It started out like any other taxi ride to a new hostel in Bangkok. I fumbled to tell the driver where I needed to go -resort to using a Thai map instead. The driver is confused, but thinks he knows. In reality, he doesn’t know, and I end up calling the hostel, and asking them to speak to the driver for me. This is one of the reasons why I usually stay at Lub-d Siam when I’m in Bangkok. I can say MBK (which is a 5 min walk from the hostel) and 95% of the drivers know where to go, but, I decided to switch things up, and stay at Lub-d Silom this time.
Traffic in Bangkok was horrendous, and I was peering out the window of my air-conditioned pink taxi. My driver is probably in his late thirties, or early forties, and has salt and pepper hair. Okay, it’s more salt, than pepper. I take breaks from staring out the window to look at my iPhone. The battery has less than a 20% charge, but I check Google maps to see where we are, and compare with where we need to go. I then show the driver. Why? I have absolutely no idea. Perhaps it’s because I’ve sat on a bus for 9 hours, completely silent, and I needed to hear the sound of my own voice. Whatever the reason may be, I think this triggered what is possibly the most entertaining taxi ride, ever!
Driver: You speak Thai?
I hold up my hand, and show the international sign for little (fingers held an inch apart), then say “Baan!”, which means house. Needless to say, he laughs, but that doesn’t effect my pride. ‘House’ is the first Thai word that I can actually read. It’s a big deal. Trust me.
We drive in silence for a little longer, then he circles the top of his head with his index finger, while looking at me, and says “You speak Thai. What Naaa? Speak Thai.”
I have no idea if he means head, or hair, so I pull my hair and reply with “You mean, hair?”
“You speak Thai.”
“I don’t know. It’s hair.”, the driver then says the word in Thai (gàyt), and makes me repeat it. When I have the tone right, he moves on. It’s like a rapid-fire quiz game, except it’s in Thai, and I have no clue what the answers are.
The fun doesn’t stop there, while we’re stuck in gridlock traffic, my driver goes through the words for arm, eyes, mouth, noise, ear, and neck. “What Naaaa” followed by pointing to a body part, “Speak Thai!”, which is followed by me laughing, saying the word in English, and then trying to repeat the word he gives me in Thai. There is not a lot of time between words, and within a minute or two of learning a word, I forget it. My mind is too busy trying to say the next word he’s firing at me.
My 15 second Tout video
It’s not until we finish the first round that I think of doing a video clip. I pull out my iPhone, and do a 15 second Tout clip, which is not nearly enough time. My driver tries to teach me the word for Sun. I can’t say it. I can’t get the tone right. We’re both laughing, and my tongue feels like it has been tied in a knot. I then resort to using my flip camera. I pull it out of my bag and press record, hoping to capture my impromptu Thai lesson inside a Bangkok taxi -except the driver throws something else at me.
“Tomorrow, you go to Ayutthaya. This taxi.” the driver taps himself, and then the dashboard of the taxi. I decide that this is an attempt to extort a lot of money out of me, as it’s happened before. But, as it turns out, I’m wrong.
Laughing, I respond with “I don’t think I can, I have plans with friends.”, which sounds lame, but is actually true this time around.
The driver doesn’t accept my answer, “No. You go to Ayutthaya tomorrow. Go in taxi.” he points to himself, and then the dashboard, “No charge. You go FREE!”.
This is when I know I’m not going. I have visions of going to Ayutthaya, but being stranded. Sure, there is a possibility that this will not happen, but I actually have plans already, so I graciously decline. (Does anyone else notice that this is almost similar to my Mongolian bride story from 2010?)
My driver then starts firing more Thai words at me, and I try to catch-up. It’s always the same. “What Naaaaa?”, he points to something. I say the word in English. “Speak Thai!”, I laugh and speak English again. He says the word in Thai, and I repeat. We go through the words for left, right, up, down, and knee. He says the word for Pig, and I try to repeat, but my lips and tongue don’t want to cooperate. Then he asks me for the word for chicken and I shout “Gai!”. He’s totally shocked, and I am beaming from ear to ear. He didn’t expect that one. Yes, I know a Thai word, or two. I was feeling pretty cocky, sitting in the back seat of an air-conditioned pink taxi, in Bangkok.
We continue driving towards my hostel in Silom, and he asks about Ayutthaya again. Apparently that is where he is from. I start to think that I would actually go, except I need to be in the city to visit some refugee families, if I hear back from Dwight. As we get closer to my hostel, he starts firing the name of Wats (temples) at me, and I’m expected to repeat them. I do this, and have absolutely no clue where they are. Are they in Bangkok? Are they in Ayutthaya? I don’t know! Can I tell you the name of one of them? Hell no. I forgot like a minute after he fired the next Thai word at me.
I’ve taken a few taxi (and tuk tuk) rides in Thailand. This is by far the most entertaining ride, ever! Actually, it’s more entertaining than any other taxi ride I’ve had. Like in my whole life. I know it sounds extreme, but I’m serious. I have never laughed so hard in a taxi. Traffic seemed like nothing, and when we arrived at the hostel an hour later, and my fare was 160 THB, I didn’t care. And then when he gave me 20 THB back, making the fare 140 THB, I was sad that I couldn’t go to Ayutthaya with him. I’m sure it would have been a memorable day.