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Bangkok Taxi Drivers: Die, No Problem

Bangkok Taxi Drivers

Bangkok Taxi Drivers…

Just so’s you don’t have to wade to the bottom of this post to see… I have a fondness for (most) Bangkok taxi drivers.

I mean, just recently I was driven around for 300bhts worth and had a thrill of a time.

Here’s what happened…

Two girlfriends plus myself went out to a private club in BKK for an early dinner with drinks. When ready to go, I asked the front desk to call us a cab.

The taxi arrived, the driver was given the address by the staff, and off we went to the wrong Soi Ari (yes, there are two).

We wanted to go to the Ari with quiet, tree lined streets. Instead, we were taken in the direction of megga traffic jams and cue waiting.

Now, when I ask a Bangkok taxi driver to take the highway and he says “no”, from past experience I take the response to mean that there is some sort of problem blocking the way and I keep quiet.

So, on that night when I pipped up “HIGHWAY” from the back of the cab and the taxi driver pipped back “NO!, then “NO” it was.

Soon bored with the tedium of stop/start traffic, I busied myself with gabbing and not looking to see where we were going (a bad move in any Bangkok taxi).

When the taxi stopped, I glanced around then asked where we were.

“Soi Ari” says the taxi driver.

“Where’s Pholyothin?” asks I.

“Ah”, says he, “HIGHWAY!”

“Yeah”, says us, “HIGHWAY!”

Hanging a slick u-turn, off we went again.

Being thirsty (and more) from all the travelling, us gals requested toilets and beer. In that order.

“NO PROBLEM!”, says he.

First stop, a gas station with squat toilets but no beer (beer is not supposed to be sold where cars tank up).

Next stop, a Seven (Seven Eleven) and beers all around. The driver included.

Disclaimer: Giving the taxi driver a beer was intended as a “thank you and drink it later” type gift. Finish.

But, oh no, that was not to be. Why? Because my fun loving Canadian friend dug into her repertoire of Thai to come up with “ฅายช่างมันสนุกไว้ก่อน”.

Our English equivalent is close to “you only live once”, but in Thai it is “do something worthwhile before you die” or “die, no problem”. Take your pick.

And as this utterance was made to a Thai taxi driver, “die, no problem” it was and POP! went the top of his beer. Oh dear.

In all fairness, he only sipped small amounts and ended up with warm beer an hour later.

Yes, the clever boy. It took us 1.5 hours to go what should have taken at tops 40 min.

Mai bpen rai and a good time was had by all. Especially us.

Do something worthwhile, before you die…

When I posted this phrase on a popular Thai forum, another member responded with a song translated into Thai to go with. Nice.

อันชีวิตคนเราช่างสั้นนัก
ต้องรู้จักทำประโยชน์ก่อนจะสาย
ทิ้งไว้เป็นอนุสรณ์หลังความตาย
มีความหมายคงอยู่ ตลอดไป

Move out man! Life is fleeting by.
Do something worthwhile, before you die.
Leave behind a work sublime,
that will outlive you and time.

Actual Thai phrases to use with Taxi drivers…

Slinging “die, no problem” in the direction of your taxi driver is all well and good, but why not use these Thai phrases from Langhub instead?

Langhub
Taxi Phrases (download pdf, text, mp3, video)

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My passion is promoting the Thai language. Fullstop. Oh, and traveling. I'm passionate about that as well. And photography too.

10 Comments

  1. Great story Catherine. I don’t have to say “die no problem” they seem to get it as soon as I enter a taxi. On a taxi ride to Prechanburi last trip one taxi driver decided to spend most of the trip driving on the shoulder of the road…it did cut down on time but the fine was stiff when he almost took out a police officer at a checkpoint.

    Luckily I didn’t have the other taxi driver that was pulled over. He parked in the mud and when he sped off in a huff he showered the policeman’s nice clean uniforms with said mud. He was stopped again real fast and much yelling ensued.

  2. Thanks Talen. We really did have a great time that night. Both of the friends mentioned are now gone from Thailand, so it’ll be bittersweet memories.

    ‘he almost took out a police officer at a checkpoint’ I started laughing after reading that, then straightened up as I know it wasn’t funny to you at the time.

    I’ve had taxi drivers who are real dears (I grab their phone numbers when I think of it). Then there are the ‘others’.

    You know, we could write a whole series on this subject alone: The good. The bad. And the totally crazy.

  3. I’ve got to follow Talen and say what a wonderful story. The art of a good story teller is to have the reader right there alongside and I was ready with my 300 baht to pay the taxi driver. Your blog is rich in language resources but I just love it when you report on the language of life. Rod Stewart, renting an apartment or taking a cab you do it so well. I think it comes down to education and not downtown headucation like some of us mere mortals have.

  4. Ok Martyn, now my face is red! And it’s not the heat coming from the radiator or my feet would be equally burning.

    (thanks :-)

  5. Yep, haha classic case of miscommunication – You think he’s being stubborn, he thinks you don’t know the way… Good for the rest of us that it happens to Thai language blog owners as well! ;)

  6. Ben, unless the taxi driver is totally bonkers (then all bets are off), I tend to take a passenger stance in a taxi rather than a back seat driver. But it is more due to having a terrible sense of direction over anything else.

    If I think something is to the left, it’s ALWAYS to the right. Unless in Belgium, then it’s 80/20 in my favour.

  7. Hi Cat,

    Such Fun memories that you have brought back to life!Sanook bai gon, dai chan mun!

    I’ll never forget my time in Soi Aree; thank you so much for introducing me to that area. The previous 4 years in Thailand were great, but not nearly as much fun!

    Soi Ari is still changing-a lot of the wonderful restaurants we used to enjoy are being demolished for new condo’s. If they keep that up, we will have to find another ‘best-kept secret’ in Bangkok!

    I’m going to have to leave that search up to you, and when you find it, let me know, ok??

    Your Canadian bud,
    Lynn

  8. Hey Lynn,

    Ari is a wonderful place to live, but yes, it’s changing too fast. First they tore down Reflections, then they tore out the best ever Pad Thai restaurant in the world. And now? What’s next?

    How are you settling into Canada? With you taking off while I was away, I’m having a bit of a time getting my head around you being gone from Ari. Hmmm… I guess I’ll have to call you on Sunday/Monday to chat!

    Btw – it’s been a crazy two weeks so I didn’t have time to ship your stuff (it’ll have to be done from Thailand).

  9. You do have a great way of telling a story. I’m not sure about the ‘die, no problem’ Philosophy :-) But sometimes in those taxi rides you hope the blessings on the ceiling and the amulets will protect you too.

  10. Catherine Wentworth

    June 10, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Yes, the ‘die, no problem’ had all of us nervous that night. Well, except for the English teacher who was snoozing in the back seat (it was one of ‘those’ nights). And the amulets protected us quite well!

    Thanks for stopping by Pete. I’m now off to read your tiger blog post…

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