Stickman Readers' Submissions May 11th, 2006

Tuktuk Tyranny

Upon arrival at Bangkok airport, I took a taxi to my hotel. I leapt into bed exhausted, and woke up several hours later. I decided to visit Patpong as it was then about 8pm. I needed some money first, so I walked down the road from my hotel – The Woraburi leading to the Sukumvit Road. I passed the Nana Hotel at the corner, and found an ATM machine, took out some money, and looked around for a taxi.

I felt sorry for this old guy in a three wheeled tuktuk, and thought I’d give him my custom. I asked him how much he wanted to take me to Patpong. 200 baht he said. That was fine by me so I got in.

He Clinic Bangkok

It started to rain heavily. Whatever I did, and however I sat I got wet. It was coming in at 45 degrees, then horizontally, then from the east, then from the west. When it came down vertically it came in through the guy's leaky plastic roof. I was soon wringing wet.

The traffic was still, then we made a few yards. Then we stopped again. Eventually, we got to the next set of lights. It was just awful. I was wringing wet through and was slowly being gassed by the traffic fumes.

The guy had something to say every few minutes. I had already told him where I wanted to go. But now he wanted to know if I wanted to go to Patpong 1 or Patpong 2. I told him once more to take me to Patpong.

CBD bangkok

Then he told me that Patpong 1 was shut due to flooding… I told him once again that I wanted to go to Patpong, and not to worry about whether I was going to Patpong 1 or 2. As I intended to visit both. They are right beside each other. He didn’t understand of course.

He kept banging on about Patpong 1 being closed, and did I want to go to Patpong 2. OK I said, shouting over the roar of a bus engine right next to my head, take me to Patpong 2. It would make no difference to me, and it got him to shut up. The bus exhaust splattered sooty spots all over me as the driver put his foot down. I felt like getting out and running off.

After about three quarters of an hour the driver pulls in beside this gaudy strip joint. He then tells me that we are there. There was just this one problem; it was not Patpong 1 or 2. I suppose he must have thought that I had never been before and so would not know the difference.

Thai guys came rushing out of this place like I was a long lost rich relative. They were tugging my arms to get me out, but that stopped when they saw I was not a happy bunny. I told the idiot once more that I wanted to go to Patpong, but I just got that dumb Thai look, like he didn’t understand which was bullshit. We might have spoken different languages, but Patpong sounds the same in both languages. He knew exactly where I wanted to go.

wonderland clinic

At this point I told the guy to take me back to where he had picked me up. Then I thought better of it, I’d better ask him if he wanted more money I thought. He did! He wanted another 200 baht to take me back to where I had first stupidly given the idiot my custom. So that was it then, it would cost me 400 baht in total, for him ruining my evening, getting me pissed wet through, covering me in soot, and wasting my time.

I said just pull over, and I got out. We had only made 200 yards down the road from his buddies' club. That would not really make any difference to the fare I thought. I gave the jerk his 200 baht. That’s when he started banging on wanting more money.

He insisted that I should give him 400 baht. Then he started banging on about 300 baht, but I wasn’t giving him anything more than 200 baht as originally agreed. The guy deserved nothing in my opinion. He had not taken me where I wanted to go. I gave him his 200 baht and left in pursuit of fresh transport.

I got into a fresh taxi and asked how much to go to Patpong. The new guy said 300 baht. This was a surprise because I imagined that we were already somewhere near it. OK I said, how much to Soi Cowboy? 100 baht he said. So I was nearer to Soi Cowboy than Patpong I thought.

His English was much better. I asked him if Patpong 1 and 2 were open. Of course he said giving me an odd look. Are you sure I asked, I heard that one was shut I told him. He told me he had just dropped off a fare there, and they were both open. It was exactly what I expected to be told.

Soi Cowboy please I said. Up ahead he turned left, and in no time at all we were at the junction by the Nana Hotel.

So then I came to understand what the tuktuk driver had been doing earlier. He had been driving me all around town to make it look like he had covered some distance to make the journey time plausible. Then he had taken me to a club which was actually just around the corner from where he had picked me up. And all this so he could get a backhander or a petrol coupon from the club owner.

Of course it did not matter at all to him that in doing so I got soaking wet, half gassed and covered in soot. Neither did it matter I suppose that I was to have the best part of an hour wasted, and be charged double – if he could have got away with it. Neither did professionalism ever rear its head. It didn’t matter at all to him if the customer got what he ordered or not.

I have heard stories like this on several occasions, but I never thought it would happen to me.

Now for those reading this that have not yet been to Thailand, you need to know this. Many tuktuk and taxi drivers have an agenda. First they want to know roughly what you are seeking. Then, they want to take you somewhere you did not ask to go to.

This is how it works. Once you tell them where you want to go, lets say it is a jewellery store, they will want to take you to another one. Why? Because the other one will give the driver a petrol coupon, or a few baht for taking you to their shop.

If on the other hand you want to go to a particular hotel, all will be well until the journey is underway, then he won’t know where it is, but do not worry because he’ll take you to another one, again, he will get a backhander, or a petrol coupon, a pen, or perhaps something else.

And as you have just read earlier, he would much prefer to take you to some lousy flea pit of a club than take you to Soi Cowboy, Patpong or any other nightlife area you specify, again, so he can get a backhander.

You do need a taxi at the airport to get you into the city, but if the guy starts pestering you about if you have a hotel reservation, make certain that he thinks you have, or you may find yourself going somewhere you did not plan on visiting.

From here on in, once I’m at the hotel of my choice, I will not use a tuktuk or taxi, unless I know and trust the guy. From now on, I’m going to use the sky train. It’s a shame it was not built right up to the airport, then I would not ever have to deal with tuktukers and taxi drivers ever again.

Stickman's thoughts:

Many of the taxi drivers and tuktuk drivers are a laugh and do their job well, but increasingly there are more and more rotten ones out there. It is a sad fact that many Thais who work in the tourism industry are more interested in what they can get from you, than actually trying to satisfy your needs and provide the service you ask for.

nana plaza