Last night I headed to the airport to pick up a friend who was flying in and after spending nearly 3 hours there, I’m really looking forward to the new airport opening.

It’s been about six months since I was last at the airport and, in the wake of the London bombings, security has been increased. Well… I think that’s the idea at least. The flow of people heading in and out is a little more controlled and they do a cursory metal detector scan with those handheld devices. It’s nice to see the authorities take security a little more seriously, but I’m sure it won’t last long.

Anyone who has been through the international aiport would know about the hawkers hanging around the exit who try to offer everyone some kind of transportation service to wherever it is they might be headed. Since I had quite a bit of time to kill waiting, I spent it watching how they work and couldn’t help noticing the similarities between the way they hawk their services to the way people on Silom Road try to sell porn or the gaggle of hawkers in Pantip Plaza trying to sell anything.

If you changed the words they are speaking from “Taxi, sir?” to “cd, vcd”, “dvd movie” or “sexy movie” it would be indistinguishable! I personally find these kinds of people extremely harrassing and after being a plane for half a day they are about the last kind of people I want to deal with.

Having said that though, I noticed they occaisonally got a customer, so it seems some people find the service they provide valuable, but I really don’t understand how it might be worth the time and effort they’re putting into it.

After my friend finally wandered out, an hour after his plane had landed, we headed off to the hotel he was staying at this time (and we got a female taxi driver). Normally he would stay at the Silom Sofitel but this time he is on a budget so he is staying at the Trinity Silom Hotel (it’s actually closer to Sathorn). The surroundings are a bit… well… crap, but when we got to the foyer I thought it looked nice. As is the case for many hotels in Bangkok (and possibly many other areas of the world), the state of the foyer is misleading in terms of the state of the rest of the hotel.

Why do so many hotels spend a lot of money making their foyer and reception areas look nice when, as soon as you step out of those area it’s obvious that the rest of the hotel is sub-standard? I’d be much happier if the entire thing were uniform instead of trying to mislead people into believing the standard of the hotel is higher than it really is.

By this time it was 2am already and I was so tired I dragged myself to a taxi and fell into bed when I got home. I don’t think I can handle too many visits by friends like this – thank buddha he doesn’t visit often!

ADDENDUM: My other half also posted about our trip last night here.

18 Comments so far

  1. Paul (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 12:31 pm

    The Trinity Silom was my old haunting grounds! After I moved to Hong Kong, whenever I came down to Bangkok to spend time with the little woman (before we got hitched), I would always stay at the Trinity. Many many fond memories of the place, even if the environs were less than splendid.

  2. Ben Harris (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 12:50 pm

    It isn’t really that the rooms are run-down or anything, it’s just that the foyer and reception are really nice, but the rooms aren’t.

    Do you have any photos of the place from back then?

  3. kofty (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 1:52 pm

    Love your observation on the hawker-style taxi scammers at the airport. What a welcome for tourists, being pestered by officious looking men and women, and then – literally – taken for a ride. I never took one of these “limos”, but I wonder what happens in the car – they take you straight to a massage or maybe to a place where you can shop for gemstones, cheap cheap? First impressions of a country…

  4. him (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 2:26 pm

    Kofty: it’s nothing like that. They just charge a fortune (compared to the public taxis). The first time I arrived in bkk I was with a (loaded) friend and she paid for us to just use one, for speed. We got a decent car and were taken direct to our hotel, no bg deal.

    Also remember that if it’s your first time in thailand, the prices they charge are NOT out of expectations. My mate paid 1000B from the airport to the river which, yes, costs about 250B all in, in a normal taxi BUT 1000B is only 20 dollars or so – you try getting a cab from Manhatten to JFK for 20 dollars! Or London to Heathrow… nope.

    I think for a 1st time arrival, all hot and knackered after a 13 hour flight, just wanting to get to the hotel, 1000B? Hell, whatever, just take me. It’s not until later you realise you were scammed.

  5. bkkmei (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 2:40 pm

    The ‘airport taxi’ limo thing looks so official at the airport. Probably what gives them away is the hassling!

    Actually we took one before and managed to bargain them down a little. Reason: the line for the taxis was amazingly long and it was hot hot hot outside, and NO taxis were around (probably all being hailed upstairs in departures section).

  6. Ben Harris (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 3:17 pm

    As I said, I’ve never actually used the service myself, but if they’re still at it after all these years I can only assume that many other people do. If that’s the case, they must be doing something right.

    I do think the similarities between their sales pitch and street-side hawkers is very intruiging though :)

  7. him (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 6:36 pm

    I think they do good business. Last time I was at arrivals (last month) for about an hour and I saw a good few people go with limos after being asked.

  8. Baba (unregistered) on August 2nd, 2005 @ 11:19 pm

    I also think that first time visitors with little knowledge might think that it’s better not to trust the public taxis. I know in some countries I’ve travelled to they advise against it. Like Mexico. So, I’m sure they get plenty of business. When colleagues of mine visit Bangkok for work, even though I tell them to get the public taxi they still prefer to get one of those inside the terminal. It’s people’s perceptions!

