Monday, October 10, 2011

Elections and scams - Bangkok, Thailand

July 2011. It's election time in Thailand. Continuous waves of people are converging toward the main arteries of Bangkok - Sukhumvit, Vipawadee, Pahonyothin - headed for their provinces of origin, in most cases located in Isan, in the North-east, close to Laos.
I'm walking W. to get a taxi that will take her to Mochit, a bus station that today is sunk in a grounding-time international airport kind of chaos. A tuk-tuk driver offers his service for 300 baht when normally, using a metered taxi, the ride should cost 100-150. We get rid of him quickly. The first taxi driver asks 300 baht as well. She lets him go and waves another down. Same story. The third cab too, as well as the fourth one.
This smells fishy. It's a stench that pricked my nostrils often in the past. I follow my instinct, as if it was one of those lines of smoke chased by the long and quivering noses of the cartoons. While she's walking toward the center of the road to give it another try I stay near the curb and look carefully around. As she's drawing near the window to speak with the driver, the tuk-tuk owner that wanted to cheat her is waving his arms about and signaling to his colleague to ask her 300 baht. The other follows his advice and W., obviously, dismisses him.
This time I got you, lousy swindler. I take W. by the arm and walk her a few meters away. She follows me - incredulous while I tell her what I've just seen - far enough from the scoundrel, where a taxi driver - honest like most of those who don't swarm around the tourists - agrees on using the meter.
"Thais should never behave like that...especially with other Thai people..." she keeps repeating until the door is closed.
"...with anybody..." I think while I wave her goodbye.
She won't be able to reach home and vote, as all the bus seats are sold out until the next morning, but at least she managed to hold on to her dignity. And a few banknotes as well.

Image by globalvoicesonline

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