The Driver

posted by Russ, July 9 in thailand, travel with tags , ,

1 comment so far
The tuk tuk driver

The tuk tuk driver

We had arrived in Bangkok a couple days earlier, but clearly we didn’t do our homework. With our first class sleeper tickets booked and in hand, but only 40 minutes left to get to Hualamphong Station, things weren’t looking good. The original plan was simple, leave the hotel an hour beforehand and walk over to the roadside near Democracy Monument where we were certain we’d be able to find a cab for the five kilometer ride to the station. At the time it had seemed foolproof, and as we now rounded the corner from our hotel and saw some open cabs sitting in the traffic, we thought we were in the clear.

It was our first time in Thailand and we were heading south to Koh Phangan for the New Year’s Eve Full Moon Party. To make the event even more epic, the night of December 31 was actually going to be a full moon, which is not a regular occurrence; it hadn’t happened in over 10 years and would not happen again for at least that many more. But at the moment, our focus was on getting into a cab and heading to the station where we could check into our sleeper and let the adventure really begin. As we lugged our backpacks over to the first cab we saw and were about to hop in, the driver asked where we were going.

“Train, Hualamphong Station,” we replied.

He shook his head no, and nodded forward to indicate the stalled traffic in front of him that we now realized wasn’t moving. We walked further down the street to find another taxi, and were dismayed to again receive the same answer.

Despair began to set in, and we started wondering how we had overlooked such a simple thing. Traffic! A brief glance at a map earlier had shown that the station wasn’t far, and with the arrogance of foreigners on their first visit to Bangkok we figured those few kilometers would only take a few minutes by car, and so we had put it out of our minds and ventured out to enjoy the remainder of the day. But now the reality of the situation was setting in, precious minutes were ticking by and our bags grew heavier by the second. It was becoming painstakingly obvious that no car could get us to our destination in time with traffic as bad as it was, the cabs we had earlier tried to to hail earlier had moved a mere few feet forward.

There was a moment of panic, then we noticed the tuk tuk driver down the closest side street napping in his seat. With what was probably a bit too much urgency, we approached him and were greeted by a second man, this one awake and much younger and wanting to know where we needed to go. He was clearly the negotiator, and the moment I said “train station”, he knew he had us. There was immediately a mutual understanding of our situation, him knowing he’d be able to pull a few extra dollars from the transaction, and us prepared to pay the price to be saved. With a knowing smirk he said “150 baht.” We knew $5 American was higher than the normal rate for a tuk tuk, but with less than 30 minutes until our train left, we said yes without a second thought.

Hualamphong Station, Bangkok

Hualamphong Station, Bangkok

The driver woke up and shook the sleep out of his eyes, we tossed our bags into the back, climbed into the seat and were off. His tuk tuk roared to life in all of its two stroke glory, burping out a cloud of smoke as we quickly accelerated. Down a side street, over the curb and onto a few sidewalks, around a few hair raising turns we went, laughing like maniacs in the back seat with the wind in our hair and the exhaust in our faces. There were a few moments of terror where we wondered about our decision, but as quickly as it started, we rounded a corner and pulled up to the station without a scratch. The driver smiled with a cigarette in his hand, I handed him his 150 baht, and we walked into the terminal to find our train with 15 minutes still to spare.

Originally posted on Tuesday, July 9th, 2013 at 7:10 AM .

One Response to “The Driver”

  1. Great article and incident too. Koh Phangan is a perfect place for the New Year’s Eve Full Moon Party. I’ve really enjoyed it.

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