Challenge: Riding a Motorcycle Taxi

The rest of this post is NSFMD (Not Safe For My Dad), but as he doesn’t read my blawg, it’s actually NSFPWAGTTMD (Not Safe For People Who Are Going To Tell My Dad). Nobody likes a snitch (Mom).

One of the cool things about Bangkok is the number of ways you can get around the city.

Just in this picture, you can see taxis, tuk-tuks, cars, motorcycles, and busses.

And of course, the ubiquitous motorcycle taxi.

I love you and hate you, motorcycles! (in Hanoi, Vietnam)

In Bangkok, you can usually get a regular taxi to take you where you want to go (uh…sometimes, anyway), but the meter drops at 35 baht (a little over $1) and you can rack up a decent tab just going around the corner. Believe me, I’ve done it. (I was sick! I don’t normally take cabs around the corner!)

The thing is, traffic in Bangkok sucks. Bad. It makes the Beltway in Washington, D.C. look like a speedway, and that’s saying something. Sometimes it’s just simpler to grab a motorcy and zip around the cars.

The drivers are easy to spot because they’re everywhere, they sit on motorcycles, and they wear bright vests that designate what area they’re working in. If you miss them, you’re not looking very hard.

This is part of the gang near my building.

I’m usually pretty lazy in the morning. When I first came to Thailand I refused to take a motorcycle because I was a little nervous and also thought walking to the train would be good for me. Now I realize I was a total fool.

10-minute walk to the train station?

No, sir. I’ll take the 3-minute death-defying motorcycle ride to the train station, thank you very much. And please note: I ride sidesaddle, baby, and motorcycle taxis don’t offer you helmets. Praying you’re not going to spill your tea, fall off the seat and/or crash into a car is a good way to get the adrenaline flowing in the morning! Wakes you right up!

Here’s a video of what it’s like to ride to the train in the morning:

On a motorcycle, you can zip right around traffic and give all the cars the bird in your head. You can (not legally) go on the sidewalk, which totally pisses me off as a pedestrian, but thrills me as a passenger. You can get where you want to go, and you can get there fast, provided you don’t have a horrible, disfiguring accident before you arrive.

For me, the most annoying aspect of motorcycles is negotiating a price (before you get on the bike, people!) since there’s no meter. Sometimes I don’t know how far away something is, so I get ripped off when I accept a price and then we go 3 minutes to the destination. Sometimes I know how much a ride should be and the drivers try to charge me more anyway and then ride off (without me) when I offer the correct price.

I always end up in a rage when this happens. I can’t help it. I’m not a fan of jackassery. It makes me furious.


p.s. I have learned that there is talk about having motorcycle taxis use meters. We shall see…

My biggest smackdown in motorcycle riding was learning to ride sidesaddle. It was a big, big step because it is really, really frightening. You can see Thai women riding sidesaddle, looking all Burberry picnic (bored, for those of you not in the know), talking on the phone, balancing in a teensy little skirt on the back of a motorcycle without flashing anything, and looking for all the world like it’s no big deal. Like, Oh, hi, I’m riding on the back of a motorcycle and I could fall to my death, but who cares?

When I ride sidesaddle, I have to take some time to situate myself, usually spilling tea on my pants in the process, to the amusement and bemusement of the driver, who is waiting kind of impatiently for me. Then I have to slouch down to keep my balance, and I always keep a death grip on the bar at the back of the seat. Also, I have big ol’ feet, so I’m always worried they’re going to get caught in the wheel, and that would be a really horrible way to die. Think about it, but not too hard if you’re my mother. I try to look all Burberry picnic when I’m riding, but I’m sure I look more Jurassic Park picnic (terrified and trying not to die, though not usually running from dinosaurs).

Although there ARE dinosaurs in Thailand. Sure, they’re just statues, but they could come alive. You don’t know! Didn’t you ever see Child’s Play? Chucky? I THINK I HAVE MADE MY POINT.

