Your Guardian Angels

Continuing on the theme of Thai taxis, almost all taxis here in Krungthep (and pretty much everywhere else in the kingdom, I’d suppose) are given special protection for their drivers and occupants through a variety of means.

A monk will bless a new taxi, chanting, sprinkling it with holy water, and often marking the ceiling over the front windscreen with various designs and Sanskrit words that are meant to ward off evil, bad luck, and accidents. 

As an extra layer of protection, drivers will decorate dashboards with various good luck charms.  These are usually Buddha statues, statues of venerated monks, amulets, laminated prayer cards, jasmine garlands (plastic or real), etc. 

Occasionally, other things make their way onto the dashboard.

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An example I saw on the way to the Ministry of Labor the other day was this trio of objects.  In addition to the prayer fan with a monk’s image on it (in the foreground), the driver has a naga, a cobra and a model of a THAI Airways Boeing 747.

The naga is a mythical 5-, 7- or 9-headed serpent.  In Buddhist lore, the naga raised its heads up over Prince Siddartha to shield him from the elements as he spent his forty days meditating in the forest until he reached enlightenment and became the Buddha.  One common depiction of the Buddha is with the naga rising up behind him. (example here) You see the back of one of these images in gold, to the right of the cobra.

The model of the plane is actually balanced on its stand and rocks back and forth as the car drives.  Video below.

I wonder what the correlation is between drivers who have more of these good luck charms and their accident rate?  Do drivers with more charms drive more dangerously, assuming they are protected from harm?  Or do they drive more cautiously, the charms being an indicator that they are risk-averse people?

It is worth mentioning that many private cars also have some of these good luck charms and markings, although rarely to the extent that you see in the taxis.  For example, our car just has a couple of Madonna cassette tapes to protect it.

 

No sex, no drugs, no wine, no women

Bangkok taxi drivers like to pimp out their cars.  Anywhere  the drivers gather, you are sure to find a sticker stall – a bicycle-driven shop that has thousands of different stickers and decals with which you can customize your car.  “We Love The King” is a popular one, of course, but sometimes you see some pretty odd ones.

The other day I hopped into this taxi and saw what looked like a very typical, professional sticker indicating what behavior/items were appropriate in the car.

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From left to right (as viewed by someone getting into the car):

  • DVD Karaoke available
  • No smoking allowed
  • No drinks allowed
  • No knives or guns allowed
  • No sex allowed
  • No durian allowed
  • No dogs allowed
  • No water buffalos allowed

Please, if you have a water buffalo with you, hail another taxi.