It's Bangkok - With a Twist!
As a capital city, Bangkok has pretty much something for everyone. Well heeled expats on a perpetual gravey train, young and thrusting new-comers to the city eager to make their mark. Plus the first-time tourist not sure what to make of it all. There are sights though that will stand-out from the crowd and make you take a few steps back if you're not used to it.
Bangkok Tuk Tuk
The Tuk-Tuk is an iconic representation of the wild and hectic bangkok. It's a familiar sight to all who live in the capital and has an enduring love-hate relationship with Bangkokians and farang alike. You find these elsewhere in Thailand but none more so than in Bangkok.
The tuk-tuk folk tend to be a mixed bunch, depending on where you go. The Phuket tuk-tuk crews are widely considered the most hard-nosed and belligerent of taxi-drivers, in Bangkok they tend to be less belligerent but fairly hard-nosed. Generally the further north you go, the less mercentile and shylock they become. All in all a tuk-tuk driver is what you might term salt-of-the-earth. However this is a broad-brush-way of generalising and can in no way focus on individual drivers themselves.
Officially called sonthaews they were at risk of disappearing in the 1990s when meddling beaurocrats tried to prevent any new ones being made. Thankfully, Thai laissez-faireness came to the rescue and this was conveniently ignored as each year new tuk-tuks appeared. Although other countries, such as India and Laos have their own version of the tuk-tuk Thailand does export a growing number overseas, even to far-off Britain!
Bangkok Taxi Bikers
In times gone past taxi bikers would only be seen in the soi's but now they come out to play on the main roads and streets of Bangkok. This is not true of them all of course as soi taxi bikers make up the mainstay of their numbers.
However with Bangkoks traffic problems not going to be solved anytime soon they look set to stay. They move fast and get you through the congested traffic, but keep those knees and legs tucked in! Fares are based on negotiating the price depending on how far you want to go. The further it is the more you pay, also depending on what time of the day it is will also have a factor.
The life of a taxi-biker isn't usually an easy one. They have to pay a fee each day to keep the police off their backs, as few tend to be licensed to carry. If they are wealthy enough to afford their own bike and helmet they can be freelance and can move from area to area. The unlucky ones must pay the rental for the bike as well as helmet and possibly insurance.Only after several months or even years can the humble taxi-biker start to make his fortune in the city of angels. The weather can be a hardship for biking in Thailand. The intense heat of the day and clogging fumes make wrapping up and mask-wearing a wise choice for all but the most fool-hardy or devil-may-care. Then there is the torrential rainfall...
They are all over the city, manouvering and weaving to where they are needed, casually observing from air-con out-boxes and often on the streets directing traffic. Often called the BIB (boys/brothers in brown) and known for the distinct brown uniforms.
They can come in all forms. From the easy-going, laissez-faire, laughing policeman to the hard-boiled, bitter and twisted cop who would be your worst enemy if you crossed him. Where one will often look the other way at a transgression the other will be your worst nightmare if you break the law.
It must be noted though, that biking in bangkok has it's risks and one of them is infringing on the myriad of complicated traffic directions in certain areas. It can pay to know the location of the nearby police station as if your license is seized (on payment of a fine later), you'll need to travel to it to get your license back. Here's an example of a police check-point.