Monday, March 15, 2010

Motorcycle Taxis

Perhaps one of the most interesting forms of transportation here in Thailand is the motorcycle taxi. At the end of each soi and each soi intersection are little groups of guys and the occasional girl dressed in orange vests sitting on mopeds.These drivers take people pretty much anywhere they want to go but are usually short distance drivers. As the sois get smaller and more intimate, the Bangkok taxi drivers may not know how to get to a specific location or taxi traffic would just add congestion to the already crowded streets. People do use regular taxis and just give turn-by-turn directions to the drivers, but traffic often makes for a long ride. A moped can weave in and out of traffic jams, pull in to the front of the line for a red light, and often, ride on the sidewalks or even the wrong way down a road to get you to your destination quickly.

Fares for motorcycle taxis generally start at 10 baht or roughly 30 cents. We usually take a motorcycle to the end of our soi to get a haircut, to buy fruit, or to catch the river taxi that takes us closer to the center of town. I take a moped home from my bus stop every afternoon after school.

The advantages of a motorcycle taxi is that it is fast and can pass up all of the bad traffic. They are cheap. The drivers rarely get lost because they are very familiar with the local area, all stores, restaurants, food stands, apartment complexes. Disadvantages are you don't have air conditioning like in a regular taxi, you tend to come home soggy during rainy season, and some of the drivers are a little shady (You can often see them sharing 40oz beers while waiting for fares), and if you're a girl they can seem especially scary especially after dark. Some of them aren't the most savory of characters.

The job is seen as a pretty low one, although very necessary in the infrastructure of Bangkok. The pay is likely minimal as the average fare is only 10 baht and they're working for someone else (I'm guessing local gangsters, not joking).

In other parts of town you'll see the drivers wearing different color vests. They are very territorial. You'll see a couple drivers returning from a fare and try to catch a ride, but they'll refuse to pick you up as you are one soi closer to another gang of drivers. If caught picking up a fare in another gang's "territory" it's not good for them.

Interesting thing you'll see is burn marks on people's lower legs...yup, from touching their exposed skin to the burning exhaust pipe of some of the older mopeds...I've been burned a couple times, only when I ride with shorts though, makes sense right? Girls generally ride side saddle...you know, skirts and motorcycles don't exactly mix.

The farthest I usually go on a moped taxi is about a 100 baht ride or 3 dollars, to school when the roads are flooded and traffic is at a stand still. I'll add more pictures later, this is the only one I have.

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