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Porntep Chamkawn: ''Aren't you afraid of me? I am the tuk-tuk Mafia.''

Phuket Tuk-Tuk Boss: Aren't You Afraid of Me?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Tuk-Tuk Photo Album Above

''SO YOU want to talk to me?'' the deep voice on the other end of the telephone said. ''Aren't you afraid of me? I am the tuk-tuk Mafia.''

Some conversations get off to a bad start. So we made our way to the headquarters of the Karon Tuk-tuk Association with some trepidation.

What would the Mafia chief be like? Would he be surrounded by a gang of black shirts, polishing their guns, ready for the next professional ''hit''?

Would they be sharing a pizza, and talking about disposing of rival mafioso?

Actually, Porntep Chamkawn had on a bright check shirt and he even smiled quite a few times as we talked.

He has a masters degree in political science and has been president of the KT for a year, trying to introduce some changes.

Mafia? We figure he was joking. Not many media people call asking for an interview.

As it turned out, we learned a lot. Minivans, buses, taxis and other forms of tourist transport are all part of the association's 511 vehicles.

''Only local people in the Karon area can become members,'' Khun Porntep told Phuketwan. ''We have a history going back before there was even a road between Karon and Patong.''

The KT runs services at Karon, Kata and Kata Noi, and some changes are already evident under Khun Porntep's leadership.

Yellow KT signs and yellow paint on the roadway now mark 54 spots where tuk-tuks and other members can park. People who want tuk-tuks have to go to those signs to find transport.

Tuk-tuk drivers from other parts of Phuket are not permitted to make pickups in the Karon district, Khun Porntep said, and that can at times lead to harsh words with outside tuk-tuk drivers.

If a driver happens to offend not once, but twice, then three times, Khun Porntep said: ''Please don't ask what happens next.''

Fiercely protective of the local community, Khun Porntep said that fares for passengers were consistent with the high cost of tuk-tuk vehicles.

''Even an old tuk-tuk will cost 70,000 baht and a new one will carry a price tag of 1.2 million baht,'' he said. ''They have to be imported from Japan.''

A driver needs to have cash to pay for one, he said.

Khun Porntep said the tuk-tuk drivers used to see the big Hilton Phuket Arcadia Resort as less than friendly towards tuk-tuks.

But after talking to the owner, Maitree Narukatpichai, Khun Porntep's view had changed.

Resorts had agreed on the new parking system, and resorts in the area can now call in tuk-tuks or other, larger vehicles as required, from the designated parking bays.

Politeness courses are now planned for KT members, along with more emphasis on service and the safety of passengers.

Times are tough for tuk-tuks, which means more time for planning . . . and for down-time football matches at Karon sports stadium.

''We want people to be satisfied with our service,'' Khun Porntep said. ''If someone leaves something behind in a tuk-tuk, they can be sure they will get it back.''

The new ideas now being introduced in Karon won't necessarily be seen in other parts of the island, he added.

''We are trying to get our area working well, but we cannot speak for others.

''I am not the Mafia, but I am trying to help the local community make sure there are jobs for the next generation.

''People say unkind things about tuk-tuk drivers. I have to say we welcome complaints because we need to improve.

''Please let me know if there are incidents that make tourists unhappy.''

He would like to fix fares, but that was no easy task. The price to Patong from Karon should be around 400 baht, depending on the precise pickup and destination.

He does not believe meters are an answer, but the whole issue of fares will eventually be thoroughly examined.

''We have it on our list of things to do,'' he said. ''Parking is now sorted, and we have a system going that works for drivers and resorts.''

People often complain about tuk-tuk drivers, but Khun Porntep said Phuket's tourists these days were not necessarily top-shelf, either.

''I have often taken a fare to Patong then had them flee without paying, or paying less than the right fare, in Soi Bangla,'' he said.

''That's hardly fair.''

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Comments

Comments have been disabled for this article.

