Kulani Nkuna
2 minute read
1 Nov 2013
11:00 am

Thai-t squeeze in Bangkok

Kulani Nkuna

When frustrated by the conduct of taxi drivers in different locales, provinces or countries, the refrain is usually, "taxi drivers are born of the same mother".

STUCK. Traffic jams are common around the clock in Bangkok.

This thought came to mind while trailblazing aboard a tuk-tuk in downtown Bangkok. Traffic in this city is a constant companion for the visitor who must learn to not be in a hurry to get anywhere as congestion is a given at any time of day. Luckily, the modes of transport in the city are myriad. But given the humidity, the tuk-tuks are your best bet as, like their brethren in South Africa, the tuk-tuk drivers have an insatiable need to keep moving no matter the extent of the traffic jam.

Riding on a tuk-tuk enables the passenger to feel the wind on their skin while in transit and unlike the copycat versions here at home, the Thai versions are built for speed and the drivers execute thrilling manoeuvres, their purpose to get to the destination in record time. The forward movement also keeps the humidity at bay.

The drivers are street-smart too, waving off slower cars until they give way or gently slapping the bonnet of a sedan to signal that they will wait. Most of the time, car drivers oblige and give way to tuk-tuk operators in a calm manner. South African drivers should take a chill pill and employ the calmness displayed by Thai drivers when another road user cuts them off.

Bangkok is a city with an impressive skyline, but beauty is also to be found at the roots of the skyscrapers, as the tuk-tuks also allow the visitor to take in some of the stalls selling various wares on the side of the streets. The sidewalks are a hive of activity, with people going on about their business in their numbers, though there’s enough breathing room to navigate the corners freely. The infrastructure is impressive and modern but some of the rundown, isolated residential buildings give the city a real edge.

Despite the drivers’ impatient collective nature, the tuk-tuks offer a comfortable, smooth ride that allows passengers to take in the sound, the smells and the vibrant energy that Bangkok has to offer.