Drawings by Thai Buddhist monks like this one are truly artistic. Each one has its own characteristics based on individualized formulas intended to protect the driver and vehicle, as well as bring prosperity. Known as yan among Thais, they contain elements that resemble Thai temples, ancient script, and sacred symbols. I don't mean to be disrespectful, but this one reminds me of Christmas trees.
It's hard to imagine why any taxi driver would want to trick out their cab with this paisley pattern on the ceiling. Was this Bangkok cabbie a hippie back in the 60's with long hair, bell bottom pants, and love beads who liked to groove to The Grateful Dead? And if so, is this a way for him to relive his youth? Or does he simply have questionable taste when it comes to customizing cars?
Crocodile Dundee, the bushman from the popular series of films, is alive and well and living in Bangkok. After spending time in Australia, New York, and LA he has decided to move to Thailand and drive a taxi. To fit in with the locals, he has dyed his hair black, but he still sports his signature outback hat with crocodile teeth and a sleeveless shirt. He also keeps a satchel nearby with a knife inside just in case he comes across any crocodiles on the streets of Bangkok.
I just returned from India where I took several different forms of transportation to get around, including trains, buses, rickshaws, and taxis. In some ways, the cabs there are similar to Thai taxis as many of them are decorated with religious iconography. One iconic figure that appeared in several of the cabs was Hanuman, the monkey god from the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. The drivers must be able to relate well to him considering that Hanuman often faces difficulties, but always finds innovative ways to fly away from bad situations.
After a brisk winter season here in Thailand, things are starting to heat up. If you need to cool down, make like this Bangkok cabbie and bring along a cooler filled with an icy beverage as big as your body, wrap a cold wet towel around your neck, and blast the air-con on high.
According to the Pantone Institute, the organization that forecasts global color trends and advises companies on color in brand identity and product development, the Color of the Year 2018 is ultra violet. On Pantone's website they explain how ultra violet relates to ideas of "originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future" and they mention how this color has long symbolized mystery and mysticism. I doubt that the driver of this taxi was considering any of this when he customized the interior of his cab with ultra violet vinyl seats, but I can tell you that this color definitely creates a distinct mood in the taxi.
Today, Thais and admirers of Thailand's late monarch are bidding a final farewell to the beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej. After one year of mourning his passing, the funeral processional is today with the cremation ceremony being held tonight. Over a quarter million people are surrounding the area in Bangkok where the rituals are being held, while many others are either making their way to temples to pray or staying home to watch the rites of passage on television or through live streaming.
Considering Thailand's long tradition involving the creation of handicrafts, it's great to see that the practice of making things by hand continues. The driver of this taxi told me that the seat covers were crocheted by his teenage daughter. That might explain why they're bright pink and green with a few little flowers applied here and there.
It's been a while since I've spotted a mullet in Bangkok, but today my taxi driver had his own version of one. As the saying goes, it's "business in the front and party in the back". Maybe that's a good combination for cabbies as they need to maintain a certain level of professionalism, but can still have fun on the job.
These days, little plastic animal characters seem to be as popular among Thai taxi drivers as statues of the Buddha and images of revered Thai monks. It's apparently a new form of worship that involves cutesy creatures whose heads bob from side to side.
I just returned from Paris where I mostly took the Metro and walked, but there was one day I decided to take a "Taxi Parisien". I was curious how cabs in the City of Light differ from those in the City of Angels. Similar to the taxis in Bangkok, the cab had some trinkets hanging from the rearview mirror, including some wooden prayer beads, a small panda character, and a little green eiffel tower. However, the overall experience was unlike riding in a Thai taxi. First of all, the cabby in Paris did not need to ask me for directions like the drivers in Bangkok typically do. The other thing is that the Parisian cabby could speak perfect English as opposed to Thai taxi drivers who usually only know how to say, "Where you go?".