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400 bht to patong . what a joke that would cost twenty baht in pattaya . Dream on . . . i would rather walk than pay my hard earned money to you , and that is why nobody is here and nobody likes your service . in new york or London it would be cheaper .
Another nail in the phuket coffin

Posted by Russel jones on July 1, 2009 11:58

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Khun Pornthep, can you explain why a tuk tuk ride from Kata to Patong is Baht 400.00 and a taxi ride from Bangkok central to Suvaranbhum Airport is 350 Baht? Why do the Tuk Tuk drivers, not publish rates or have meters, like in any other part of the world. It is great of you that you all work together and you like to protect jobs for the local people in Kata and Karon but as a tourist I have to tell you that the most expensive taxis in the world by km are in Phuket. Not even in London or Paris do I have to pay Baht 400 for 5 km of driving.
A happy tourist

Posted by Tourist on July 1, 2009 12:10

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The interview with Khun Pornthep has done nothing to bolster any confidence in Tuk Tuk drivers and i will continue to avoid them at all costs.
I can hardly believe that passengers have fled the scene in the Bangla area, they would be caught in seconds with the number of Thais around especially in the area.

Posted by Local on July 1, 2009 12:52

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The four big complaints I hear about tuk-tuks are:

1. Parking
2. Direct ripoffs
3. Price: Expensive? Fixed? Meters?
4. Anti-competitive thuggery

Parking was mentioned in the interview. It might be satisfactorily addressed for Karon; I will leave that for others to address. It is certainly not addressed in other places like Patong.

Direct ripoffs were not mentioned, but I would like to believe - all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding - that these are rotten-apple situations and that they can be minimized/addressed.

But the other two items - high price and anti-competitive thuggery - were essentially admitted, unashamedly even, in the interview.

Operators should be free to charge whatever they want to cover their costs and take their profits *in an open market.* But anti-competitive thuggery puts the tuk-tuks into a monopoly situation. Monopolies should reasonably lose the right to set their own prices.

Either open up to competition or submit to a price structure set by the government that supports not just the local operators, but also visitor/consumer satisfaction.

Posted by D on July 1, 2009 12:56

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All Thai officials know well that metered tuk-tuk would be the best choice to end all hassles from local drivers but those unruly local tuk-tuk drivers will never accept it as they will have to pay more incoming taxes so local politicians will be against any change for a while.
That is amazing Thailand.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on July 1, 2009 13:04

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Even an old tuk-tuk will cost 70,000 baht and a new one will carry a price tag of 1.2 million baht,'' he said. ''They have to be imported from Japan.''

1.2M for a Tuk Tuk.. Please, who are you kidding.

Posted by Anonymous on July 1, 2009 13:06

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400 baht from Karon to Patong?? 400 BAHT FROM KARON TO PATONG????

Posted by claude on July 1, 2009 14:39

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Double the fare in the middle of nowhere, Phuket, never again, too dirty, too expensive, too rude people, its just a ripoff!

Posted by jojo on July 1, 2009 15:51

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Could you forward this article for a response from the governor of Phuket. i would like to know his views on the TUK TUK mafia of kata and Karon .
good luck with your rip offs, all you are doing is destroying the pearl of dodo.

Posted by Peter notley on July 1, 2009 17:12

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Why the goverment not take care who can drive tuk tuk and who can not ? why they can choose themselves what they can do ? why the thai goverment dont have rules for them?

Just go look at 3 or 4 am in the night on few spots in patong how the tuk tuk treat you. its a shame for a world class holiday destinations to have such a transport system.

where is the bus transport system and why a ride to karon cost 400 bath and a ride with a nice taxi from the airport (40 km) cost 550 bath? its sad...

Posted by Mike on July 1, 2009 21:13

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Bring in good public transport, and save Phuket's tourist industry !

Posted by elizabeth on July 1, 2009 22:56

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We have stopped coming to Phuket because of the many rip offs. We have just come back from Koh Chang and the transport there was reasonable and fair to go from beach to beach. Also no tailor touts or time share touts.

Posted by Terry on July 2, 2009 08:36

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The whole of Phuket's tourist industry should be afraid of people like this . Thousands of people are losing their jobs just to keep a few lazy local people employed because they think it is there birth right to rip off tourists . Good luck, Mr Mafia, you are going to need it.

Posted by Joe on July 2, 2009 13:51

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Before I will pay 400 Baht for a ride of about 7 km, there will be another Tsunami. But this time, please let all the Tuk-Tuks be destroyed!

