While my travel to third world countries, albeit limited, has given me some insight to the slippery set of urban taxi drivers, nothing... absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the hysterical habits of Bangkok's own breed of cabbies. They deserve their own reality show. Really.
Taxi hailed for trip from hotel to The Grand Palace. Mind you The Grand Palace is one of the biggest if not the most frequented locations in the great city of Bangkok for tourists and locals alike. Mike and myself entered the cab to a confirmation of a fast an easy route there, negotiated a fair price - 400 Baht - and zoomed off. Three minutes into the cab ride the driver turned around and, while giggling, told us he had no idea where he was going!! Smile and all!!
Luckily we took out a map we had on hand and pointed out the route to him. He began to nod with reassurance and just as our confidence returned, he leaned over to the glove compartment and pulled out a magnifying glass to take another glance at our map! It was absolutely perfect. At that point we could not decide what was worse, that he did not know the way to the Grand Palace or that he needed a magnifying glass to see!!
Taxi hailed from Chinatown to Hotel. Being well aware of the challenging Thai taxi system our hotel prepared us well with cards featuring its address in both english and Thai. What it did not prepare us for were the ever enterprising freestanding stores, predominantly in the Gem and Tailor business, who have an incredibly organized system to encourage taxi drivers to bring tourists to their shops.
Our taxi driver explained to us that if he could simply bring us to a specific tailor store that employed his services to encourage tourists to shop there, he would get one stamp that would bring him closer to redeeming a bonus of sorts. The bonus would be provided by the shop and could range anywhere from cash to a tailor made shirt to a bottle of fine whiskey. The stores even had "stamp cards" as a way of accumulating and tracking stamps. Once redeemed, the stamp card would be replaced by a new, fresh one ready to be filled. Talk about organized labor! He even went so far as to tell us that we did not have to buy anything, simply feign interest in order for him to redeem a stamp! This is exactly the type of cut throat thinking we need in times like these!!