Aug 15 2011
Motorcycle cabs weave in between lanes of cars as traffic stands stopped at a light; they pull up onto the footpath for a stretch of cheeky riding when the road way is blocked and race the wrong way down one-way streets. Motorcycle taxis are the enfant terrible of Bangkok’s transport options. A local grandma will tell you how terrible they are, dangerous and misbehaved, while simultaneously hoisting herself and her shopping side-saddle onto a motorbike taxi seat and waving the driver on. She’s not completely wrong: there are dangers, but sometimes it’s the only way to make it on time.
In Bangkok the motorcycle taxi drivers wear coloured vests, mostly orange, but sometimes pink, blue, purple or green. Each jacket lists the city district they are registered to and their jacket number (unfortunately only in Thai script, so it’s of little help to most visitors). Don’t go with a driver that isn’t wearing a vest. Moto-taxis aren’t usually flagged down but they congregate around the entrances to sois, hotels, office buildings, subway and skytrain stations, and usually have a shaded stand with a fare board listing popular destinations. This fare board will invariably be in Thai, but sometimes they are written in Roman characters as well.
When negotiating the fare, the thing to remember is that motorcycle taxis are not the cheapest option; they are the fastest option. For a short distance (less than a kilometre), they can be cheaper than the flag fall of a metered taxi, but for longer journeys they cost more: around 40 baht for a kilometre and 70 for two. The price for trips further than that depend on your negotiating skills.
Most drivers will provide a helmet — make sure you use it. Strap it down tight. Thai women usually ride side-saddle; let your comfort level on the back of a bike guide you. You won’t be the first woman to not ride side-saddle. If you’re a guy, straddle the rider’s seat, but don’t snuggle the driver. Rest your feet on the back set of pegs. Keep your knees in as your driver will squeeze through any available opening in traffic and you don’t want to get them bashed on a car fender. Don’t hold onto the driver! Thai culture precludes that much touching, especially if you are of the opposite sex. Hold onto the railing that runs around the seat for stability, and don’t be afraid to ask the driver to kii chaa chaa (ride slowly!) After your driver starts his bike, jump on, hold on tight, and you’ll be there before you know it.
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