Thailand’s Worst Taxi Driver!
This happened to me in June 2010 and it may appear so bizarre as to be unbelievable but I think it is more a sign of the times, how far into decline Thailand has gone as a tourist destination.
I have been to Chiang Mai many times and it has one of the most accessible airports in the region. A ten minute walk to the Airport Shopping Plaza where there are all kinds of transport options. However, the airport also has one of the cheapest official
taxi firms, a mere 120 baht into the city and never any waiting. I have used it many times before without any hassles and was expecting more of this same this time…
There seemed about a hundred or so taxi drivers sitting outside the airport in their neat uniforms but my chap was one big f..ker. For a moment, I thought he was African. Well over six foot tall, huge shoulders and comically short legs. He was probably forty years old but his whole body had run to fat and was trying to burst out of his uniform which was several sizes too small. His face had something of the buffalo in it, his teeth ruined by cigarettes and his breath had a touch of that paint-stripper rice whisky.
“I King John,” the guy slurred, proudly pointing at himself.
“King John?” I queried in disbelief.
“No, Khun Chon,” said in a tone that suggested he was tired of dealing with farang who were obviously retarded.
I mentioned the hotel's name to make sure he knew where we were going as he tried to fit himself into the driver's seat. He would be useful in the front line of a battlefield or tossing crates in a dock but the poor guy had to contort himself every which way before he was settled behind the wheel. He spent a minute looking at the gear lever, pondering on its function and eventually managed to crunch the gearbox into first. I'd kept my small backpack at my feet, travelling light and not trusting the guy to resist later driving off with it in his boot.
Having done the trip to the hotel near the night market several times I was a bit perturbed to find the car shooting over the flyover next to Robinsons and growling off in completely the wrong direction. The driver had obviously spent his youth using his large size to bully his way through life, now instantly annoyed if a slower car impeded our progress. My Thai does not run to obscenities but his tone of voice gave him away, shouting at the top of his lungs in a harsh baritone whilst slapping the horn on and off in fury – just because some poor guy was a nanosecond too slow in getting out of his way.
I repeated the name of the hotel, gesturing in the correct direction.
“Go see girl. Very young girl. No problem. Very cheap”
That probably exhausted his knowledge of English. Years before, when taking a tuktuk in Chiang Mai city there was a fifty percent chance of being taken on a forced tour of the brothels but most of those have been closed down and, these days, you probably had to demand such an excursion – not that I bothered with tuktuks in Chiang Mai, they tried to overcharge foreigners to such an extent that they were not worth the hassle.
After repeating the manta of no girls and the name of the hotel for five minutes, I gave up. Soon we were shooting around the ring-road, the muttering giant cutting in and out of the four lane highway. His total incompetence as a driver illustrated every time he crunched between gears, it was obviously a matter of face for him to be the fastest guy on the road. He only slowed when we had to turn right on to the Doi Saket highway, much twitching and grumbling whilst he waited for the lights to change. He then did the next eight kilometres in about ten minutes, finally ramming the car down a side lane and thence slamming to a stop in front of a detached house on the edge of a small housing estate. I estimated that I was about twelve kilometres away from my hotel!
It was one of those half finished housing estates that had gone bankrupt during the last crash and had yet to be fully sorted by the slow legal system in Thailand. There were a couple of ruins nearby, a minor mansion across the road and our destination looked like it had been half-heartedly finished off on a strict budget, a single storey detached house that was probably worth a million baht at most.
As soon as I set a foot out of the car, four large dogs went berserk, baying for blood. Fortunately, they were behind the closed gate of the mansion and unable to get at me. There was a young boy loitering on the veranda of the house, who rushed out to greet Chon as if he was hero returning from battle. I reluctantly followed them into the house, keeping my backpack with me. A large room minimally furnished and no sight of the fabled hookers.
Chon pointed to the boy,
“5,000 baht, one hour.”
Looking hard at the slim youth, it was possible that despite the short haircut and lack of breasts that it was a very young girl.
“No, fifteen, no problem. Wife Number two! Wife number one work Pattaya, send money every month. Farang buy house, he die. Wife number one big pussy now, no good! Mem, mem, mem!”
Chon had dispensed with his uniform, a huge amount of flab bursting forth as he struggled out of the too small clothes. Luckily, he was wearing shorts underneath. The girl / boy had fetched a bottle of the rot-gut local whisky which Chon immediately took a large gulp out of.
With a slightly bemused smile, he looked me up and down, put the bottle down and went into a muscle-builder's poise. His chest, shoulder and arm muscles were massive but all the flab around his waist was like something you'd see on a fifty year-old African woman who'd dropped ten kids.
“You want me? I muscle man! Big cock!”
The look of disgust on my face answered that question and he stomped out, whisky bottle in hand, repeating that one hour was 5,000 baht.
The house began to shake and rumble, looking through the window I saw a discontented Chon repeatedly slapping his hand on the veranda with such force that it vibrated through the whole, poorly built, concrete house. The youth pointed to the bedroom and ground her/his hips suggestively. Time to leave.
Moving out of the front door, Chon growled,
“1,000 baht taxi, too much petrol. I Mafia, I kill not pay!”
A typical Thai man living in a complete fantasy world, in which the whole purpose of farang was to provide him with easy money. The guy leapt up, wobbling on legs designed for someone a third of his height and half his mass, grabbed a long piece of bamboo and went to whack me on the backside with it – seeing it coming I sort of jumped a yard and felt the air go whooshing past me. Chon lost his balance and went flying down the house's steps.
By the time I got out into the road, the dogs had gone berserk and were trying to leap through the gate…. their racket was taken up by another pack of dogs who bounded down the intersection, going manic when they smelt farang flesh. I have been in Thailand long enough to know that the only way to stop them was to bend down, pretend to pick up a stone and throw it at them.
A dishevelled Chon had made it to the gate as I managed to creep about fifty yards away, the dogs having sussed that I was playing with them were getting ready to pounce and I began to panic. The last house before the lane, some Thai guy comes out to see what all the noise is about and snaps a single word at the dogs – the blighters go from being ravenous wolves to family pets in an instant and disappear back to where they came from, happily wagging their tails. WYF? Chon gathers his wits, churns through his drunken mind to enlighten the world with his intellect, shouts,
I decide to get to the main road as quickly as possible but the guy who got rid of the dog, points at his motorcycle and gives me that big Thai smile, which could mean anything from let me help you to you are about five seconds off death. He gets the Honda running and the next thing I know I am on the back, we wobble off towards the main road. Ten minutes later, after a frightening shortcut through the central reservation, I am deposited at a bus stop. The guy muttering jai dam, jai damn, about Chon. Two buses and one red baht bus later, I was back at the hotel… much later, after some much needed beer and a bit of short-time exercise, I was just falling into a contented sleep when I had the awful thought that King John knew which hotel I was staying at!
On the one hand this is a humorous story and nicely put together story. On the other hand it demonstrates that Thailand has, as you rightly point out, descended into some sort of a warped joke. Would this sort of BS ever happen in the likes of the US or the UK? Not a chance! When you step back and look at Thailand objectively, you start to see how truly messed up some things are.