Sunday, May 29, 2011

Hello Kitty Taxi

In the West, Hello Kitty products are mainly aimed at pre-adolescent female consumers, but in Thailand everyone adores this Japanese cat. Here secretaries carry pink handbags printed with images of this white feline, middle-aged ladies wear crystal jewelry in the shape of its iconic face, and fifty year old men driving taxis have big decals of Hello Kitty plastered on the back windows of their cabs.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Blackbird Fly

Blackbirds have long been a symbol of remembrance, sorrow and mystery, and they're sometimes associated with all things evil. These enigmatic creatures often appear in classic literature and of course, there are several songs that allude to them, including a well-known Beatles song and the jazz standard, "Bye, Bye Blackbird". I asked the driver of this taxi about his black feathered friend and he explained to me how it helps him to conjure up cold hard cash.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Taxi Revolution

Stickers of Che Guevara, the Argentine revolutionary, are commonly found in Bangkok taxis. This stylized portrait of him has, of course, become a universal symbol of rebellion. For Bangkok cabbies, his image represents the promise of economic and political reform. In a country like Thailand where there's a huge gap between social classes and where there have been major uprisings in recent times, it's not surprising that Che is a hero here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Breakfast of the Gods

As if he were a waiter reciting the specials of the day in a restaurant, the driver of this cab listed the various provisions in the small bowls on his dashboard: red curry, stir-fried greens, steamed jasmine rice, and iced tea. Every morning, this taxi driver puts out food in his cab as offerings to the gods that he worships. I asked him if he changes the menu on a daily basis and he told me that he always feeds them the same thing because these are their favorite foods.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Animist Cab

In addition to idolizing gods that resemble humans and animals, many Thais worship trees, plants, and other entities from the natural world. These animist beliefs have their origin in ancient times, so it's fascinating to see these practices carried on today in the modern day context of taxi cabs. In this particular case, branches from a sacred bodhi tree have been tied together with various strings and cloth that function as blessings. But when I see these bound and twisted branches and consider the possibility that it contains a soul, I can't help but think that it must be in agony.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Buffalo Taxi

As Thailand becomes more industrialized and as more farmers here utilize mechanized equipment, water buffaloes are becoming a less common sight in Thai rice paddies. But why has this Bangkok taxi driver banned them from his cab? In actuality, he's not literally prohibiting this animal from entering his taxi, although I'm not sure if one would fit in the passenger seat anyway. In this culture, anyone who is considered to be dimwitted is called a buffalo, and so this driver is trying to be funny with his window sticker. But in my opinion, it's unfortunate that this hard-working animal who has been the companion of Thai farmers for centuries has become the butt of a joke. I'm glad that this taxi driver has barred guns and knives from his cab, but I wish that he and anyone else who makes fun of buffaloes, for that matter, would change their attitude.