That’s a loose definition of somewhat forcible confinement I suppose.
I got off the Bangkok airport link train system in Phaya Thai as I always do when I stay at Khaosan Road. Since I had not been to Bangkok in over a year I accidentally went down the wrong set of escalators instead of the ones I usually do.
“It is OK,” I thought to myself. “I’ll just find another route and walk to the main road.”
As I reached the bottom of the escalators, I noticed a sign advertising taxis specifically mentioning no surcharge. I then confirmed with the girl at the counter that were no surcharges and that the taxi was metered. She assured me on both counts.
The girl then directed me to a yellow / green taxi which was one of the two common taxi colours in Bangkok. The other is pink.
“Khaosan Road, meter,” I told the driver. He agreed.
I loaded my backpack in the trunk of his car then put myself in the back seat.
He then started to pull away.
“Meter,” I repeated seeing how his meter was inactive.
“Ok Ok,” he responded as he tried to turn out. I gave him some time to make the turn without further distraction.
He pulls onto the main road and I once again pointed out that his meter was not running.
“Meter. Your meter is not on,” I said.
“250 baht,” he replied.
“No meter,” I replied. All the while he was driving.
“200,” he offered.
“I’m not paying more than 85 baht,” I countered.
Despite not having been to Bangkok in a year, I knew the price to Khaosan was usually around 85 baht. I really could have dealt with 100 baht but because this guy was scamming me, there was no way I was accepting any more than 85 baht.
He started to say how he can’t do it for 85 baht.
“If you don’t want to turn on the meter then let me out here,” I said.
He kept on and on trying to push the price of 200 baht.
I must have repeated my request to be let out almost 10 times to no avail.
Two scenarios started forming in my head.
Scenario 1: He could be an ass and take me to the middle of nowhere before letting me out
If so then I would be at his mercy and have to accept whatever fee he wanted or risk being stranded in the middle of nowhere. Sure I fortunately had a data plan I purchased at the airport but without the ability to speak Thai, trying to describe where I was would be difficult at best, assuming I could find a taxi number to call.
The second scenario was a bigger cause for worry.
Scenario 2: He could be distracting me by haggling about the price while taking me to a gang
If so, I could be robbed. This is the worse case scenario, unlikely but possible.
As it is, I was busy arguing with him about the price and not using Google maps to check where we were heading.
I started to think about how I could get out of the taxi. I grabbed his shoulder, possibly with considerable force.
Either turn on the meter or f-ing let me out now!
“Either turn on the meter or f-ing let me out now!” I demanded with the most stern voice I could muster.
Fortunately for me it would seem trying to hustle me for a higher fee was the extent of his plan and he had no malicious intent. Or perhaps I deterred him from that by grabbing his shoulder with force.
He muttered something under his breath like “oh OK I understand” and finally pulled to the side. I got out and left his door open so he was less likely to drive away while I opened the trunk to grab my backpack.
Most taxi drivers I met a year ago would have no problem with a metered ride from Phaya Thai to Khaosan.
This time every taxi I flagged refused to give me a metered ride to Khaosan from wherever the heck this guy had dropped me.
Turns out we were heading in the opposite direction from Khaosan as a guy on a motorcycle pointed out.
“Khaosan? Cross the road,” he said.
Was the taxi driver taking me far before he agreed to turn on his meter?
Was he just heading the wrong way before he had the opportunity to make a U-turn?
A tuk tuk driver then pulled over to offer me a ride for 150 baht. I countered with 100.
“My local friend can get a ride for 85 baht,” I said.
He then dropped the price to 130 baht. At this point, I was tired of being ripped off and held fast to my price of 100 baht.
The price decreased – 120, 110, while I held fast to my 100 baht offer. Finally he begrudgingly agreed to my price.
The trips are not as fun if they are uneventful. As long as we come out on top, it makes for great stories.
Bangkok doesn’t seem any more dangerous than before but it seems like the taxi drivers are a little more greedy.
Now off to adventures on Khaosan.