Posted by Fritz Pinguin on July 2, 2009 13:52

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The attitude displayed by the "Tuk tuk boss" boggles the mind given the importance of tourism to the Phuket economy. Unfortunately, it is an attitude that is all too common. To sum up: They just don't get it.

By the way, it is not just the non-Thai tourists who are shocked by tuk tuk and taxi prices here. I have spoken with many Thais from elsewhere who are equally dismayed by the extortionate prices and practices in Phuket.

Posted by Blockhead on July 2, 2009 14:37

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What a joke. Why would ANYBODY use a tuk-tuk?

Posted by Bobby on July 2, 2009 15:10

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Mr. Porntep, do you decide which people can do business at Karon and who can't?

You also forgot to mention the commission business - some shops & tourist spots who pay the drivers that bring them customers. Tuk-tuk drivers scare off even the company drivers themselves if they want to pick up their own customers!

And 1.2 millions for a tuk tuk - most of this would surely to be paid for a member fee/ parking place to KT.

Posted by Anonymous on July 2, 2009 15:19

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400 THB from Karon to Patong????? When a metered Taxi from Phuket Airport to Chalong costs THB 300???? (just the meter, excluding 100 THB Airport fee).

Bring on metered taxis in all the beaches, and ensure they have good parking lots at least the same as tuk tuks. Tuk tuks would be gone within a month.

Posted by Max on July 2, 2009 15:34

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''I have often taken a fare to Patong then had them flee without paying, or paying less than the right fare, in Soi Bangla,'' he said.
''That's hardly fair.''
Fleeing is good, under paying is better.

Posted by Mouse on July 2, 2009 16:21

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For those who want to say something officially, contact the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Sport:

Mrs Sasithara Phichaichanarong

sasithara@mots.go.th

Posted by Jacob on July 2, 2009 17:30

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Maybe customers should unite also and start boycotting tuk-tuks.

Posted by Martin on July 2, 2009 18:21

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The Tuk-Tuk industy pretty much spells out the whole of Thailand's attitude ... there's a foreigner, lets rip him off.

Posted by Noddy on July 2, 2009 19:04

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Forget the tuk tuk's and hire a car for as little as 900 Baht per day and then you can travel anywhere in Phuket. it's an effective, affordable option.

Posted by Rick on July 2, 2009 19:47

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Good to see that the Karon Tuk Tuks are getting their act together. BUT I was truly Shocked and I mean SHOCKED at the 400 Baht fare now being requested as normal from Patong to Karon.

Due to health reasons I'm now based and working in UK in S Wales and I live in a small tourist village called Mumbles - which is approx 25 mins drive away from central Swansea

I pay between 8-9 pounds - the very SAME fare here in Uk for a brand new A/c 4 door saloon Taxi....for the very same price for a much longer journey time in busy traffic.

It really is time someone woke up in Phuket and sat down with the likes of "Affable Tuk Tuk Boss" and get real. Especially as the cost of fuel in Phuket is so cheap by comparison. UK now 1.02 pounds per litre. (appox 50P per litre.)

I also haved the option of getting on a public bus for the one way fareof 1.75 pence...( approx 90 Baht)

Its time in Phuket for the New Governor to get a handle on this crazy situation before such ludicrous pricing policies scare off what's left of a fast declining tourist population

I really hope that you print these comments and pass on to our "Affable Friend" in a vain hope me might get real.

Would also be worth your while to check out the on going scenario as to who actually controls the import/wholesale of said "Tuk Tuks" onto the island...

In the mean time...Hope every one enjoying the quieter times in Phuket....Good for the mind, and soul, but sadly not for the pocket.

Bill Owen - Oriental Events.

Posted by Bill Owen on July 3, 2009 11:11

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The obvious solution is to have a bus service running along the coast linking the beaches. This could be set up by the local government with a set charge of say B50- per trip. This would cut down on congestion and squeeze out the tuk tuk rip off merchants.

If Phuket wants to survive as a tourist destination the authorities need to wake up before it is too late. Why does this online paper not approach the governor on this issue and show him the swell of bad feeling and get his views on this issue?

At least then we would find out if we are banging our heads against a brick wall and then vote with our feet!

Posted by Philip on July 3, 2009 19:10

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They did attempt a bus service from Karon to Patong and the driver got beat up. Perhaps someone should have asked Porntep his views on a bus and what he had to say about the last bus.

