Location: Bangkok, Thailand
Every time I’m in downtown Bangkok, I think that it would be the perfect setting for another Fast & Furious film (RIP Paul Walker, you ironically fated soul). My sequel would take place throughout city center; the drivers would speed down the stacked expressways that wind between the buildings and above the streets, and do crazy, fiery jumps from one level to another. Cars would flip off shiny glass skyscrapers and blackened, concrete housing projects, through construction sites and over trains. And of course I would title it after the daily, hectic traffic: Fast & Furious 8: Bangkok Gridlock.
The traffic in Bangkok is pretty heavy most of the time, but the early evening rush hour leaves lanes bumper-to-bumper for hours. And in that kind of traffic, taxi drivers refuse to take on passengers asking for rides outside of downtown for less than 400 Baht, or $12 (which is incredibly expensive in Thailand). It was our second day in the city, and I guess that was pretty obvious, because when we hailed a taxi and offered 200 Baht for a ride to MBK (about $6.60, a pretty standard fare from Lat Phrao to that part of town) the driver refused. He wanted 300 Baht (about $10). We told him he was crazy; earlier, we’d looked up the route on Cody’s laptop. It should have only been a 35-minute ride, maybe 250 Baht at most if we ended up in traffic. The cabbie told us he’d prove that the route was worth 300 Baht; we could take the ride metered. We agreed, stupidly.
Sidenote: most of the time taxis here don’t use the meter. They usually just haggle a price with their customer. I’m not sure if that’s because it’s easier and they already know how much it costs or what.
We hadn’t picked up our SIM cards yet and didn’t have Google Maps to guide us. So none of us knew where the hell we were in Bangkok. Twenty minutes into the air condition-less, sweaty, shoulder-to-shoulder ride, Baby saw a sign for our neighborhood, Lat Phrao. We thought that was a little strange, but weren’t sure what to think of it. The meter still said we only owed 55 Baht. Our driver drove us over several expressways (where he demanded we pay the tolls, each about 40 Baht). Forty-five minutes in, Liam and I noticed we’d passed the same skyscraper going two different directions. We had now reached 200 Baht. And the truth was beginning to dawn on us. Still, without Internet in this huge city, we didn’t want to piss off our already pissy driver any further and have him dump us off on the expressway. He couldn’t speak much English, but I was sure he was able to discern our murderous tones as we grumbled to each other. Finally, after an hour and a half, once the meter had hit 317 Baht, he dropped us off in front of MBK. He grinned as we handed him the money and crawled out of the cab, whining about how our asses ached and our legs had fallen asleep.
That motherfucker swindled us, and swindled us hard. Later that night, we haggled a deal with another driver to take us back home from MBK for only 150 Baht. And his anger at our excellent deal was demonstrated by his intense need for speed. (There are no seatbelts in the backs of these taxis, by the way.) We nearly hit several cars on our way back to Lat Phrao and made it home in less than 20 minutes.