Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Buddha's View

The world is full of busy people
well-versed in countless views
blind to their true natures
they get farther from the Way
if they could see what's real
they wouldn't talk about empty dreams
one thought answers your prayers
revealing a Buddha's view

- Cold Mountain (Han-shan), Tang Dynasty Poet 

Monday, April 24, 2017

You and Me

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.  

Sunday, April 2, 2017

80's Flashback

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. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Useful Tip

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.   

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Incredible Cabby

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.  

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Pure Mind

"If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts,
happiness follows them like a never-departing shadow."

- The Buddha

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Cabbie Fashion Faux Pas

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.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Santa Taxi

Merry Christmas
 & Happy New Year 
from Bangkok!

May all your taxi rides be merry and bright!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Goddess of Rubber Duckies

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.    

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Rest in Peace

Thailand's Beloved King
HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej
5 December 1927 - 13 October 2016

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Sticky Rice Taxi

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.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

“Conquer anger with non-anger. 
Conquer badness with goodness. 
Conquer meanness with generosity. 
Conquer dishonesty with truth.”

- The Buddha

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Hello, Again.

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.        

Saturday, July 23, 2016

It is better to conquer yourself
 than to win a thousand battles. 
Then the victory is yours. 
It cannot be taken from you, 
not by angels or by demons, 
heaven or hell.

 - The Buddha

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Bugging Out in a Bangkok Cab

You never know what you're going to find in a Bangkok cab. It most often involves a pleasant surprise, but occasionally it turns out to be a disturbing affair. When I hopped into this taxi, the first thing I noticed were the exoskeletons from a certain kind of critter affixed to the ceiling in a marching formation. After the driver told me what kind of insects they were in Thai, I did a bit of searching on my smartphone and figured out that they were cicadas, the type of bug that makes loud buzzing noises. I've definitely heard them at certain times of the year here in Thailand, but I had never been so close to them before. Despite a long conversation with this cabby about bugs, I'm still not clear why he collects and displays them in his cab. All I know is that it made my skin crawl for the rest of the day.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Santa on Holiday

Season's Greetings from Thailand where old Santa Claus loves to spend the off-season. Here you'll find Father Christmas water skiing, surfing, swimming, chilling out at the beach, and riding orca whales. How does he get here, you ask? Well, he flies to Thailand in his UFO, of course.  

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Because He's Happy

Have you ever noticed how some people resemble cartoon characters? Today, my Bangkok taxi driver had all the hallmarks of the Minions. He was sporting bright yellow and blue along with "goggles", and he seemed very happy just like Bob the Minion hanging in his cab. But unlike the animated characters, he is in service to regular people, like me, not commanding super villains. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Thai Summertime

We're in the midst of the hot season here in Thailand. There are two ways one can deal with it. You can either complain incessantly about the flaming heat as sweat drips down your back, or if you're in Bangkok, you can hop in a taxi with air-conditioning on full blast. In either case, it's important to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and it's better to wear loose, cotton garments. For a little summer fun, pop on a flowered Hawaiian shirt like the cabbie in the picture below and embrace the hot, tropical setting. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Hong Kong Taxis

I just returned from a trip to Hong Kong where getting around is easy. They have quite a range of public transportation available, including the subway, ferries, trams, double decker buses, cable cars, and taxis. The cabs in Hong Kong remind me of those in Tokyo as they also use older Toyotas and as the doors open automatically, too. Not surprisingly, the starting fares are higher than in Bangkok, but the meters don't increase as rapidly, so when all is said and done, the fares are pretty comparable to those in Thailand. Some Hong Kong taxis also have Buddhist amulets and other decorations on their dashboards. This, of course, makes me feel right at home.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Health is the greatest gift, 
contentment the greatest wealth, 
faithfulness the best relationship.
- The Buddha

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Thai Checkered Cab

Pha Khao Ma, a type of rectangular woven cloth with checkered or striped designs, have been utilized in Thailand for hundreds of years. Traditionally, they are worn by men as sarongs, wrapped around the head or neck, and are sometimes used as towels or to carry things. Today, the cloth has also been adapted for modern usage in the form of tote bags, throw pillows, and book covers, and occasionally you can even find them in Bangkok taxis.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Magical Taxi

When you buy a new car in Thailand, the first thing you need to do is have a Buddhist monk bless the vehicle. This involves a ceremony where the monk creates a yantra, or yan as it's known in Thai, by drawing lines and dots, as well as adding squares of gold leaf on the ceiling or other surfaces in the car. Each yantra contains certain magical spells that protect the driver and the car, and each design is unique. I don't mean to sound blasphemous, but this one in the taxi today reminds me of the famous Disney castle with fireworks going off above it. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Cabby Cushion

Tonight in the taxi, my driver was wearing one of those neck cushion thingys that some passengers like to wear on airplanes. I've never seen another Bangkok cabby wear one before. Did he just arrive back in Bangkok after a long flight? Was he planning on taking a nap during his shift? Maybe it was a gift from one of his regular customers. Or perhaps, as a result of his poor driving skills which I experienced first hand, he was suffering from a serious case of whiplash.    