Posted by vfaye on July 4, 2009 11:11

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The average daily wage is 200 baht, why on earth should these people be charging 400 baht for a 10 minute drive?

Ridiculous, pathetic and full of rip-off merchants.

Phuket needs to Die, so it can be reborn again with people who understand the world of economics and tourism.

Posted by Anonymous on July 4, 2009 19:04

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Shame that an otherwise promising news source publishes such obvious lies without quoting any alternate source.

1.4 million for a tuk-tuk? I bought a brand new Honda Jazz in Phuket for 700,000. It was financed and I paid the bank 10,400/month. At 400baht/trip, I could have paid for the car taking just one tourist a day from Patong to Karon.

As is obvious from the other posts, this story has only served to inflame anger, and to erode the credibility of Phuket Wan. Please try a little harder.

Editor: You were an otherwise promising reader, too, until you decided to shoot the messenger. That's not an effective solution.

Posted by Jeff on July 4, 2009 22:01

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Phuket Wan's childish sniping retorts to reader's critique comments make it look amateurish, like someone's girlfriend is allowed to practice her English in the office all day.

Put up a discussion board if you think you can take on your readers.
Come on PW, we need a trustworthy and professional alternative to PG, get the Gig outta the office.

Editor: Hey, you're the first bigot on this particular thread. Thanks for your comment, and goodbye.

Posted by Living in Monkeyland on July 5, 2009 08:29

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So, the messenger shoots the reader?

Editor: Show me the holes . . . . there may be a time and a place for the kind of coverage you think is required. The tuk-tuk man was generous enough to accept our request for an interview. We have given our account of what transpired. The readers have made their views plain. Yet you carp and carry on as if it is somehow phuketwan's duty to become the island's moral guardian. Is the situation plainer now, because of the interview? We think so. Most of the readers have taken the article for what it is: one perspective. The topic will be covered again in other ways. Your criticism is unwarranted and unfair.

Posted by Jeff on July 5, 2009 10:43

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Jeff relax go swimming and get some R and R.

Posted by Mouse on July 5, 2009 11:39

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here we go again, this little argument has been going on for a few years now, and as i have already highlighted a few weeks ago this is just another nail in the coffin of a once beautiful island.

i think mr mafia should look elsewhere to import them because if they cost such a ridiculous price then he and his fellow drivers are clearly being ripped off in a big way just as they are ripping innocent tourist off.

i really hate to say this because ive had some fabulous times in thailand and no doubt i will have some more but if the thai tourist board don't get a grip and start regulating things like tuk tuks properly with meters etc the drivers will always rip off a farang, no doubt about it, when you put into context the prices of tuk tuks it just doesn't add up.

i arrive at phuket airport and get a lovely new limo, clean, smelling nice and a friendly driver, who then takes me to karon beach for baht 600, the journey takes 45-60 minutes, good service and a fair price, i'm happy to give him a decent tip because of the excellent service, no problem at all.

i decide to go to patong from karon for a night out, i order a tuk tuk, then all the drivers start shouting each other, whoever was first in the queue next is sat eating so they shout the next in turn, he's playing pool in a bar and drinking, eventually they shout a third, after pushing a couple of tuk tuks out of the way we get on our way, noisy, smokey, struggling to get up the hills, horrible bumpy journey, we arrive at bangla road 15 minutes later baht 400 the driver shouts i know ive been ripped off so he doesn't get a tip, i'm barely out of the back when he shoots off looking for another fare, no thank you or good bye, is this a good service at a reasonable price, i don't think you need to be a rocket scientist to work it out.

so phuket all i have to say is keep driving the tourist out, there are many places which will welcome them with open arms like you once did.

Posted by frequent_visitor on July 5, 2009 15:40

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for quite some time now, every time I visit Phuket I order a real taxi . They are cool, clean, and cheaper, best of all you have a good chance of arriving at your destination in one piece !

Posted by elizabeth on July 5, 2009 18:05

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Having friends over to stay here at the Amari Coral, I have now experienced this robbery first hand. They wanted to go from the Amari just to Beach Rd Patong, but nooooo the tuk tuk driver wanted 250 Baht. They told him what any self-respecting tourist should ... " We will walk. "
Now if all the tourists did this, the rip offs would stop.

