Missing my International Driver License and keen to have another blog-worthy adventure, I headed down to the Thong Lor Satahnii Tamruat (Police Station). Located way down Sukhumvit Soi 55, two Skytrain stations away, it took me about thirty minutes to get there. I informed Tawn and my tutor of my whereabouts, so they could alert the newspapers if this farang driver was incarcerated or never heard from again.
After quite a bit of walking – the station is much further down from the Skytrain station than I thought – I finally arrived at a squat, concrete building with a few lush trees under which a few dozen officers lounged in the shade, in front. Thai police stations are not the epitome of modern design, nor of up-to-date interiors. Straight out of the 60s, everything was a shade of formica, mostly dingy grey. The only sign with an English translation was the one on the outside that said “Fines” and showed an arrow pointing indoors.
Inside, a few people were sitting around in handcuffs; another group of three were speaking with an officer. A row of six desks, arranged to suggest a counter, were occupied by six officers all of whom appeared deeply engaged in their work. Finally, a woman working the endmost desk finished looking at her phone and then motioned to me to come over.
My tutor suggested that I should try speaking some Thai with them, so I made the attempt. It worked pretty well, I suppose. The first officer looked at my ticket, then went to speak with another officer, then lead me over to another counter across the room where two matronly policewomen chatted. There are plenty of women on the Thai police force, it seems, all located at desk jobs in the station.
The process was pretty straight forward: she retrieved a stack of driver licenses from a drawer and located mine. She took my 400 baht and filled out a receipt. She made small talk with me, asking me various questions such as where did I come from, how long had I been in Thailand, did I like Thailand, did I like Thai girls – to which I did my best to answer in Thai, although sometimes I would feign ignorance with some of the more pointed questions.
The most pointed of which was, “so you’re working in Thailand?” Of course, I don’t have a work visa nor a work permit, so the correct answer is, “no.”
The almost as pointed questions was, “so you like Thai girls?” to which I responded, in Thai, “Oh, I like all Thai people; they have such good hearts.” (A particular expression in Thai, jai dii, literally means “good heart.”)
Within five minutes our business was concluded and the officer practiced her English with a farewell greeting, “See… you… again,” to which I responded, “Let’s hope not.”
Not wanting to walk all the way back, I decided to try a form of transportation I have not yet tried: the motorcycle taxi or rot motosai. At the mouth of each soi and at strategic points along the ways (large sub-soi, busy office buildings) there are gangs of motorcycle taxi drivers, distinguished by their Bangkok Metropolitan Authority-issued orange vest. They wait turns to shuttle passengers on the back of their small motorbikes (scooters, usually) to and from key points along the soi.
The routes are largely fixed, I can go up and down the soi and to sub-soi along the way, but cannot cross to the other side of Sukhumvit, for example. Prices depend on distance and are usually fixed at 10-20 baht one way.
The danger of riding motorcycle taxis is difficult to exaggerate:
For each trip they make, there is a different center of gravity depending on the size of the passenger; they weave between cars and oncoming traffic; and the mandatory helmet that is provided (usually in a basket on the front of the motosai) is either too small or is so flimsy it would offer no protection. So you sit on the back, one hand clutching your bag, the other clutching the handle at the back of the seat: two minutes of adrenaline as you make your way to the Skytrain station where you are deposited, hopefully in one piece. You pay your baht and then walk away, heart still beating fast.
Pity the poor women in skirts and dresses who have to ride sidesaddle!