Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Taxi Phone Directory

What was that number again? Oh yeah, it's permanently scrawled on the back of the sun visor. Never mind that the taxi is rented. It's a convenient place to keep other people's contact information. And when there's no room left on the back of the visor, there's a huge ceiling to turn into a phone directory.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Fine Feathered Taxi

Some Bangkok cabbies don't fit the stereotype of a grubby unshaven character who stinks like somtum. Some are well-groomed with neatly pressed shirts and hair slicked to the side or formed into perfect spikes. And many cab drivers keep their taxis spic-and-span from top to bottom. Sometimes the vinyl upholstery is so shiny you can practically eat pad thai noodles off of it. The other day my driver obsessively cleaned off his dashboard with a feather duster every few minutes. Besides keeping the dash dust-free, it must be a way for him to kill time. Either that or he was a bird in a past life.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Taxi Stickers

Bangkok taxi drivers love stickers. Some decals remind customers to buckle up and some tell passengers that they can't smoke in the cab. I've even seen stickers that inform people in taxis to refrain from breaking wind. Other adhesive signs greet passengers with a friendly "Sawasdee Krup". And some stickers welcome aliens to Bangkok.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bobble Bauble

There are certain quintessential accoutrements that appear in cars no matter where you are in the world. One classic collector's item that's been around since the 1950s is bobbleheads. Also known as nodders or wobblers, these tchotchkes with bouncing heads typically depict famous athletes, musicians, actors, or cartoon characters. Some of the most famous bobbleheads include representations of The Beatles, Elvis, and Baseball Hall of Famer, Willie Mays. While most Bangkok cabbies have statuettes of Buddha or Hindu gods or goddesses on the dashboard (with stable heads, I might add), this taxi driver prefers a bobblehead dog watching over his taxi. Next, this cabbie will probably replace his monk charm hanging from the rearview mirror with fuzzy dice.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Taxi Specimen

Bangkok taxis are so iconic that there's even one in a local museum. The Museum of Siam, housed in a beautiful 19th century building near the Chao Phraya River, features a cross-section of a cab as if it were a scientific specimen. The curators even included sample talismans on the dashboard and one of those wooden beaded seat covers. Fortunately, there's one thing the museum left out of the display: a dissected taxi driver.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Political Drive

If you want to talk politics in this town, take a taxi. Most cabbies here have an incredibly strong opinion about the current administration, the previous leader, and the present political situation. I can usually guess their political stance, and subsequently, I always make it a point to be in agreement with them about this topic. After all, I'm at their mercy riding in their cab.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Get Real

When I ask cabbies if I can take pictures in their taxis, I get a variety of reactions. Most of the time the taxi drivers are thrilled that a foreigner is interested in Thai talismans and culture and are kind enough to oblige. The cabbies are often proud of their collections of superstitious and religious objects, and many cabbies love to give particulars about the various charms. Some taxi drivers, however, are bewildered by my photo-taking and by my questions about the things in the cabs. The other day, the cabby asked me if I would like to buy the stuff in his taxi. He thought that it would be better if I have the real amulets, statuettes, and other tokens in my possession, rather than just photos of them.