition from the overcrowded taxi market in Bangkok and the police. He was very passionate about his annoyance with the police and their tactics regarding taxi drivers. "You park in the wrong place for a few minutes, too fast, too slow, make a wrong turn, whatever reason they take your money all the time. Sometimes for no reason or a made up reason they take your money. It's too much, I'm bored of it." The police in Bangkok are well known for their dubious antics and liking for collecting "tea money", unofficially.

    The big bonus for any taxi driver is the trip up country. Within Bangkok they are bound by law to use the meter but outside Bangkok it's down to their bargaining skills. A trip to Pattaya from Suwarnabhumi will set you back between 1,300 to 1,500baht, or Hua Hin 2,500baht. He was virtually rubbing his hands with glee at the thought of this.

    Suwarnabhumi was another thorn in the taxi driver's side. It's so far away that they can't come back to Bangkok empty and so have to stick around at the airport until they get a fare. With so many taxis there at anyone time and the queuing system controlled by the airport, who take the 100 baht service charge, taxis have to wait an average of two hours. That's two hours with no fare.

    His dream is to get enough money together to make the down payment on a car of his own and then start to earn more money and work the hours he wants rather than having to stick to his present shift.

    An interesting guy and great fun to chat with. We came back from Banglamphu by river taxi which the daughter enjoyed immensely. My foot problem got so bad by the evening that I ended up going to hospital for some anti-inflammatory pills and bandaging. Seems I've torn a tendon or something so no wonder I've been in pain for six days and can't walk properly.

    The Bangkok taxi driver...

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