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What if Phuket's taxis actually worked the way they should?

Tuk-Tuks and Taxis: What Could Happen

Friday, June 21, 2013
Phuketwan Satire: Brave Enough to Change

PHUKET: It is June, 2015. The taxi responds to my call to the Phuket-wide answering service and slides to a halt outside my palatial villa, high above Patong.

The driver hops out, spins around to the passenger's side, delivers a wai, then opens my door. I hop in.

It's not far to Phuket International Airport, where the new international terminal has just opened to much praise, right on schedule. Even the Immigration officers are smiling now, people tell me.

I can't help noting how handsome the driver looks in his neatly pressed uniform, inspired by a suggestion from former Governor Maitree Intrusud and adapted from the stylish outfit worn by the Tourist Police volunteers.

All Phuket tuk-tuk and taxi drivers took to wearing the new uniforms soon after June 2014, when the call centre system was introduced.

You want a cab? Contact the call centre, and they'll send one straight to your door, guaranteed to arrive within five minutes, day or night.

It seems remarkable looking back but with the Big Reform of 2013, every Phuket tuk-tuk and taxi driver was pleased to stop charging extortionate fares.

How incredible it seems now that the taxi and tuk-tuk drivers on Phuket once used to charge passengers for a return-to-base trip that the poor passenger paid for, but never made.

''I'm delighted with the new deal,'' my driver says, smiling broadly. ''I get to work all day but I feel much better making an honest living.

''You know, sitting around most of the day with the boys, doing nothing, just waiting for a single rip-off fare . . . don't tell anyone, but I used to feel very guilty,'' the driver said, in perfect English.

''There were times at the airport, early in the morning, when I'd double the fare. And those illegal commissions! Man, how did they let us get away with that?''

About a year ago or more it must be now, the newly elected V Government ordered the taxi drivers to start treating tourists with honesty or face conscription into the large Phuket Tuk-Tuk and Taxi Bomb Disposal Contingent, destined for the Deep South.

Prime Minister anonymous told the tuk-tuk and taxi drivers it had to be done, for the good of her country and Phuket. We still don't know who she is, she's never seen without that mask. But it worked.

Every six months since then, the ranks of the tuk-tuk and taxi drivers have been reduced by 10 percent as drivers take up the government's offer to pay for their education at college or university.

Many are planning a fresh start as architects or cosmetic surgeons.

And every year now, the drivers all have to undergo a strict annual test to make sure they have the proper service skills. Decency 101 is said to be the most popular course at the local university.

If more than three customers complain within any 12 month period, the cabbie has to start all over again by applying for a driver's licence from scratch.

''You know, I love this job,'' the driver said as we pulled up at the new airport terminus, and one of the attentive airport staff opened my door.

The cabbie turned off the meter. ''It's been a wonderful experience driving you, sir,'' he said. ''Thank you. Do have a safe flight.''


Comments have been disabled for this article.


ah phuketwan, I want you to sit the whole day at the airport, smiling at 32398429384 people,
thats not good for the face muscles!
also, do chinese smile in general, or at all even??? havent seen ONE

Posted by sebi on June 21, 2013 16:39


Oh what a dream....made me smile too...but alas...this island has made a pessimist out of me...

Posted by May on June 21, 2013 17:02


Do flying pigs use the airport for take-off and landings in your version of 2015?

Posted by sir burr on June 21, 2013 17:07


I like that one " face the deep south bomb contingent"

Posted by Harald on June 21, 2013 18:44


Whatever medicine you have had; I want it too!

Posted by hightrip on June 21, 2013 20:48


Reminds me of a recent trip to Bali where I had the same driver for 3 days, took the time to show us around, explain the local culture and historical areas and cost as much as a few trips to the airport here. Hope this dream comes true for Phuket.

Posted by Jon on June 21, 2013 22:17


Lol @ sir burr......classic....maybe in 2115

Posted by RRR on June 21, 2013 22:50


.....and then you woke up!

Posted by jimbo34 on June 22, 2013 03:35


I read Alice In Wonderland & even that doesn't compare to this Garden of Eden!

Posted by Anonymous on June 23, 2013 17:33


did your enjoy your trip to disneyland.

Posted by slickmelb on June 23, 2013 21:42


" It's a small, small world after all..."

Well, more like the Mad Tea Party if we seek analogues from Anaheim.

Posted by ThaiMike on June 23, 2013 21:55


I guess its nice to dream but I couldn't stop laughing while I read it

Posted by Damien on June 24, 2013 09:47


And don't forget all the ancillary benefits of the sweeping changes...the ability to find parking in the beach areas again, the massive reduction in traffic and quiet emergency rooms since tourists no longer have to learn to ride a motorbike in one of the most dangerous places to do so, and locals can get around affordably again not having to jam up the roads with their personal vehicles. (Surely songtheaws have been introduced in this utopia of yours)

Posted by NomadJoe on June 24, 2013 11:49


555..oh dear surely you ain't facetious? Cos that is oft bred from cynicism?
You forgot to mention the joint funded newly installed garbage cans, toilets, showers and first aid stations at the beach taxi/tuk tuk ranks....Oh and the nice new white Jamaican style BIB uniforms for BIW?

Posted by david on June 26, 2013 09:28

Monday May 20, 2024
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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