Monday, December 29, 2008

Art on Wheels

For most Bangkok taxi drivers, the interior of a cab is like a blank canvas.  Like artists, the cabbies fill up their compositions with color, shape, and texture. This particular cab reminds me of a collage with all of the "cut and paste" images and stickers arranged on the ceiling and windows. The taxi driver couldn't wait to create his masterpiece; the car is only one week old.    

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Big Ugly Fish

I may be a connoisseur of "high art", but I'm also a sucker for kitsch. Thailand certainly has its share of what some might label as "bad taste" or "tacky", but I can't help being drawn to it.  In the case of the hanging decoration in the taxi, it's over-the-top with too many colors, an over abundance of cheap plastic beads, and if that's a fish, then why does it have big chicken lips?  But, knowing that the driver's wife made it by hand makes it charming and homey. It's interesting that knowing the origin of something can affect our appreciation level so much. 

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sunny-Side Up

The egg is an important symbol in many religions.  It often represents life, hope, eternity, fertility, and the universe, among other things. For example, in Hinduism, Brahma formed heaven and earth out of an egg split in two, and, in Christianity, the egg is a symbol of new life.  When I asked the taxi driver about his wooden egg, he pointed out the ancient Khmer writing on it, and he told me that it helps protect him.  Later on, when we passed through a local night market, we started talking about eggs again.  However, this time we we talked about Thai-style omelets served over rice with chili sauce, fried eggs on top of fried rice, omelets stuffed with "Woonsen" noodles, and omelets with minced pork. At that point, all I wanted to do was to eat eggs. I wonder if the wooden egg can protect me from overeating? 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Monks, Dogs, and Elephants

In Thailand, one can pick from an array of gods, goddesses, and deities to worship.  In Bangkok taxis, the combinations of these talisman and icons often seem completely random.  But, if you talk to the drivers, you realize each object has been carefully chosen to correspond to the beliefs and wishes of the cabby.  When I asked the driver some questions about his menagerie of statues, he told me that he's wishing for peace. I wonder if that was his polite Thai way of telling me to stop bothering him with questions?   

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Taxi Art

Today, when I got into the taxi, I was immediately struck by the beauty of a pair of jade objets d'art. At first sight, I thought they were Singha, the Thai mythological lions, or perhaps foo dogs, those lucky Chinese dog statues in front of buildings throughout Asia. But, upon closer inspection, I realized they're neither Singha nor foo dogs with their wings and stylized swirly fur. I decided to ask the driver about them and he told me he shares the taxi with another driver, and they're not his. The only thing he could tell me about them is that they're made out of plastic and that he thinks his co-worker bought them at a "buy one, get one" sale.  So much for thinking about the green statues as one-of-a-kind art pieces.                  

Monday, December 1, 2008

We Need a Hero

I usually steer clear of politics on this blog, but the way the current political situation stands in Thailand, I think this country needs a hero.  How about someone like Guan Yu, the Chinese General who lived during the period of the Eastern Han Dynasty?  Some Bangkok taxi drivers seem to really admire him.  With his red face and long flowing beard, he's known for his loyalty and righteousness.  But, maybe Guan Yu isn't the best choice if his blood red skin also represents anger. The last thing this place needs right now is another hot-head.