You Don’t Need to Go Clubbing when You’ve Got My Tuk-Tuk Driver

All right, picture this:

The Yi Peng lantern festival is ending in Thailand, there are people everywhere trying to get home. I’m talking thousands of people, shoulder to shoulder, stuck on a street that is apparently closed down for lantern-launching pedestrians. My cameraman and I look at each other with a slight look of concern and quickly decide to shimmy ourselves over to the nearest cross-street.

It’s a success, and we can finally breathe. We take out the ol’ trusty smartphone map and decide to start walking towards our hotel, thinking we might bump into a tuk-tuk. After many failed attempts at hailing a cab or any means of a lift home, we hear loud music in the distance: music that clearly did not come from this festival.

It’s a tuk-tuk, and it has no passengers. A rare find! I begin to hail him down with as many flailing hand gestures as I can. “He definitely sees us, right?” I think out loud to myself.

He did, and he slowed down across the street, waving us over. My cameraman and I played an epic game of Frogger with the traffic, and right away I can see that this is a younger man, mid-twenties.

We give him our hotel name, and he hesitates. Our destination is so far and the traffic is far greater than usual, he says. The ride will be 400 baht. (It should have been 100.) But we know to always barter on a price you know is far too steep steep, and at least got him down to 350 baht, which is still not ideal, but we didn’t have many options and he knew it. We needed to get back quickly.

This is where the thrill ride of my life took place. The canvas ceiling of his ride was lined with blue neon tubes, and red lights popped on whenever he hit the brakes. He asked me what music I wanted to listen to, and first thing that came to mind was good ol’ ’90s hip hop. Nothing wrong with that, right?

“Sure, I think you’ll like this,” he said, and began to play your typical American Top 40 Hit Lists. Loud.

Our driver somehow managed to get back onto the main festival road, the one that was seemingly closed off to vehicles. It wasn’t—not for him. We had everyone on the street turning their heads to watch us go by. When we finally got off the main road the playlist then turned to thrash metal and we started speeding faster than I ever thought a tuk-tuk could. It was like I was in a Thai version of The Fast & The Furious, and I had a healthy mix of fear and excitement.

After a few close calls and many short-cuts and back alleys we finally got back to our hotel. Adrenaline pumping and grinning ear to ear my cameraman and I both agreed that this was one to remember.

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