What's the solution to the problem of all the car accidents in Thailand? A talking Buddha statue, of course. Distributed under the name Phra Rod 2.0, the Thai Health Promotion Foundation with the help of one of Thailand's venerated monks, Phra Payom, created the speed limit monk statue to remind drivers to be mindful and cautious. Using a GPS tracker and speed detector, the good luck charm can detect different legal speed limits on most roads. If the driver puts the pedal to the metal, a short sermon from the monk will automatically play. Will it help to reduce the amount of car accidents here? I'm not sure. But who is going to want a regular Buddha statue when you can have one of these?
In hot and tropical Thailand, the locals can get pretty creative when it comes to finding ways to cool off. In the case of this taxi, the driver has rigged up a metal fan to keep the inside of his cab from overheating. Not only does the fan provide a breezy atmosphere in the back of the taxi, it helps create a nostalgic ambience that reminds passengers of an era before air-conditioners even existed.
One English word every Thai taxi driver knows regardless of their level of fluency is "you". Cabbies here use this pronoun to get the attention of foreigners and to address anyone who doesn't look Thai. I've been called "you" so many times by taxi drivers in Thailand that I feel like it's become my nickname.
Upon entering a Bangkok taxi as a foreigner, the driver will inevitably switch on an English language music station. While you might occasionally hear international songs that are currently popular, chances are you will be taking a walk down memory lane as you listen to golden oldies. Today, the music on the radio in the taxi included a lineup of the greatest hits from the 80's. As I sat in the back seat staring at wolves on the sunshades, I had a feeling that we would soon be hearing Duran Duran's Hungry Like The Wolf.
Is your job making you a little hot under the collar? Do your shirts have unsightly rings? If so, try this trick from one of Bangkok's finest cab drivers. First, take a scrap of light cotton cloth and cut it into a long rectangular piece. It can be any color and have a pattern as long as it coordinates with your shirt. Next, carefully fold the cloth over your collar. Finally, secure it with paper clips (4 or 5 should work). When the cloth gets sweaty, simply remove it and replace with a dry one. Repeat as many times during your shift as necessary.
Considering that many talismans in Bangkok taxis are put there for the purpose of warding off evil spirits, I couldn't help but think that this Hulk figure on the dashboard is intended to be a warning of sorts. So, I was extra careful to be nice to this cabby. I didn't want him to turn into a raging green monster with bulging muscles behind the wheel. I had a feeling I wouldn't like him when he's angry.
Let me start by saying that I'm all for people expressing their individuality and I often appreciate those daring enough to break the rules of fashion. But this hat, this hat, is the weirdest thing I've ever laid my eyes on. It's as if someone took a pink bathroom rug and molded it into the shape of a mushroom cap. What was the driver thinking when he put this on his head? How can he even look at himself in the mirror without feeling completely ridiculous? The look is so out of place, especially considering that he paired it with a normal shirt and jeans. The only way this hat might be passible is if he wore it with a shiny pink leopard-print suit and white patent leather boots.
From a Western perspective, placing three rubber duckies next to the image of a religious figure might seem inappropriate, blasphemous, or just downright funny. Some might even view this as the result of globalization or postmodernism. I decided to ask the taxi driver about his unconventional display on the dashboard and he explained that the celestial being in white is Guan Yim, the Goddess of Mercy, known for her compassion toward all creatures. Apparently, that includes duckies, too.
In Thailand, sticky rice is the equivalent of bread and butter. It's comforting, nourishing, and packed with carbohydrates, albeit plain and simple. Even the idea of an occupation being your "bread and butter" is translatable to Thai culture. If you see a kratip basket in a Bangkok taxi normally used for holding sticky rice, you'll know it's there to offer good luck on the job and to symbolize prosperity.
Hello Kitty, the kawaii feline character, has long made a guest appearance in Bangkok cabs. In the past week alone, I spotted this Sanrio-brand cat in seven different taxis. Why is this character so popular among Thai cabbies you ask? Considering that Hello Kitty has no mouth and is expressionless, maybe the drivers are hinting to their passengers that they should keep quiet and remain calm while riding in their vehicles.