Friday, May 28, 2010


The veteran Thai rock band, Carabao, has been jamming for three and a half decades. Throughout their long career, their music has tackled issues related to Thai society and politics, and as a result, the band has an immense following of regular Thai people, including many Bangkok taxi drivers. It's common to hear their "songs of life" in cabs here and many taxis have stickers with the band's buffalo skull logo on their windows. Recently, Add Carabao, the lead singer, teamed up with Thaitanium, the Thai-American hip hop band, to produce a single on Thaitanium's new album, Still Resisting. The result is a surprisingly harmonious balance between Add's earthy voice and Thaitanium's vigorous rapping. Check out the music video below with some great footage of Bangkok.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Play Name

Thais usually have a nickname, or as it's known in Thai, a cheu len ชื่อเล่น which translates literally as "play name". The monikers are often cute and endearing, and similar to classic American nicknames like "Slim", "Butch", "Shorty", and "Red", the epithets often reference some unique characteristic of the person. The other day I took a taxi with a driver known as "Rabbit". After he told me his nickname, I kept imagining what he would look like with long, floppy ears and rabbit teeth.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mantra for Thailand

After this past week, Thailand needs some group therapy. It will take time for Bangkokians affected by the political turmoil to heal. There's a special mantra that Hindus and worshippers of Ganesh, the elephant-headed deity, use in situations like this one. All you have to do is focus on the image of Ganesh and repeat the words "Aum Ganadhyakshaya Namah" a million times or so and then Bangkok will be healed.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Fueled Up

If you see an NGV sticker on a Bangkok cab it means that the taxi uses natural gas for vehicles. Introduced to Thailand by the Royal Thai Government, the cost of NGV is almost seventy percent less than traditional gasoline. One would think that everyone would convert their vehicles to this type of gas, but there are much fewer NGV filling stations than regular pumps making it less convenient to get fuel. And the installation of equipment for the use of NGV is expensive. Fortunately, some taxi companies pick up the bill, and other times the drivers see the benefit and realize that it will save them big money in the long run. If you're not sure whether a taxi uses NGV or not and if you don't see a sticker, take a look at the fuel gauge. If it's on empty and there's a red light on, it might mean that the cab uses natural gas because the gauge on the dashboard isn't attached to the NGV tank. Either that or you're going to have to take a walk soon.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Dharma

"They are not following dharma who resort to violence to achieve their purpose. But those who lead others through nonviolent means, knowing right and wrong, may be called guardians of the dharma".

- Buddha

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Old Photos

Apparently, Bangkok taxi drivers aren't required to renew their taxi licenses. Some of the portrait photos look like they're from the 70's or the 80's. In some cases, cabbies look completely different from the person in the picture displayed on the dashboard. The other day, I took a cab with a guy who looked like he hadn't aged a day since his photo was taken years ago. So I asked him how he stays so young-looking, and he laughed and told me he's only thirty. It turns out the guy in the twenty-five year old license photo is his father who shares the cab with him.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Taxi Poufs

Bangkok cabbies like to spice up their taxis by adding a set of shiny pleated pillows in the back window. The faux silk or satin poufs come in a variety of colors, and sometimes they're adorned with sequins and lace. It's surprising that so many macho Bangkok cabbies have these in their taxis. It seems like these pillows would be more at home in Liberace's living room or in Mae West's boudoir.