Final Score:

Motorcycle Taxis: 0  Megan : 1

I mean, I haven’t fallen off one yet, right? And even though I get ripped off sometimes, I’m still smacking it down. Be nice to me, motorcycle drivers!



Filed under Daily Challenge, Living Abroad, Thailand

43 responses to “Challenge: Riding a Motorcycle Taxi

  1. carrie

    I don’t want to alarm you, but they are DRIVING ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD.

    But you’ve probably adjusted to this by now. Wait till you come home…you’ll be looking right all the time and then start to step off and nearly get run over and your heart will beat right out of your chest. Oh wait, that was me when I got back from my semester abroad. You, however, are a world traveler and are probably all Burberry picnic about it. See what I did there?? (Miss you!)

    • I guess I’ve kind of adjusted to it, but I almost always still go to the wrong side of the car to get in. So, no, I’m not really very Burberry picnic about it! :)

      Miss you, too!

  2. Another enjoyable read. I took the time to vote for you and I do hope you win. Yesterday my wife and I went to the Furniture Fair at the Impact Center and I stupidly forgot to bring my camera. There were lots of great photo ops. Anyway, live and learn.

    • Thanks! I hope I win, too, actually…

      I usually tote my camera around everywhere and then leave it at home the ONE time I actually want to take a picture. That’s the way it works sometimes, I guess! :)

  3. jayjcee

    You came awfully close to that bus when you turned the corner. I would have chucked my tea, cup and all, at that point! Still looks safer than Delhi though. And cleaner.

    Your blogs make me smile. So, I voted for you too. However I think you should have been in the humours category :)


    • Oh, thanks for the vote, Julie! :)

      I came SO close to the bus that day I was almost sure I was going to hit my knees against it…but I didn’t. Always an adventure!

  4. Voting – check! I’ve only been reading for a few weeks, but really enjoy your funny posts :) Good luck with the contest and the cab rides!!

  5. Lee

    I love your writing and your sense of humor! Just voted for you. Be expecting a helmet to arrive any day now from your dad….

    • Oh, thanks, Lee, that’s nice! Yeah, a helmet–more like a stern talking to and a lecture on how dangerous motorcycles are…I love my father, though!

  6. Too funny. Good call on the child’s play reference!!!!
    B well, Phil

    • Thank you! I have been traumatized by that movie since I first saw it. My mom went through a phase where she was making ceramic dolls as her hobby and I thought for sure I was going to be killed by one of them…

  7. Also, I voted for you, but that site is a pain in the ass.

  8. Thank you for s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g it out for us “special” people that we need to click on the obscure grey dot. Voted. Yeah, you buy me som tam when you get to CM :P Just kidding, I’m expecting a proper dinner.

    On a motorcycle, you can zip right around traffic and give all the cars the bird in your head. You can (not legally) go on the sidewalk, which totally pisses me off as a pedestrian, but thrills me as a passenger. Truer words were never spoken my friend.

    When I ride sidesaddle (During my first ride I may or may not have been shrieking continuously.) I hold on. I don’t care who it is. I put my arm around the driver’s waist. I’ve seen a woman almost fall off (very un-Burberry picnic), right in front of me. This just further confirmed that I was right to hold on.

    Some drivers offer helmets and you should find the ones that do, my dear. Love, love, love, lc

  9. This will probably go over like a lead balloon…or a wet blanket…but, PPLLEEAASSEE where a helmet. I know these guys know the streets and traffic like the back of their hands…but you never know!

    Mummy Snap

    • I know! And thanks for the warning…it’s like wearing a seat belt a long time ago, though–you just don’t ever think you need it until you need it…

  10. But do you have the SE Asian girl giveaway burn mark on your calf from the exhaust pipe yet?
    I suppose if you are riding sidesaddle (“This is the way the ladies ride, the ladies ride, the ladies ride”) your mark would be on your outer calf as opposed to the inner calf.

    I helped Lorren get one last year- what a scene!

