Tourist Experience #1 Farang And Asian Tourists
Tourist Experience #1: Asian And Farang Tourists
I have just spent about 7 weeks as a tourist in Thailand (2 trips within 3 months) and return to the US in December 2003. It has been a great experience for me. I was extremely happy and had mostly positive interactions with the local Thai, and other tourists (from all over the world). I have gained a lot of knowledge which is not available from tour books or websites. My perspective of things is from a first time Asian American tourist to Thailand and not someone who has been living in Thailand for years. But I did buy over 20 books and spent over 400 hours on the web to prepare myself before I came to Bangkok.
Recently there are a few posts that discuss the treatment of farang or farang tourists in Thailand versus Asian tourists. Some or most farang seems to believe that they are not treated as well as Asians. I think there is some truth to it. Unfortunately very few farang would look at the real reason behind what they think is unfair treatment.
I’ll give you an example. It was a weekday evening at about 7pm. I was not feeling well on the way back from Pattaya. I, my wife and our Thai tour guide were standing on Sukhumvit in front of Membo looking for a taxi to take us back to our apartment. We have two small pieces of luggage with us. A taxi came and stops about 5 feet pass me. I heard a loud voice about 20 feet on the right side of me. “What the fu** is this ……………” This is the only time during my stay in Thailand I have heard someone curse at me. The only time that anyone even raised their voice at me was a street vendor lady who said “NO” loud and clear. (That is for another post and I think if I were her I might have used a stronger word then “NO”. I was trying to find a lock that would fit my key and she was not happy about seeing me trying my key on her locks)
There were three American farang, about 6 feet tall and 250 pounds with no luggage. It is obvious that they believe the taxi should have stopped and picked them up. Since I was educated in the US and trained by rednecks in four letter words, I picked that opportunity to show them what I had learnt. “You Mother F***** ………” Silence and motionless were the response from the 3 American farang. They were either stunned by my expertise in using four letter words with their accent or they have been warned by others do not get into trouble in Thailand or else you may rot in jail.
There are at least 4 possible reasons of why the taxi did not stop for them and the first three has nothing to do with them being farangs.
1. They were using the wrong hand signal. In the USA usually you wave up at the taxi to flag them down. Your hand is up at the level of your head. In Thailand normally you hold your arm out and wave downward to stop a taxi or a bus. Especially at night the taxi driver do not have a good view and may not see their hand waving signal. Sometimes you may be treated differently because you do not understand the local culture.
2. The taxi was going quite fast. It stopped about 5 feet past me. The driver may not be able to stop for them by the time he had seen them. Sometimes things just happen randomly.
3. We had luggage and the driver may have preferred a trip with luggage. (More money for the trip)
4. The last one is the taxi driver prefers to pick up an Asian tourist or local Thai over a farang.
Knowing what I know if you give a taxi driver in Bangkok a choice of picking up a farang or an Asian tourist (or a local Thai), the majority of them will prefer a local Thai (or Asian tourist). The reason is because they usually get more money from the local Thai or the Asian tourist then the farang. How do I know? Again let me tell you what I have observed.
I have only used the minibus #36 3 times when I went to the Ancient city (Muang Boran). It was supposed to be 5 baht. The first time I gave the driver 5 baht but I notice most locals gave the driver 10 baht. The next two times I gave the driver 10 baht. My guess is that some locals who can afford it think the trip worth 10 baht and the drivers have a difficult job. So a lot of the regular rider will give the driver 10 baht. If the locals who ride minibus will give the driver more money, then the locals (those who use taxi must have more money) also paid the taxi drivers well.
It is amazing that many Thai (and other Asians) thinks the wealthy should pay more for the same service because they can afford it and usually those providing service are poor. Most farangs do not have the same believe. This leads to a lot of behavior that the Thai and other Asians think is unreasonable. A farang posting here said he enjoys asking and waiting for change from his taxi fare. He wants to get the change back before he decided to give any tips or not. Unfortunately it is this kind of behavior that gives taxi drivers reasons to prefer picking up locals than farang. They look at this as a waste of time and somewhat disrespect to their job. I have used taxis many times. About 1/3 of the time someone else paid. I have noticed that my farang friends definitely give less tips to the taxi driver than Asian friends.
I stay in a service apartment on Sukhumvit soi 16. The corporate rate is about 58,000 baht a month (and the company rented at least 30 apartments in this building). So it is an upscale place with lots of services. We have security, doormen, maid every day, free breakfast and free tuktuk. So we have to tip them very often. The apartment is occupied by about 40% farang 30% Japanese and 30% others. I have to say the Japanese are the most generous in tipping. They usually tip with paper currency (20 baht +). Farang tip the least.
Asians look at this from the “profit” and “respect” point of view and not from a race point of view. If I were in a profession which depended on tips, I’d prefer those who tip me the most and also treat me with respect. One time a taxi driver going south on Asoke made a right turn at Sukhumvit instead of going straight for soi 16. This means an extra 10 minutes and 10 baht to correct the error. The meter was 91 baht. I gave him 100 baht. Before I could get out of the taxi he tried to give me back 10 baht. I did not understand what he said in Thai but I think he is saying the trip should be 90 baht only. He did not want to take 100 baht from me. I heard a lot of talk about taxi drivers trying to rip them off. Yes, some definitely are not honest but 99% of them are decent folks just try to make a living. Too many tourists have said that taxi drivers deliberately take the long routes and get a higher fair. This taxi driver just made an honest mistake and he tried to make it right. I did what a local Thai would do and told him it is all right and he should keep the extra 10 baht. The door man just laughed and smile at me when he found out why we argued about 10 baht.
To take a taxi from soi 16 to the airport can be as low as 177 baht or as high as 270 baht. (via the toll road) The one time that the meter was only 177 baht I still gave him 200 baht. I have never tipped more then 11 baht to a taxi driver except that one time. I want to thank him for the great service he gave me. I never expect to pay less then 200b for that trip and I am going to at least gave him that much. I think a Japanese tourist will do the same if not better.
Remember one thing. When you are the minority you are no longer an individual. You represent your ethnic group. My experiences in the USA have given me this insight. Whatever I do others do not just say it is hahaha48. They always say it is my ethnic group that does it. If it is only hahaha48, I can do anything and get away with it. But if I do not want others to look down on my ethnic group I better behave myself. When in Thailand try to understand Thai culture and adjust your thinking and behaviors to it.
In my experience, the local Thais generally do not tip taxi drivers or tip much less. Taxi drivers have a lot of change that they keep to give back to Thai customers, usually to the last baht! Very few farangs I know, be they residents or tourists, demand change to the last baht. As far as other Asian tourists go, I simply do not know. The Japanese are known for paying too much so it would not surprise me to hear them tipping a lot.
Getting back to why you were picked up ahead of the farangs, my guess would be that you had bags there and the taxi driver probably thought you were going to the airport, which is a good fare, and thus he chose you.