Sunday, June 28, 2009

Taxi Driver License

I always glance at the photo of the driver on the dashboard. Somehow I feel more comfortable knowing what the cabbie looks like head on, as I usually only get to see the back of the driver's head or the side of their face. Today, as I studied the driver's portrait and then looked over at the cabbie, I didn't see much of a resemblance. I assumed it was his co-worker who shares the cab with him, so I decided to ask him about his fellow cabbie. For a moment, the driver didn't say a word. But then he told me that it was his own photo taken 30 years ago.  

Monday, June 22, 2009

Patience, Patience

Most Bangkok taxi drivers don't complain much about traffic. In most cases, Bangkok cabbies will patiently sit back and tolerate long delays. Part of this behavior can be attributed to the belief in Thai culture that an outward display of impatience is a personality weakness. And anyway, I'd imagine that it gets boring complaining about the same thing day in and day out. My driver today, however, was extremely frustrated with the traffic. On several occasions, he let out loud sighs and "hmmph" noises. For the first time in years, I felt like I was in a taxi in the States.     

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


In Thailand, we don't have many genies in bottles, but we certainly have a lot of Buddhas inside bubbles and boxes. I can understand the need to secure larger Buddha images inside glass cases, especially if they're encrusted with real gold. But I don't get why smaller Buddha statuettes need to be placed inside containers. In this taxi, it looks like Buddha has been kept inside the original canister from the shop where the cabbie bought it. At least the driver took off the lid to give Buddha a little fresh air.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Swirls and Squiggles

Hanging from many Bangkok taxi rear view mirrors are these swirly and squiggly things that represent Buddha's enlightenment. Sometimes you can find this same design drawn on the car's ceiling and other times you see it printed on Buddhist incantation cloths. I especially like this version made out of string. I'm not exactly sure how they made it - perhaps it has a bendable wire inside. In any case, it reminds me of a project I did in grade school. The only difference is that mine was in the form of a snowman and was made from pipe cleaners.   

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I'm starting to think that every part of every plant can bring good luck in Thailand, including these pods hanging from the taxi's rear view mirror. When I asked the driver about them, he pointed to some trees on the side of the road and told me they're easy to find. He went on to explain that they protect him from danger and they bring him more business. I used to think good luck charms had to be something rare, such as four leaf clovers, but apparently that's not the case here. Just hang some roots, leaves or pods in your car and you'll immediately feel lucky.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Filling the Niches

In Bangkok taxis, every part of the interior can contain decorative religious and secular objects. In the taxi today, the turn signal switches had strings and beads hung from them, the windows were covered with decals, the rear window shelf contained a hand-knit tissue holder, the back seat had silky pillows, the rear view mirror had a "phuang malai" jasmine flower garland, the ceiling had "Yan" drawings by a monk, the lower dash board had a menagerie of amulets and a statuette of a monk riding an elephant, and the steering wheel had a Buddha sticker. There was barely enough space left for the driver and myself.              

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thai Hermit

No, that's not some kind of sneaky elf or Kris Kringle with a sack full of gifts on the yellow incantation cloth, I think that's a Thai hermit yogi.  In the past, these hermits were spiritual guides known for their knowledge of ancient medicinal practices.  I've heard there are still some of these hermits living in the northwoods of Thailand.  And I've even seen some creepy foreigners in Bangkok who look like that guy.