  11. Okay, I voted! Thanks for explaining to us “slow” and “special” people to click on the grey button!

    Yeah, when I rode sidesaddle for the first time I may or may not have been shrieking continuously. I hold on though. I put my arm around the driver’s waist no matter who it is. And my actions were confirmed when I saw a woman almost fall off the bike.

    It was a frightening moment to say the least. Very un-Burberry.

    I’m w/ Snap. Please wear a helmet. There are motorcy taxis that offer them.


  12. Uncle Roger

    Your dad told me you were doing some crazy things over there, Megan. But I don’t think he knows you’re working so hard to leave your face splattered all over the streets of Bangkok. Write your favorite uncle a nice note occasionally on the back of a twenty-dollar bill, and I won’t tell him. BTW, this blog is fabulous!

  13. Voting done (twice actually, but I don’t want to come off as a total fan that I am – well, oops)….anywho, my Dad doesn’t read my blog either (I think blog is a Dad repellent)…speaking of motorcycles, I so want to learn how to ride one…when I expressed my opinion on the matter, my Dad (non reader, by the way) freaked out that I would get into an accident, how there are a lot of crazy drivers out there, etc etc…the funny part is, HE had a motorcycle when he was 17!

  14. Well done on making it to the finals, and you got my vote.

    I used to go around Bangkok on my motorbike, but thankfully I have a car now – it is scary enough in a car. Even when these motorbike taxi guys offer a helmet it tends to be something that doesn’t offer much protection. I worked as a trauma nurse and I’ve seen a lot of motorbike accidents. I’d advise you to buy your own helmet and make sure it’s a good one.

    • Thanks, Paul! I have a helmet and it’s a good one…I guess I just don’t feel like dragging it around with me all day after a ride. I know, not an excuse!

  15. Amber

    Didn’t you throw me off a motorcycle once when we were kids? But I’m certain we were wearing helmets. My dad never would have tolerated motor cycle riding sans helmet!

  16. akismet-680ebe0aa09c2c94241944f092f7d8a7

    Fun post — really enjoy your voice. Would have RT’d ya, but didn’t see a RT button up there.

  17. I ROCK Burberry Picnic on a motorcycle taxi LIKE NO OTHER.

    I’m giving lessons now.

    Also, everytime Oli and I pass a gang of soi drivers, we cannot help but think of this:


  18. Jonathan

    I definitely share your frustration about paying the farang rate but what really deters me from taking motorbike taxis more often is that the fare negotiations are usually conducted in a haze of Sang Som fumes.

  19. “p.s. I have learned that there is talk about having motorcycle taxis use meters. We shall see…”

    The device is called the Moto-Meter.

    Negotiating/haggling over the fare is stressful for drivers and passengers alike. The average Thai driver must negotiate the fare over 300 times per month, typically in the middle of a hectic street, often unsuccessfully. Drivers lose many customers permanently to failed negotiations. And language barriers with foreign passengers can make matters worse. Negotiating the fare is the number one complaint from drivers and passengers (concerning fares).

    With finger crossed (no technical issues), we begin the trial of our Moto-Meter in mid March.

    Briefly about the Moto-Meter: In addition to its fare meter, its Black Box and GPS will increase safety and security for drivers and passengers, e.g., people can have their trips monitored for personal safety (think women and teenagers). Plus, to increase driver earnings, its built-in advertising display can generate revenue from relevant ads, as well as provide useful infotainment such as news, weather and hazard alerts, live sports scores, etc.

    Thanks for the mention and the excellent article to link to.

    Paul Giles
    World Moto

  20. I think you should have given yourself more points for riding sidesaddle… or maybe given sidesaddle some points. There is no way in heck I’d ever be able to be coordinated/not scared enough to ride sidesaddle on the back of a motorcycle. I don’t care how far I have to hike up the skirt! (Besides, I make lots of friends that way with the male noodle cart drivers)

  21. crocodilexp

    In the first picture label, you forgot to mention one more method of transportation (shown in the pic). The ubiquitous commuter van.

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