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Chinese New Year

Wishing you a Happy and Prosperous Chinese New Year!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Thai Reflections

The decorations inside Bangkok taxis are sometimes literally a reflection of Thai culture and Thai ways of thinking. Many Bangkok cabbies place images of the Buddha, revered Thai monks, and other auspicious symbols on their dashboards to cast reflections onto their windows. This picture of the Buddha statue not only reveals the religious beliefs of many Thais, but also brings to light the ingenuity and aesthetic sensibilities of many Thai people. I probably would have never thought to do this myself, but the effect that the reflection creates is both serene and ethereal.  

Friday, January 1, 2016

from SLIMV

May you enjoy the ride 
on the way to your destination  
in the coming year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Burmese Taxis

During the past ten days while traveling in and around Mandalay, I took a few taxis just to compare them with Bangkok cabs. The main difference is that you always have to negotiate the fares in Mandalay, while in Bangkok passengers can usually rely on the set price of the meters. The other difference is that Mandalay taxis are painted white on their exteriors compared to the plethora of cab colors in Bangkok. What makes the taxis similar are the Buddhist decorations, flower offerings, and superstitious paraphernalia on the dashboards and hanging from rearview mirrors. The taxis in Mandalay also commonly include an accoutrement that can be found in many Bangkok cabs: Glade air fresheners.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Let the Festivities Begin!

Thailand should be called the land of festivals and holidays, especially at this time of year. Tomorrow is Loy Krathong, an annual festival that involves floating small decorative 'krathongs' traditionally made from slices of palm trees, banana leaves, and flowers, down rivers and canals to appease the water goddess. Next is the King's birthday in early December which will involve a 'Bike for Dad' event this year to celebrate his 88th birthday. Then, of course, comes Christmas and New Year's. One of the highlights in Bangkok during this season is the sparkling lights on the trees near Chitralada Palace. Alternatively, you can make a trip to one of the city's mega-malls to check out all the Christmas decorations. Never mind the brash commercialism and the fact that most Thais are Buddhist.       

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Op Art Taxi

Today, when I got into this taxi with the undulating stripes on the ceiling, I felt like I had stepped into some kind of mind-blowing Op Art artwork from the 1960s. The effect was dizzying and disquieting. I tried looking away, but it was impossible to escape from the groovy patterns as all of the seats, doors, and even the steering wheel were covered with this trippy design. When I finally arrived at my destination and got out of the taxi, I was happy to make a break from the illusionistic "art" in the cab and arrive safely back in the year of 2015.    
                                Victor Vasarely, Op Art Painting

Friday, October 30, 2015

Bangkok Boo!

Considering how many Thais have lived and traveled abroad, and taking into account how much the Western world has influenced Thai culture, it's not surprising that Halloween has begun to catch on here. More and more Thais are dressing up in costume for the occasion, Halloween parties are becoming more common here, it's getting easier to find trick-or-treat candy in the stores in Bangkok, and it's not unusual to see decorations with witches, pumpkins, ghosts, and goblins in certain businesses these days. Even some Bangkok taxi drivers are getting into the spirit, like this cabbie whose ghost face stares hauntingly at passengers in the backseat of his cab.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Thai Fast Food

While there are many international fast food franchises in Thailand, the concept of drive-thru windows has never caught on here. Perhaps most Thais would rather eat-in at these kinds of joints. Or maybe they're so used to food vendors approaching them while waiting at stoplights that they don't want to bother placing their order at a faceless microphone and picking up their food at another window. Today, my cabbie bought fried bananas and fried sweet potatoes from this seller standing on the road. The best part was that he shared some with me, and to tell you the truth, I would take her treats over a fast food burger any day.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Positive Vibration

If there was a soundtrack of popular English language songs regularly covered and played in Thailand, it would have to include at least one Bob Marley song. Probably the most well-liked tune of his that you can hear on every Thai beach and on Bangkok's infamous center of backpacker culture, Khao San Road, is No Woman, No Cry. Today in the taxi, even my cabbie was bobbing to the beat of reggae music blasting on his car stereo as his rastafarian talisman led the way. Decked out in the obligatory red, yellow, and green, and standing near an image of the Buddha and a Thai monk on the dashboard, this smily character brought to mind another Marley track, Positive Vibration. Here's an original performance of the song from 1978. Enjoy.