This article is about Spot Cool Stuff second favorite way of getting around Bangkok.
Our preferred method of traversing the Thai capital is by boat and river taxi. Most travelers know about the ferries that ply up and down Bangkok’s major river, the Chao Phraya. Less well known are the boat services along the smaller rivers and canals that criss-cross the city. The problem is that the canal transport system is often confusing, sometimes slow and (obviously) limited to destinations near water.
So often we turn to that public transportation option that’s best for zipping through the notorious Bangkok traffic and that, by happy coincidence, is also among the least expensive: the motorcycle taxi.
Bangkok has around 180,000 registered motorcycle taxis. The drivers are easily identifiable by their orange vests. Riding on a motorcycle taxi can be a fun and/or harrowing experience, depending on your point of view. (If you are more inclined towards the latter we suggest putting on a brave face—we’ve found that showing fear often encourages the driver to have a bit of fun and drive faster).
One downsides of taking a Bangkok motorcycle taxi: It can be laborious negotiating a reasonable fare. That’s especially true for foreigners but also for Thais. Unlike Bangkok car taxis, their motorcycle counterparts do not have meters. Though that might be changing soon.
A company, World Moto, has developed a meter for motorcycle taxis. The tamperproof meters are designed to withstand the wet, dust and bumps of motorcycle life. Each meter also includes a “black box” feature that records a motorcycle’s speed and position over time.
World Moto—founded by a Canadian expat living in Thailand—spent over US$1 million developing the meters. That may sound like an extravagant sum, especially considering that each unit costs only $180. But even at that price point the world market for motorcycle taxi meters could be as much as $3 billion—several other countries in addition to Thailand also have motorcycle taxis including Indonesia, India and even (when the weather allows) Sweden.
The meters are beneficial to the motorcycle taxi operators too. In addition to the time saved haggling fares, drivers earn extra income from the advertising that appears on the meter’s display during a customer’s ride.
After a successful pilot program in Brazil the motorcycle meters are set to go into large scale use in Bangkok this year, with Phuket and other select areas of Thailand excepted to follow in 2012. Check out the motorcycle meter in action in the video, below.
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