Saturday, March 13, 2004

Horizontal Lift

Horizontal Lift

Some taxi drivers were amused when I told them to take me to the Mona Lisa Massage Parlour located at the New Phetchaburi Street early in the morning, dressed in my shirt and tie. Unfortunately It was the only way I could indicate my intended destination to them--my customer's office is located directly opposite the place. It works everytime.

It can be difficult communicating with taxi drivers here because most of them hardly speak any English. Morover Thai street names are often not pronounced the way they are spelt and the way they are spelt are also inconsistent. I have to resort to asking my Thai friends to write down addresses in Thai, accompanied by map sketches of the location.

Today I had my first taste of a Bangkok motorcyle taxi --or what they call ojek in Indonesia. We got stuck in a massive jam after lunch and decided to alight from our taxi ("Taxi-Meter") to hop onto a motorcycle taxi back to the office. It is a cheap and efficient way to beat the Bangkok jam. But riding pillion on these vehicles as they weave dangerously in and out of traffic can be quite a hair-raising experience.

All tourists are familiar with the tuk-tuk in Thailand. These noisy three-wheeled taxicabs are the equivalent of Jakarta's bajaj. It looks like every Third World country evolves its own kind of cheap public transportation. In the Philippines, the colourful Jeepney--which are modified jeeps capable of taking up to 25 people--is the popular form of transportation for the masses. I haven't been to Manila for many years but I remember getting a taxi there during rush hour can be quite a challenge.

With the subway opening next month to complement the super-efficient Skytrain, Bangkok residents are far more fortunate than their Jarkatan counterparts. I'm not sure how successful the recently launched Busway project is but it looks like it has caused drivers more frustration with the extension of the three-in-one hours. Somehow I feel Jakartans prefer to go by car if they can choose to do so. Moreover if you can afford a good car, you can easily afford a supir to chauffeur you around in style.

I dream of the day when we all do not need to drive anymore. To move between different floors in a building, we take the lift. To move between different locations within the city, it is only natural and logical that we take the equivalent of a horizontal lift--or what we would normally call a train. Trains are still the best way to move people around. Need a lift? Take a train.

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