Mo Chit Station

I couldn’t help but notice last night that some order has been brought to the Mo Chit BTS/subway station interchange: anyone who has come down from the Mo Chit exit towards the subway entrance will be familiar with the chaos of buses, minibuses and taxis struggling to obtain passengers and then drive away, while all around clouds of passengers stand around in the heat while people try to sell them cut fruit and grilled squid. And it’s hot, did I mention that?

Anyway, all has changed utterly and a terrible beauty of order has been created out of the chaos: now the minibuses are lined up along the pavement, in order, waiting their turn and, outside them but parallel, are the taxis also waiting nicely. All of this appears to be being controlled by one bloke with a whistle and a clip board.

I can’t imagine that this will last for very long but it is heartening while it lasts.

By the way, Mo comes from the abbreviation M.O. (medical officer) and means a doctor of some sort.

How to Ride in a Taxi in Bangkok

When it is raining and in the rush hour and taxis are very scarce, coming and standing two paces in front of me after I have been waiting for twenty five minutes is going to cause an argument. Do you think I can’t see you? Do you?

Even though it might save you a few steps, try to avoid standing on the very corner of a busy soi to flag down the taxi and then in very leisurely fashion get in – by stopping there, the taxi is making a large number of other people wait and might provoke an accident. Despite the enormous effort involved, walk a few more steps away from the junction to avoid this problem.

At the end of the journey, you will be expected to pay some money. Plan ahead for this or else you might find the taxi inconveniencing other people by clogging up the traffic. The taxi driver will help you by turning on the meter so you can have a good idea how much you will have to pay at the end. It is not really necessary to wait until the taxi driver has stopped before starting to look for some money and then counting out the fare to the exact baht in 25 satang coins.

The taxi driver does not want to take eight teenage boys 200 metres down the road. Walk.

Whether getting in or getting out, hurry up.

Illegal Taxi Drivers and the Letters Page of the Bangkok Post

Despite the long warning period and the, according to rumour and speculation only so don’t sue me, occasionally less than zealous approach to rooting out wrong-doers by some of our boys in brown, 300 illegal taxi drivers, touts and sundry others have been arrested in a crackdown at Suvarnabhumi Airport. Since everybody knew this was going to happen (and assuming the whole thing is not just made up to lend a better impression to airport operations, which I would not rule out completely), this might all be just as well from a Darwinian perspective – if we are to have criminals preying upon tourists, then let them be crim masterminds of the brilliance, cunning and ruthlessness of Fu Manchu. Really, the main problem with taking a taxi from the airport is the willingness of some people to try to cheat the system. After all the problems we had when Don Mueang was the principal international airport, it was great to come back via Suvarnabhumi, join a regulated and usually quite short queue and then pay the metered fee plus an additional 50 baht (plus any tollway fees on the way). However, there are still people who will try to get taxis unwilling to join this system and try to negotiate an independent deal – there was some clown who wrote in to the Bangkok Post advocating this a couple of weeks ago. If this is not prevented, then the whole system will break down and we will all get the joy of witnessing how Thai people like to queue up in an orderly fashion and how much taxi drivers enjoy going to Ladprao when they think they can get another fare. Speaking of the Bangkok Post letters page, there has been a recent campaign (well, several is perhaps not a campaign but you know what I mean) of anti-taxi driver propaganda – it seems to be part of a conspiracy by, I suspect, paid hacks planting anti-Thaksin and anti-working class Thai lies. There seems to be at least one per day, in addition to the tedium of the usual gang of serial letter writers – the self-righteous, right-wing burblings of Burin Kantabutra, the adolescent exhibitionism of Cha-am Jamal, the legions of people who want to argue about Israel from positions of almost profound ignorance and the various lunatics, mostly American, who have been hanging around since the War in Vietnam and still seem to think it could have been won without the backstabbing pinko hippies. Still, bad as all of this is, it is still better thought out than the editorial comments of certain people I could name (but will save for another blog).

The Friday Morning Dilemma

It is Friday morning and the usual dilemma rears its grotesque head for those of us living on Ladprao Road or any other problematic traffic area. . Indeed, the dilemma is worse than usual this week because it is the end of the month and so very many people are going to go out and spend their salaries on khao, khap khao and bia, Worse still, the sky is darkening and there is a pretty good chance that there will be a storm some time later this afternoon.

Put these factors together and we enter a twilight zone in which taxis, usually available in a plethora of choices, become rarer to find than maturity at a PAD rally. Those that can be found will inevitably take the opportunity to demonstrate their power over the poor pundit by refusing to go to Ladprao or in fact anywhere they do not want to go – which is most of Bangkok, as it happens. Going to the airport is probably OK but we can’t all go and sleep in the airport just because it is the only place a taxi driver is prepared to go.

So here is the dilemma: at what time should I plan to leave the office in order to make it home before midnight and without spending hours sat in a stationary taxi listening to the taxi driver moaning about the traffic. I could sneak out early and try to make it home before the traffic builds up too much – that would mean leaving by no later than 3:30 – but that means not being able to do much of the work I need to finish today and it will be no good anyway if it is raining then. Alternatively, I could wait until later – eight o’clock should probably be safe, although it is far from guaranteed. Another option would be to leave at normal time and then travel on the tube to Siam Square or somewhere and do some shopping in a hi-so place and then hope to get a taxi from Mo Chit around 7:30-8. Again, that does not work if it is raining and that would mean a journey to Ratchada and standing in the rain there. Sigh.

It is more than 7 km to walk and, in Bangkok, it feels a lot longer than that because of the various pavement issues. However, I have walked home before and am prepared to do so again, if I do not have too much stuff to carry.