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XII No.9 - Sunday May 5 - Saturday May 18, 2013


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MAIL OPINION  By Shana Kongmun

 

Songthaews, taxis and tuk tuks, oh my!

Chiang Mai folk are fond of dissing the red trucks, or songthaews and I must say, when one has cut me off (or knocked me off my motorbike and left me lying in the road) I join in. These ubiquitous trucks never seem to have many people and seem to fill so much space in the road that we not only take them for granted but complain.
A friend of mine lives on Huay Kaew and has told me that she has had great difficulty of late in getting one to pick her up. I have to wonder why? Are they so busy they don’t need the money? Are they looking for a better fare? It also makes me start to wonder if they have some laws or requirements they must follow. I know, theoretically, that Bangkok taxi meters are required to take their passenger to their destination and I also know that oftentimes they will not. I have been turned down and had to wave down yet another taxi and a third finally to get one who is willing to take me to where I want to go.
But are Chiang Mai songthaews also required to stop? What kinds of regulations are they under? And if they have any, does anyone actually enforce them? It would seem they are not required to follow emissions laws since many of them emit choking black smoke. However, after a trip to Samui or Phuket, the average Chiang Mai resident will no longer bemoan our red trucks and will praise them instead.
Samui has “taxi meters” that never turn on their meter and charge a minimum of 300 baht regardless of where the passenger is going. Usually it’s around 500 baht. The songthaews in Samui are pretty good; they run a regular route and charge a fairly standard price but do not run at night. So, there are no late night reasonably priced options in Samui it would seem. Tourists rent motorbikes and end up in horrific accidents because the roads are fast and they don’t really know how to drive a motorbike.
Phuket has the well-known issues with the airport taxis. Chiang Mai airport taxis are regulated, yes I live quite close to the airport and the 120 baht I pay to get to my condo is a tad steep but I consider that people who live further also pay the same rate so, while it’s a solution and better than Phuket with its taxi free for all, it is not necessarily the best one for those of us close in town.
Finally, in this taxi rant, it is not complete without a good one about the tuk tuk drivers. Unfortunately, I have rarely had a truly terrible experience. Yes, they charge quite a bit late at night, but fair enough, perhaps they would rather be home. I don’t know if they work in shifts but suspect they do not. I have my own regular tuk tuk driver who is wonderful. He picks me up when I need it, is always on time and has become a friend. I would strongly recommend to everyone that they also cultivate a relationship such as this. When I was ill, he dropped everything to rush to my condo to take me to the hospital. I have heard others complain about tuk tuks and I understand how frustrating it can feel to have to bargain over the price. However, I look at my tuk tuk driver friend and realize that he is a hard working family man who loves his wife and daughter and realize that despite the labels we are all people facing the same challenges.
 


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Songthaews, taxis and tuk tuks, oh my!
 

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