Posted by Mouse on July 6, 2009 07:32

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Good article and sound comments- agree we need to give tuk tuks with extortionist prices a wide berth and a big "No thanks!" for what they do to Phuket's image. Authorities need to support those alternative methods of transport that are not so expensive, where drivers are well mannered and have safe driving habits as well as vehicles that well maintained and roadworthy.
I'm all for supporting the local community, but tuk tuks with ridiculous prices and drivers with an attitude - No thanks!

Posted by No thanks! on July 6, 2009 12:49

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In journalism 101, you learn that when an interview makes an outlandish statement you don't have time to substantiate , you write; "Not independently verified by ...."

Really, I have to comment, these ill tempered editor's response are most unprofessional.

Editor: There's nothing ill about my temper. I just won't tolerate unjustified criticism, based on ignorance. Thanks for your advice on journalism, but you are once again wide of the mark. Quotes are quotes, whether direct or indirect. You are confusing journalists with judges.

Posted by MediaWatch on July 7, 2009 07:57

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You have obviously incited a lot of comment on your article.

I heard that there was a licensing fee for Tuk Tuks - around 400,000 THB and that was many years ago - is this true? Maybe that could bring the price up to 1.2 mill THB???

What does Khun Porntep think about a bus service from Kata to Patong?

Khun Porntep says he welcomes complaints as he needs to improve - will you be passing on any of the comments made here?

And can you tell me what a bigot is, please?

Editor: Incited? That wasn't something we set out to do. The article has certainly aroused interest and all of the comments will be going back to Khun Pornthep, as he requested.

We will ask about the ingredients that make up the high cost of a tuk-tuk, and whether a bus service is possible.

Posted by Bobby Brown on July 7, 2009 15:00

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Ref supposed posting by myself, "Could you forward this article for a response from the governor of Phuket. i would like to know his views on the TUK TUK mafia of kata and Karon .
good luck with your rip offs, all you are doing is destroying the pearl of dodo.

Posted by Peter notley on Wednesday July 1, 2009 at 17:12 " it was not posted by me, but presumably an imposter or even another Peter Notley.
-- from (Peter Notley in Chalong)

Posted by Peter Notley on July 8, 2009 09:03

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I worked at news organizations for 25 years and to not qualify an outlandish claim within a quote is irresponsible, called BOGUS REPORTING and indicative of AMATEURS playing news.
Your retorts are bordering on hysterics - making a complete fool of yourself ( and a joke out of Phuket Wan.)

Editor: What utter rubbish. Your calculated attacks on Phuketwan and its reporting are shameful and dishonest. If you did spend time at a news organisation, then you learned little from the experience. Clearly, you've never worked in a country where interviews are conducted in a language other than English. Only in the interests of free speech have you been given space until now to air your distortions. That will not be the case from here on.

Posted by Media Watch on July 8, 2009 11:44

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Media watch come now. Simmer down and get off the moral high horse, let the horsey drink water and you have a relaxing week by the seaside. No need for personal attacks in these pages please. LIve and let live = Respect OK ?

Posted by Mouse on July 8, 2009 12:43

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Isn't it a sign of hysteria when someone bursts into capital letters for a word here and there? I would call that the text equivalent of shouting, not debating. Some people should learn the virtue of horse whispers.

Posted by Angelfire on July 8, 2009 12:50

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Holy S*** ! This has really pressed some buttons, eh ?

Posted by Peter on July 9, 2009 00:29

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Why don't the tourist avoid taking Tuk Tuks? Many of the tourist keep on paying 400-500 baht a trip. Avoid them!!!

Posted by Roger on July 11, 2009 13:17

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Editor, don't ask 'if a bus service is possible' as this sounds like you are asking them, the Tuk Tuk mafia to set it up.

Ask if they would object/obstruct a bus service set up by the local authority as this I think is the way forward.

Then it could be put to the Governor to instigate/set up, with a reasonable set price per trip linking the beaches. It could even run late at night to accommodate people out for the evening (or at least say till 9pm so they can at least pay a reasonable fare one way).

Would the Governor agree to set this up? If not, why not? Perhaps an interview should be arranged with him as well.

