Cars travel at speeds in excess of 110mph, motorcycles weave their way between other vehicles, Tuk-Tuk’s beep and splutter past, carts pulled by people or animals amble along the sidelines. A glorious performance, a production of cohesion and co-operation, the stage is a road, the theatre is Thailand.
My recent trip there involved a lot of travelling, most of which was taxis, and this is what Taking a Taxi in Thailand Taught Me.
I wrote a rough draft of this whilst sitting in the front seat of one, the driver chats with my friends seated in the back, and I am tapping away on my phone writing this out on the ‘Notes’ application, all noise, all distraction gone, as realisation of my trip dawns upon me. This taxi was taking me to Bangkok’s International Airport, for after this I was travelling to Cambodia, and whilst leaving the country I finally understood it. I fell in love with it, because I realised that even in its public transport system, a greater lesson can be learnt, one which is visible in of their daily functioning.
It was interesting to observe how vehicles moved in a fluid motion, crossing lanes, overtaking, zipping past, without hostility or road rage. True the horns of the cars were in constant use, collectively becoming a symphony, but it was more a means to declare intent or to guide.
There seemed to be a collective understanding of how to work together to help one other but also help an individual. If one car had to take a turn or enter a lane then the drivers in close proximity would reposition, like second nature, to let their fellow through.
Casual Uniformity is the slogan! A collective agreement of rules and etiquette, but without it feeling forced or imposing. Everyone bands along in order to make the day go by easier. It was amazing to see. Through their driving I could see the Thai people were a casual caring people, who displayed affection openly, a good sense of humour and contentment also.
For a country still in the process of becoming a sound economy, I was surprised at how few beggars I saw whilst on my trip. What I did however see a lot of were extremely hard working individuals, who were doing whatever to try and make a living. Selling hand made goods, trucking carts around laden with goods for sale, people doing menial jobs trying to make an honest living, and all seeing content. A people who do what they can with what they have. A Quiet Determinism to achieve what is possible in their reality.
Perhaps they’re waiting to return richer in another life, so they see this as temporary state, so they aren’t in a crazed panic to make as much as they can in this life. For a largely Buddhist based people, the belief of ‘you only get one shot’ doesn’t apply, and that permeates into every sense of their being. There’s hope in life. There is something better to come. Something which all religions try to promote, which helps one to not feel as if life is in vain or of little worth if your monetary worth isn’t great.
A ‘Live and Let Live’ culture is rife, spawned from peace loving Buddhist beliefs. There seems to be less intolerance of alternate life choices and societal taboo. If there is disagreement, it is private or at least respectfully stated. An example of this is the ‘Lady Boy’ gender, this third accepted gender, a people who hold normal working positions within society, without a raised eyebrow or exploitation by and large. Buddhist beliefs state that we are but expressions of energy, not being male female, and so the ‘Lady Boy’ personify this belief, so it becomes a non issue in Thailand. Whilst I don’t agree with it, I find their ability to not create such an issue of it to be sensible. The world and man in his life, has MUCH bigger fish to fry, so perhaps focus on other, more pressing matters.
I found the hyper-sexualisation of Thai culture and people to be quite unfair. From my trip I witnessed none of it, but as with all social ills, if you search for them, you can find them, but that holds true for any country. Perhaps it was easier to exploit the Thai people due to their easy going philosophy and socio-economic conditions, but still it remains a part, not a majority, of their life, culture and country.
What is strongly expressed is their Buddhist belief, but without statement. It just exudes from them and has helped shape and mould the entire nation. There seems to be an integrated and symbiotic merge with modern living, without compromising the core of their ideals. It was great to see, and I learnt this all, by Taking a Taxi in Thailand.
Zishaan ‘ZuZu’ Shafi
P. S Below are some Pictures from my trip- hope you enjoy them.