It was hot and humid, the sky was cloudless and the sun at this early hour already burning. I found gaps in the traffic that made the hairs on my neck bristle with fear, but at the first set of traffic lights I was back alongside Sunthon and determined not to get separated again. Here in Bangkok at each set of traffic lights there is an electronic counter that counts down the seconds to the changing of the lights. 45, 44, 43 ….. 6, 5, …Go. Always bikes first, .. always before the ‘Green’, .. always a racing start.
The lady with the overly short skirt was dismounted and making her way into the office building when I finally pulled in behind them. A 2Km journey had taken approximately 6 minutes. I was soaked, my Gortex jacket trapping in the heat, the air vents useless against the fierce heat of Bangkok. With a knowing smile Sunthon handed me his plastic bag of iced tea, ….. I was too grateful to politely refuse.
Beneath a tattered canopy on the edge of a large and hectic market, we rested and waited with other riders in an unofficial line, .. waiting for Sunthon’s next passenger. The other riders were eager to understand why I wanted to do this, .. perhaps they thought I was some kind of adrenaline junkie, but then they do not see this job as being dangerous, … to them it is simply a job. I tried to explain that I did a similar job at home in London, I tried to explain that I wanted to understand how their jobs were different from my own. In the end,.. we simply spent the minutes comparing ‘crash scars’, .. of which they have plenty and I thankfully, have but a few. In a way, it felt a little like being back on the London Circuit on a quiet summers day. Between jobs we tend to congregate in specific areas with other couriers; Smithfield Market, Lincolns Inn, Royal Courts of Justice etc. In common with the resting places of Bangkok, …. good toilets, shelter from the rain or sun and a decent food vendor are all present at such locations. In London if you want to know where the cleanest public lavatories are, ….. just look to see where the Black Cabs and Couriers rest, …. for there you will find only the finest of facilities.
As the day drew on, the jobs began to flow, we were criss-crossing the city as if our bikes were attached by invisible string. The down-time was scarce, we ate watermelon and drank iced tea at every opportunity, .. my Gortex jacket now riding passenger on my sadly empty pillion seat, …. 34 degrees of wet heat had gotten the better of my concerns for additional crash protection. With a passenger safely dropped at Bangkok’s highest hotel, I followed Sunthon through a swift and tight ‘U-Turn’, …. straight into the arms of a motorcycle cop. He didn’t look happy about this apparently illegal manoeuvre. His massive mirror shades and immaculate uniform reminding me very much of ‘ChiPs’ from 70’s TV, …. but his smile had sadly deserted him, he was no Eric Estrada. However, a frantic conversation, a donation of 150TB to his personal retirement fund and we were mobile once again.
We’d completed a full circuit of this district of Bangkok, returning to the platform where it had all begun at 7am this morning. For Sunthon the day was only half way through, but for his unfit shadow, it was sadly over. My rental Honda had to be returned in readiness for my departure tomorrow morning. I said a fond farewell to Sunthon and his colleagues who had chaperoned me and kept me safe throughout the day. I was hot, I was wet and I was totally exhausted. Had I been carrying the passengers myself, … I would now be approximately 350TB richer. Today has been one of the most nerve racking and exhilarating days that I have ever spent on a motorcycle. I enjoy trackdays, I enjoy racing, I enjoyed the Amur Highway, …… but shadowing a Bangkok Taxi Bike for a day is in a totally different league. I’m happy that I had the opportunity to do this, but would I do it again?. Not On Your Life.