Trouble in Transit Thailand: Eco-Friendly Fallout

The rain comes unannounced to Bangkok. Grey skies form in minutes if you see them form at all and what the skies let loose is torrential. It’s easy to get complacent during the cool dry season, no rain at all and temperatures that consistently make people in other parts of the world jealous. Getting around is easy in the cool, dry city. But when dark clouds gather, all the little lights on top of the taxis go out and you are at the complete mercy of blind luck. Or you have a driver waiting already.

raining_in_bangkokSometimes, this lesson is learned the hard way. The following story is true, though names and places have been changed to protect the innocent.

It was a family outing in the last week of April. The Griswolds had spent Songkran in the north of the country and come back to the city to use the last bit of their holiday for shopping and relaxing. They’d gotten a room at the Grand Lord Hotel, which had great facilities like pools for little Chris, 6, and Jane, 3, to splash around in. And the price was unbeatable.

The one problem was that the hotel they had selected wasn’t anywhere near the BTS or MRT stations and they would have to use taxis to get around, but with all the money they were saving on the hotel this hardly seemed a problem, and they thought it would be easier to deal with the kids in a taxi than trying to corral them through the BTS terminals.

After a day of shopping at the Siam Paragon, Mary told her husband Mark that she was starting to feel a little uncomfortable and needed to lie down and that she thought Jane might be getting sick. She was ready to go home.

They divided the contents of their trolley up as best the could between Mom, Dad, and little Chris and made for the door. But as the doors slid open and they caught their first unfiltered glimpse of sky they realised that things had taken a turn. They started briskly towards where the line of taxis sat waiting, the skies let forth a great *snap* and loosed their reservoirs.

Social order in the area immediately around the designated taxi pick-up zone had broken down and it looked too dangerous for the kids. They made bravely for the sidewalk and Mark tried as best he could to flag a passing taxi by jerking his head or jiggling a bag, but to no avail.

A cab slowed, pulled to the curb, lowered the window and once he heard where they were going the window was on its way up and his head was shaking a confident no. Jane began to cry and Chris was complaining that his arms hurt and Mary’s face was clenched and embittered. Pangs of desperation stabbed Mark as valiantly signaled on.

Another cab, this time he wasn’t able to communicate the destination and the driver waved him off saying “no English, no English”.

While the shopping bags so often used by the high-end retailers one might Siam Paragonfind in a place like Paragon are very tasteful and attractive, often even eco-friendly, they do not stand up well in the rain. And before the Griswolds had even seen another taxi with its light on, Mary noticed a rather heavy pulpy sort of paper bag she was holding, by a twisted paper handle, suddenly felt alarmingly light.

Then, as if all the noise of the traffic and rain had been muted, she heard her beautifully painted and accordingly priced porcelain vase smash against the pavement.

Finally a taxi agreed to take them, but insisted since they were so many and so wet that he wouldn’t use the meter and the ride would cost 1,000 baht.

This didn’t have to happen, the Griswolds could have had a friendly, knowledgeable, English speaking driver waiting for them in the car park. They could have made their way back to the Grand Lord enjoying the views of the city in the rain as they pawed and peaked at their dry, and unbroken, acquisitions.

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