Posted by Philip on July 11, 2009 13:33

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Having lived on Phuket for nearly 4 years now, I spend 6 months plus a year there, as I work rotational in Africa.

Every time I come home I use the Airport Limousine Service I actually get the same driver as many of them are owner drivers.

My wife calls him and he is waiting with a lovely new AC Camray to Rawai, the furthest south you can go on the Island, THB650 and of course he gets a good tip.

For my return Journey he is at my House and takes me all the way back to the airport, same price. If I have friends coming from abroad he also gets this work and that all mounts up.

This is all very well for a resident of the island and it works, I would never take a Tuk Tuk as the novelty wore off after the first few times but as for Tourists I agree with a few other posters.

Laws have to be made. Meters are a good idea and a Bus Service. One Day, maybe.

Posted by McFarang on July 11, 2009 15:49

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I just came back from 1 week in Bali. There where a lot of taxis with meter starting at 20 THB. Half an hour drive was 280 THB. People were very friendly and tourist oriented. Food prices where similar or slightly lower than phuket. Nightlife was great. We actually had some difficulties to find a room. Occupancy rate is over 90%. I wonder why?

Posted by Bali on July 12, 2009 13:28

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400 baht from Karon to Patong! My dollar goes further in cleaner, friendly places in Thailand. Patong is no class, just sass.

Posted by Laura on July 13, 2009 10:03

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I can hire an air conditioned taxi in Chiang Mai for Bt500-600 AN HOUR. I dread to think how cheap for a Tuk Tuk.

These people are ripping customers off plain and simple. Just don't use them and advise every other farang you see to avoid them as well.

Posted by Harry Barracuda on July 22, 2009 14:13

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I live in Phuket. Everywhere I have visited in the world, there is an effort to provide a reasonable customer service experience to the visitor. Governments and local businesses team up to do what they can to provide a safe, clean and pleasurable experience for visitors. They institute sensible, environmentally responsible policies that stimulate visitorship. Thailand does not work like this. The Thais can not see past their own nose. Many Thais, certainly the ones in power, are greedy and care only for the quick buck for themselves. This especially goes for the Government officials. Everyone is out to protect themselves, and the wholly corrupt officials will not, and some cases due to the power of these mafias, can not, do anything about it. I have had more than one conversation with Tuk Tuk drivers, in fact one is a relative of a friend of mine. They make over 50,000 baht a month in the high season, and 20+ in a normal low season. That is insane amount of money for a Thai in a menial job. This is why they want to bring in hundreds more Tuk Tuks to further clog Patong's roadways so each driver can get his 2 or 3 fares a day, and spend the rest of his time parked illegally harassing tourists or slowly trolling and blocking traffic. And because Karon/Kata is a different mafia, each cannot pick up customers from outside their area, wasting fuel and increasing the fares. That is an insane policy by anyone's measure, but it sadly it will never change until the tourists stop coming, which may be sooner than the Tuk Tuk mafia thinks.

Posted by Common Incensed on August 25, 2009 15:47

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a tuk tuk from one side of the night bazaar out to riverside in Chiang Mai cost me 60b for three adults....what a great feeling that was...also have to mention Bali have got it spot on with their cheap taxis.... coming out of a club and jumping into a metered taxi home.... always leave a BIG tip....come on Phuket...something's got to change!!!

Posted by BeautifulWorldFurniture on December 10, 2009 19:56

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why do you feel the need to fill your columns with so called news items 6 yrs old/ this is nearly 2016 ,isnt it ?or are you just another example of island time.awaiting your customary vitriolic self centred response now with breathless anticipation happy retirement from all those nasty ,knowall.would be contributors ..what would they know anyway.

Posted by ted partridge on December 25, 2015 22:54

Editor Comment:

Your browser seems to call up old articles repeatedly, ted. The problem is with you and your equipment. No problems here.

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Ted Partridge
Is it almost the end of 2009 already?
At least you can read the daily articles for the next 6 years, well until, as my fortune teller told me, PW may close down in a few years.
I was also told 2014 will be an interesting year on the political front.

Anyway happy Xmas Alan and may 2010 be prosperous and rewarding.

Posted by MoW on December 26, 2015 07:15

Editor Comment:

Thanks MoW. Same same.


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