The Secret World Of Motorbike Taxis

You close your eyes and grip onto the back of the seat.

Shooting forward into the Bangkok traffic your heart pounds like Keith Moon on a sugar rush as your knuckles whiten.

Here we go.

Past SUVs, buses, sports cars and minivans, you squeeze your shoulders tightly together lest you smack straight into that Number 2 bus rearing up your flank.

You pray that the amulet swinging wildly around your motorcy driver’s neck has been blessed by a monk with a soul even marginally purer than Jomtien’s coastline. You hope with all your heart he has made merit by way of a packet of sticky rice to that overfed mangy soi dog who mooches outside Family Mart each and every morning.

But, most of all, you hope you don’t crash.

And die.

Our lives, such as they are, are in the palm of his fingerless studded gloves as he weaves wildly through those lanes of traffic, takes an inexplicable short-cut through the slums, and blindly pulls out into a stream of fuming traffic. As he mounts the sidewalk and shamelessly drives along the cycle path, as he zig-zags merrily between moving vehicles; 110ccs and a dose of blind faith are all this Sukhumvit Warrior requires to start the day.

More: The Unspoken Rules Of Driving In Bangkok

Come on, look on the bright side – if you do have an accident and roll off onto that harsh unforgiving concrete, the fastest way to any hospital is – you guessed it – right back on the rear of your friendly motorbike taxi. Talk about time efficiency!

Aside from the perennial fear of a fatal crash though, it’s not all doom and gloom when it comes to the omnipresent numbered orange shirts.

These dudes are the life blood of the city.

Who among us doesn’t rely on them in one way or another?

When they’re not shuttling us up and down our long soi to and from work, or rushing us to an urgent appointment, they’re busy paying our final electricity bill, or picking us up some supplies from 7 Eleven.

For a small fee, some will even scout out cheap apartments or offer a helping hand in settling a domestic dispute. Their services are endless in this city with endless services.

More: The Bangkok Bus: An Early Morning Urban Safari

Sure, they’re not always hard at work: we’ve all seen our local motorcy taxi driver playing checkers with his pals while drinking from a M150 bottle. And yeah, we’ve certainly seen him serpentine up the soi after a heavy session on said M150.

Bangkok motorbike taxi drivers

By Twentyfour Students (Creative Commons)

But let’s face facts here; without him, this city would grind to a sudden halt.

All motorcy taxis have earned their place on the Bangkok streets. To become one of the orange, green, blue, pink, purple or red vest wearing Sukhumvit Warriors, they have to first buy the jacket which can be prohibitively expensive. A new Sukhumvit Warrior may have to pay up to half a million baht for the jacket and inclusion into the motorcy gang.

So, be nice to your driver as he’s probably pretty well connected.

And try to relax as he zips through Sukhumvit traffic like a bat out of hell.

It’s not all about making merit or buying the right amulet – he’s in perfect control of the vehicle and always has the personal safety of his passengers as his paramount concern.

Yeah, baby. He knows what he’s doing.



Featured image is by Mark Fischer and used under a Creative Commons licence






About Author

A writer of several stories and film scripts, James is currently experiencing a midlife crisis and producing an acid folk concept album to prove it. He's also the author of crime noir book Fun City Punch. Read his blog and follow him on Twitter.

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