  9. him (unregistered) on August 3rd, 2005 @ 12:17 am

    And the more I think about… I’ve flown into numerous cities in Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and China and they’ve all had taxi mafia that have made the Thais look positively honest, clean cut, polite and reasonable. I’d give 1000B to the average driver in Ho Chi Minh to leave me alone!

  10. kofty (unregistered) on August 3rd, 2005 @ 5:23 pm

    Sure it’s no big deal for a European to pay 1000 B for a taxi ride. But it’s a scam nevertheless if you know that the regular taxi will do the job for 250 B max.

    And sure, compared to other neighboring countries it’s paradise, you do not have to fight with the cabbie to get to the hotel you want (instead of the one he would like you to go to). The point here is, the Thais rather like to compare themselves with Singapore and other more developed places – and there you don’t get taken.

  11. Ben Harris (unregistered) on August 3rd, 2005 @ 6:22 pm

    Umm… my point wasn’t about cab scams or Thai people comparing themselves to anyone else, only the similarities between the way they sound when presenting themselves to potential customers and street-side porn hawkers and their kind.

    Maybe you mean your point and not the point.

  12. him (unregistered) on August 3rd, 2005 @ 8:24 pm

    I think maybe you’ll find the thread moved away from your point to a different point around the time Kofty posted “Love your observation…“. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. Does it need pointing out by you? I don’t think so. Does it matter to anyone but you? I don’t think so. Does anyone else give a fuck? I really don’t think so.

    Maybe you should add notes to your posts about what readers are and are not allowed to comment on?

    Debate and commenting on content is fun, but when you fall to insulting people for not following your thread, that’s pretty damn low.

    And lets not forget your very own words:

    Having said that though, I noticed they occaisonally got a customer, so it seems some people find the service they provide valuable, but I really don’t understand how it might be worth the time and effort they’re putting into it.

    Seems to me that you were talking about the taxis and the fact they get customers, in that line there. Seems to me that the point wasn’t so far removed as you might think. Seems to me that the comment thread miht have grown from that very line, with Kofty asking if they got taken to massage parlours etc?

    Kofty: yes you are right, Thailand does like to compare to Singapore, something it does nothing to actually live up to :) I left Singapore off my list for that reason alone – cabs there are easy and a delight (even if the first cab I ever caught there did get lost!).

  13. Ben Harris (unregistered) on August 4th, 2005 @ 11:13 am

    I wasn’t intending to kill any further comments (although looking at what I wrote I guess I can understand why it might seem that way) and anyone is free, as always, to post theirs.

    My comment on the time and effort they put into it was only me wondering out-loud how they are remunerated for their efforts. Now that I think about it though, even if they get 100 Baht per customer it’s not bad for them at all since they’re bound to get at least 10 a day.

    Since some of you guys have used the service, can you tell me what the cars are like?

  14. nocturn (unregistered) on August 4th, 2005 @ 12:23 pm

    i use the service regularly and the cars are great. they are clean, the drivers are polite, and they know where they are going. I have never been charged over 600 baht.

    My pet peeve with the airport is that the taxis that have the concession are too few to handle demand and they are also the worst cabs in bangkok. if you refuse one because it looks like it is falling apart they make you wait eons until they get you another one

    I refuse to wait 40 mins in line only to end up in some clapped out beater that feels like it will lose a wheel as soon as it gets up to speed on the expressway.

    I will never understand why the powers that be allow people’s first impression of thailand to be of some crappy cab that has been on the rod for 10 years when most of the cabs in the city are actually newer.

  15. him (unregistered) on August 4th, 2005 @ 1:05 pm

    Nocturne, I forgot to mention that the 1000B we paid was actually for a nice minivan, so I’d guess regular cars are around what you say, 600B or so.

    I find the public taxis are a mix, some great, some dire. I’ve hardle yever had to wait too long, maybe 15 minutes at the max, but again that of course depends on the number of flights coming in at once.

  16. Ben Harris (unregistered) on August 4th, 2005 @ 3:15 pm

    On our way to the airport on the night I picked my friend up I got a taxi like you described (very old).

    I remember as we were driving at 60Kph, which was the top speed the taxi could manage (and thankfully we weren’t on the expressway), “Normally I’d be asking the taxi driver to slow down, not speed up!” :)

  17. that guy (unregistered) on August 4th, 2005 @ 4:31 pm

    security was a lot tighter in april.
    fyi, its because of the war in the south, not because of the london bombings.

  18. bkkmei (unregistered) on August 7th, 2005 @ 3:17 pm

    oh, I’ve just come back from the airport and think we ended up with the same old taxi that you had because it was very s l o w………………

    which is almost as stressful as too fast when you ARE on the expressway

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