This happened quite a few years back, but is a valid warning even now.
After 3 weeks at “home” south of Korat it was time to return the hire car to the Budget Car Rent office. Back then this was on the island between Don Muang Terminal 1, and the railway station. After an uneventful drive to Don Muang I hand the car back. All the paperwork and payment are quickly done and it’s time to hail a taxi to go into Bangers. Spending so much time in the village, some 70km south of Korat, I find a car essential. I go fishing, trips out including Bangers, touristy trips to Phimai etc and general nosing around / local shopping. A 4-seater also restricts usage to family only.
I have never borrowed a pickup from a local, that just invites all of the village freeloaders to suddenly love Mr Farang. I see these poor saps with 8-9 “relatives” in tow often enough in Big C etc and wonder how much that little trip has just cost him? Most here will know Thais cannot travel more than 10 km without consuming at least what JC fed the 5000 with! Fact is that any village idiot's pickup is as likely to have the correct insurance as as a Liberian registered ship. A very good reason to avoid like the plague. For reasons apparent to many readers I will not BUY a car until I am fully resident again and therefore have sole control over it.
Anyway, back to the taxi trip. After a couple of minutes a taxi pulls into the island and I’m off to Bangers to meet some friends from UK. I’ll bus it back to Korat tomorrow afternoon if my head allows! I tell the driver that my destination
is the Landmark Hotel, and request that he use the express and toll ways. He agrees to this and I agree to pay the tolls. By now I notice him to be a little shifty! The photo on the licence is semi obliterated. I should have checked before getting
He’s looking at my watch, an Omega Speedmaster, more than a little too much for comfort. Am I just paranoid, surely most Thais only know Rolex right? Anyhow he now fails to take the expressway, carrying on down the “frontage road” until he reaches a pretty deserted bit with a public telephone.
He then tells me he has to make an urgent phone call. This caught me a little off guard as there were 2 Nokia mobile phones on the dash, both switched on and charged. Out he gets to make his call!
All sorts of things are going through my head by now. Is he just a piss taker? After all, customer service and Thais just don’t happen. Am I being set up for a mugging? His continual admiration of my nice Swiss ticky-tocky may have led him to believe I may be loaded. Maybe even the destination could have reinforced that belief. Of course all farangs are millionaires according to many Thais.
With the possibility of a mugging, possibly involving weapons, certainly multiple perps foremost in my mind, I decide to jump ship so to speak. Having only hand luggage for a 1 or 2 at most night stay in Bangkok helped make this decision. Another factor
was that this was quite a deserted area, in the process of being cleared for construction and it less likely he can call on immediate support if it turns nasty.
Luckily he’s not facing in the direction of the car, the sun being in his face, so I bale out, hail a passing taxi who stops just in front. Whilst matey is still looking away I open all 4 doors of his car to delay any attempt at chase. Driver 2 now pulls away like Michael Schumacher and delivers me alive and in one piece, complete with hand luggage to the Landmark.
Several warning signs became apparent, a couple popped up from memory as I was deliberating baling out.
1- Failure to use the express and tollways.
2- The driver didn't speak a word after I gave him the destination (sometimes a Godsend as I am fed up with hearing about Manchester fxxxing United as soon as they discover my nationality).
3- In addition to the above, I speak a fair bit of Thai.
4- Use of a payphone despite 2 mobile phones in the car. Was it because of my Thai language knowledge?
5- An Arab had been operating an illegal taxi out of Don Muang and had murdered 5-6 people before the BIB felt his collar.
6- I have heard the Khao San brigade talking about tuktuk drivers taking fares to dark sois, with waiting accomplices and robbing them. Not too sure about that though, the green/purple dreadlock brigade, unless rich trustafarians, never seem to have more than 50 baht per day.
Looking at this after the incident I reckon at worst I did a shoddy piss taker out of 57 baht. At best I saved myself from a mugging, severe injury and possibly even saved my own life. If it was the former, then tuff titty to the driver, he breached contract.
I have had thousands of other taxi journeys in Thailand which were totally uneventful.
It was probably something totally innocuous. I can understand your reasons to ensure you remained safe but my feeling is that his actions were probably easily explained.