tuk tuk feet

Tuk Tuks are not the only transpo concern in Thailand.

You’d think by now everyone would be used to the obligatory security check at airports. You’d think by now everybody would know there are numerous, basically harmless, items you can no longer carry onto a plane. But obviously not. My friend Dee got busted trying to smuggle an array of no-nos in her carry-on. You’d think she’d have known better. I mean it wasn’t like we were in a foreign country or something. Oh, wait. We were. We were at Suvarnabhumi Airport’s domestic terminal in Bangkok.

The gang was headed to Chiang Mai on Air Asia and I never thought to remind the farang what not to pack in a carry on. They’ve all flown often enough to know better. Or so I thought. My concern was with the less well seasoned traveler in our group, Noom, my bar boy  friend and current love of my life. Back at the hotel I’d pulled several items out of his carry on bag and made him repack them in his suitcase. He puts up with that kind of shit from me. Not because I’m smarter, wiser, or know better, more so just to make me happy. That I may later be proven wrong  is a bonus. So Noom sailed through the initial security check with no problem. Dee, on the other hand, got to spend some quality time with the Thai version of a TSA agent.

Thailand is concerned about your safety when flying. So they have not one but two security checks. It used to be standard for both international and domestic flights, but realizing they don’t really care if you die leaving the country, they now only double up on the domestic flights. The first check, a girl who paws through your bag, catches nothing that the normal x-ray scanner would miss. But this system employs an extra few Thai nationals so what the hell, why not? Not everyone gets checked, mostly just those sneaky farang. And the biggest haul appears to be bottles of water. But every now and then they hit the motherlode. Enter Dee.

Prohibited, confiscated, and now lost to her were various hair products, some cologne, a few tubes of god knows what women need all that crap for . . . and the security girl kept digging. You could see Dee was in a bit of panic, but the lightening of her bag was soon completed and she quickly scurried away. Later she admitted she was panicked that her dildo, disguised as a toothbrush, would come under scutiny and she’d have to explain in front of the crowd. I let her comment pass. But wondered why, on a 45 minute flight, you’d have the need for a dildo. I don’t think masturbation counts toward Mile High Club membership points. Even in Thailand.

And I’m sure she is thrilled that I’ve shared her story with you.

Transportation in a foreign land is rife with potential problems. Even when it’s the same mode and same procedures as back home. Fortunately, Air Asia was late as usual so our delay at security had no lasting effect. Other than a toothbrush/dildo vision I really don’t need in my head. But even if you have done your research, transportation options in a city you’ve never been to  leave you ripe for rip-offs, scams, and confusion.

chiang Mai tuk tuk

Dee takes control, and still overpays for her tuk tuk experience.

Coming into Bangkok, if you managed to avoid the overpriced private taxi touts and found the public taxi queue the driver will try and get a fixed price out of you rather than use the meter. His win. Your loss. In and around town you’ll often get to experience the same, fixed fares quoted in taxis that are supposed to use the meter. And any tuk tuk ride will be a rip off. I don’t even try and barter with tuk tuk drivers any longer. I just tell them where I want to go, name a price, and hop in for the ride. Lucky for Chris and the girls, on this trip they had a tour guide to help them make sense of the fees and transpo options. Or two tour guides. Because Noom was in full tour guide mode.

In Bangkok, they piled into whichever taxi we’d flagged down, leaving Noom or I to work out the details. Same on the river taxi. They’d hop on board and then cough up whatever fare I quoted. I tried to explain the BTS system to them, thinking they might want to strike out on their own, but nope, they’d stand patiently waiting while Noom or I bought their tickets, lead them to the right platform, and pushed them out of the train at the right stop.

By the time we got to Chiang Mai, their lack of interest in fending for themselves was getting to be a bit old. I guess the taxi ride from the airport would qualify as a new transpo experience, so that was no biggie. And introducing them to using a baht bus for quick rides around town was different enough that for the first few trips having to tell them the fare was 20 baht was okay . . . but got a bit tired by the fifth time we had to answer the “how much?” question. Even Noom decided they were being just a bit too stupid and started quoting a 40 baht fee, covering his and my ride and making a few baht profit to boot.

Yi Peng Lantern

The gang celebrate Yi Peng a few months late.

Your strength in bartering for transportation is that you can always walk away. You lose that ability when the majority of your party has already climbed into the vehicle. When we commandeered a baht bust for the day’s outing, I explained this to the gang. Which had absolutely no effect on their habit of hopping in and then waiting for their tour guides to cut a deal. So we frequently overpaid. Or they did. And Noom kept making money on the trip.

He’d keep careful track of his earnings, and then use the cash to buy some small thing, proudly showing it off to me when we’d get back to our hotel room, saying, “Look! Helenda buy me souvenir!” Noom couldn’t quite keep everyone’s name straight and settled on a rotating roster of names combining the best sounds of each of their individual monikers.

To be fair, it wasn’t really about the money so much as a joke to Noom. And he got in touch with our local lesbian friend, Pom, and bought a dozen Yi Peng lanterns for the gang to set sail late one night. Not quite the experience as when doing so with a few thousand festival goers, but a pretty awesome experience in its own right. And it was his idea and his treat. Paid for by their transportation donations.

After a week it was time to head off once again, another late and cramped flight on Air Asia, this time to Phuket. And this time I made sure the farang packed their liquids, sharp instruments, and dildos in their check-in luggage. And forgot to do the same with Noom. His carry-on was bulging. And the metal detector had a melt down when he walked through.


I don’t know why Thai guys are so enamored with face creams, body lotions and the like. But watching Noom perform his morning beauty routine is pure bliss.

I watched while the security girls unpacked his bag pulling out a bottle of cologne, a bottle of juice, several tubes of god knows what Thais need all that crap for, and the metal Ganesha statue we’d bought holding seven weapons, all removable and all with sharp pointy ends. I was floored. And upset. Noom was about to lose some stuff that he treasured, his upcoming disappointment tugging at my heart. But he was not in the least bit concerned, taking their unpacking and removal of the majority of his junk quite nonchalantly. I knew he’d seen Dee lose half her bag of belongings back in Bangkok, but he didn’t seem to be aware that the same was about to happen to him.

And I should have known. After carefully unpacking and inventorying the mass of illegal items, carefully distributing the booty into piles of liquids, creams, and sharp pointy things, just as carefully, the security girls packed it all back in Noom’s bag, handed the bag back to him with a wai, and off we went. Thais don’t hijack planes. The TSA staff knew the hot Thai dude wasn’t gonna be blowing up Air Asia’s flight. The farang lady with the suspicious toothbrush . . . a different story.

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