Sunday, May 01, 2005


Taking a taxi in Bangkok can be a relaxing, almost surreal experience. Though on the front line when it comes to dealing with foreigners, as a group, taxi drivers are some of the worst English speakers about. However, only a modicum of Thai language is necessary to overcome the communication barrier and with directions delivered a peaceful ride is usually underway.

Most often, nary a word is spoken during the entire journey, nor is the silence interrupted as you pull up to your destination, hand the fare to the non-speaking driver and are on your way.

Unfortunately, if the driver does make attempts to converse, you can predict with remarkable accuracy the inanities that will flow.

"Where you from? You like Thai woman? You have Thai wife?"

If you answer in the affirmative, the shameless probing will continue...

"Where she from? Where you meet? You have baby?"

Sniggering, juvenile references regarding sex and the obligatory appearance of a fold-out brochure advertising some brothel are sure to follow. The outspoken type are invariably trolling for customers for such establishments, looking to earn some extra money on the side.

So it was recently that upon entering a cab I groaned to myself as the tell-tale signs were there. The rictus grin on the driver's face as he repeatedly looked at me in the rear-view mirror accompanied by those antsy mannerisms of someone ready to burst and the standard opening gambit..."Where you from?"

On cue, the talk proceeded to questions regarding my marital status and whether I had any children. Responding in the negative I then returned the question. The driver took the opening, a beatific grin on his face as he professed the love and joy that his 2 young children have provided.

His brief and genuine explanation on the pleasures of fatherhood in passable English was somehow interesting. From there:

"Where you go for Songkran?"

"Ahhh, I'll just stay at home this year."


"Mi mee ngen."

"I know that many foreigners also do not have big money. Same everywhere. Most people small money."

A bit of common sense from an unlikely source.

He went on to explain that he moonlights as a cab driver at weekends but spends his days in the military.

A first; a sane, enjoyable conversation with a Bangkok taxi driver.