Last night when I hopped in a tuk tuk, this fine feathered friend turned and greeted me. The driver told me he always takes his pet parrot with him on his excursions around town. This little guy seems to especially love turning sharp corners and clipping along at high speeds. This is one cool bird!
Many foreigners who come to Thailand refer to this place as paradise. Apparently, the Spanish pop band, Dvicio, who were in Bangkok to give a concert yesterday, think so, too. This morning on their way to Chatuchak Weekend Market in a three-wheeler, they sang their hit song Paraiso (Paradise). According to today's version of the tune, Paradise is in a tuk tuk. I might just have to agree with them on that.
If Spiderman drove a tuk tuk, it would look like this. Lately, I've noticed more and more of these handmade spiderwebs made out of rope appearing on the sides of many three-wheelers in Bangkok. In practical terms, they are useful in holding cargo in when passengers are transporting large boxes and other goods around, and they are also helpful in preventing thieves from reaching into tuk tuks and snatching people's bags. But my favorite part about them is that they remind me of something you would see in super hero comics. As the lyrics from Spiderman's theme song go:
So...it's been a really long time since I've posted anything on 'Art of the Tuk Tuk'. But one of my New Year's resolutions for 2016 is to regularly update this blog. Hopefully, this is one resolution I can keep. Anyway, this story is too good not to mention on this blog as it involves an outrageous tuk tuk costume worn at the Miss Universe contest in Las Vegas last month. Despite initial skepticism among many Thais about the outfit complete with headlights, Miss Thailand, Aniporn Chalermburanawong, ended up winning Best National Costume at the pageant. Just goes to show you that tuk tuks are recognized the world over as one of Thailand's iconic symbols. Thais should feel extremely proud of their unique mode of transportation and we should all be grateful to Miss Thailand for pulling off such a distinctive, albeit uncomfortable, look.
According to a recent study in the US, twenty-five percent of all automobile accidents in the States are caused by inattentive driving while talking or texting on cell phones. I wonder what percentage of car crashes in Thailand are related to this issue. Tuk tuk drivers are constantly chatting on their phones.
I just returned from a trip abroad and one of the first things I did when I arrived in Bangkok was hop in a tuk tuk. I missed riding in them when I was gone and now that I'm back, I feel like taking these three-wheelers everywhere I go. They're especially perfect for short trips to the market and they're great for hauling things to and fro. They're also relatively inexpensive if you don't mind haggling and if the driver agrees to a fair charge. What's notto love about this mode of transportation?
My tuk tuk driver the other day was born in Kathmandu which explains why he has this particular sticker on his vehicle. This emblem is prevalent in Nepal and it has come to represent the country itself. The eyes are meant to be those of the Buddha and signifify his all-seeing and all-knowing qualities. The coiled line below the eyes is the Nepalese number one which symbolizes unity and enlightenment. When I see the round yellow shape, however, all I can think about is one of those happy faces that says "have a nice day".
According to my tuk tuk driver the other day, the real Tarzan lives somewhere in Thailand. I guess he resides on one of the islands or somewhere upcountry. Then again, maybe he's from the concrete jungle of Bangkok and swings from power lines in order to avoid all the heavy traffic.
In Thailand, it's common to see colorful cloth wrapped around various objects, including the bows of long-tail boats, the steering wheels of cars and tuk tuks, and trees. In the case of trees, it's believed that spirits live in certain species that are old and big, and consequently monks and laypeople wrap material around them to designate their sacredness. You can always find trees with stripes of color in and around Buddhist temples, and sometimes even religious buildings themselves, as well as images of the Buddha, are draped in cloth. The fabric bundled around parts of boats, cars, and tuk tuks, however, serves another function. The cloth symbolically protects the vehicles and passengers from accidents and other dangers. The way the driver of this three-wheeler was maniacally swerving in and out of lanes today, he should have wrapped his entire vehicle in fabric.
If there's something weird and it don't look good. Who you gonna call? This three-wheeler? No. Ghostbusters! If they don't answer, perhaps you could give Bob Marley, the Rolling Stones, Ferrari, Che Guevara, or the Michelin Man a ring.
In Bangkok, where there are many wealthy tourists and expats, and where certain Thais are obsessed with their social status, many five-star restaurants, hotels, spas, and other services prevail. Even the driver of this three-wheeler installed five taillights in the shape of stars to designate that his vehicle and services are top quality. Most people who take tuk tuks, however, could care a less about that. They just want to get from Point A to Point B safely and for the least amount of money possible.
In Thailand, tigers are a symbol of strength, power, and fearlessness. In this culture, you can find Thai-style images of them in the form of tattoos and on lucky yantra cloths, like this one hanging on the ceiling of a three-wheeler. Because tigers can be ferocious and scare away smaller animals, tuk tuk drivers frequently choose this particular image as they believe it drives away other auto rickshaws vying for the same customers. Indeed the competition can be fierce in this city overrun with various forms of taxis.
If you happen to be in Bangkok this weekend, hop in a tuk tuk and tell the driver to go to Yaowarat Road to celebrate Chinese New Year. Never mind the hoards of people, the sights in Bangkok's Chinatown at this time of year are spectacular! Be sure to try some delicacies on the street, stop at a Chinese-style temple, watch dancing dragons and troupes of acrobats, and take some photos of the themed decorations in the form of this year's astrological sign, the snake.
There are many reputable tuk tuk drivers in Bangkok, but occasionally you come across one that you can't trust. Some offer rides for an unbelievably low price to drive you around the city, but then they stop at tailors and gem shops along the way to collect gas coupons from the proprietors. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some try to overcharge foreigners. And if you're headed to a famous Buddhist temple, some tuk tuk drivers may tell you that it's closed due to a national holiday and then try to take you to another destination desperate for your business. Sometimes it's difficult to spot an unscrupulous driver, but the owner of this three-wheeler is clearly warning potential customers that he's up to no good.
Today, kids all over Thailand are celebrating their youth. It's National Children's Day known in Thai as Wan Dek. It's a chance for Thai kids to do everything they love: eating ice cream, playing with balloons, going to the zoo, riding bikes, and taking tuk tuk rides with no parents on board.
When I spotted the image of this colorful butterfly on the back of a tuk tuk today, I assumed that the driver has an appreciation for this creature. After all, Thailand has over one thousand species and there are some incredible butterfly farms in this country where one can view them. As it turns out, however, the symbol has little to do with either of those facts. The driver considers himself to be a "butterfly" and he uses the English word to describe himself as such. He is single and free and apparently flies from one mate to another.
Today is the 85th birthday of HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. As the King is considered to be the patriarch of the country, father's day is celebrated today and December 5th has also become a national holiday. Many Thais spend the day with their fathers and it is traditional to give a canna flower, or dok Buddha ruksa as it is called in Thai, to dads and granddads on this day to show respect. Happy Father's Day and Long Live the King!