THE PAVILIONS PHUKET BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, PHUKET
THE PAVILIONS PHUKET BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, PHUKET Kata Rocks

Culture: Thai Taxi Talismans - good karma, protective amulets and road safety in Thailand

A ride in a taxi can be a great “crash course” introduction to Thai culture, mentality and beliefs. One of the first things you might notice upon boarding a taxi, van or limousine is all the sacred objects and talismans that the drivers have arranged on their dashboards, which serve as mini religious altars.

culturereligionviolencetourism
By Sirinya Pakditawan

Sunday 11 September 2016, 10:00AM


What is the reason behind these talismans? On the surface, it’s a kind of animism, or the attribution of supernatural powers to inanimate objects, a basic “safety” precaution if you will.

Many Thai Buddhists believe in karma and that each person’s fate is predetermined by their previous actions, in a past life or even this one. Thus, many Thais believe that anything that happens to a person, good or bad, happens as a direct or indirect result of their past actions.

Therefore, many Thais, to some extent, believe that conventional safety precautions (helmets, seat belts, blinkers), driver’s skills and speed are not necessarily related to the probability of having an accident.

In other words, if someone becomes a victim in a car accident, many will conclude that it was because of his or her negative karma. Strange as it may seem to a rational Westerner, the fate of a taxi might be influenced by the spirits of the passengers that ride in it.

Therefore, on one hand Thai taxi drivers tend to believe in the concept of pok pong (ปกป้อง), which implies a supernatural, magical or spiritual protection against danger and harm, which often carries a lot more weight the concept of prevention or pong gun (ป้องกัน), by avoiding accidents through minding practical safety measures such as wearing seat-belts and helmets.

Nonetheless, it is believed that pok pong plays an essential role to counter the negative influences radiated from the passengers. Thus, taxi drivers transform their cabs into a sort of spiritual “life insurance” when they decorate their dashboards with numerous talismans and amulets.

To bless their car, some drivers have a yantra, a sacred, ancient geometrical diagram drawn by a monk or other holy scribe, which is then placed on the ceiling.

BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, PHUKET

Many drivers also hang Thai flower garlands and amulets on the rear view mirror to honour the journey goddess Mae Yanang (แม่ย่านาง). The dashboard may also harbour Buddha statues and pictures of enlightened monks and royal images that are considered
auspicious.

Some drivers go beyond adorning the inside of a taxi and also decorate the outside. Taxi drivers may customise their cars with mascots, stickers, lamps and flags, which they also believe serve as an extra layer of protection against negative karma.

Ancient beliefs, spells and superstition aside, most Thais in the modern day are rational enough to agree that safe driving and an emotionally-stable driver can go a long way in staying safe on the roads. A few simple and polite words to remind your Thai driver of this will also go along way. Say: Kup rote dee dee (ขับรถดีๆ) – drive nicely or steadily, or Kup rote cha cha noi (ขับรถช้าๆหน่อย) – please drive slowly.

In conclusion, we can say that Thai taxi altars and talismans are really special, since they reveal a lot about Thai culture, auspicious beliefs and their mentality about life and harmony. Riding in a taxi in Thailand can become a spiritual experience. Just make sure you are carrying around good karma and vibes!

Sirinya Pakditawan is a ‘luk kreung’, or half-Thai, born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. She enjoys writing about Thailand, with a focus on culture, art, history, tradition and on the people, as well as a mix of topics concerning Thai popular culture, travelogues and articles about Thai food.

Sirinya’s aim is not only to entertain you but to provide you with information and facts about Thailand, its culture and history that may not be generally known, in particular to the Western world. She has a PhD in American Studies from the University of Hamburg. 

To read the original story, and many more, be sure to check out Sirinya’s blog: www.sirinyas thailand.de

 

 

Comment on this story

* Please login to comment. If you do not have an account please register below by simply entering a username, password and email address. You can still leave your comment below at the same time.

Comments Here:
Comments Left:
# Characters
Username:
Password:
E-mail:
Security:

Nasa123 | 11 September 2016 - 12:58:43

This Tux Tux they sell to Tourist 1500bBath ++ Cost to by in 200/300 Bath Mafia and Mafia and Chitin  and Chitin in Kata .Karon ;Patong +++

Have a news tip-off? Click here

 

Phuket community
Fast & Furious 9 to take on Phuket roads

A governor plays the trumpet about very temporarily 'backround employment' during a movie sh...(Read More)


Government discloses Senate selectors

The Junta said 'thanks' to the Senate selectors for their service to the Junta, and rewarded...(Read More)


Phuket Opinion: Bitter pill

Yeah, Bangkok Phuket has been exorbitant for years, and since Silirot was taken over by them its pri...(Read More)


Phuket Opinion: Bitter pill

Bangkok Hospital tried to charge me 2,700 baht for a 30 day supply of meds. They finally gave me the...(Read More)


Phuket Opinion: Bitter pill

now I only go the Bumrungrad, hospitals in Phuket cannot be trusted, patients are just cash cows to...(Read More)


Phuket Opinion: Bitter pill

After being given a false diagnosis for recurrent cancer based on suspect blood results, I had CT sc...(Read More)


Lottery office offers cash to nab dodgy vendors

Lottery Vendors,... the law is the law. When you have to pay yourself already 85 B for a ticket, you...(Read More)


Dengue fever epidemic declared

Finally! When Thai Government admits that there is a Dengue/Chikungunya Epidemic it is really saying...(Read More)


Police hunt for ’power cards’ agents

Were the cards not sold with illness curing guarantee? Hahaha....(Read More)


Thanathorn in Phuket hears local fishermen’s woes, critical island issues

Mr Thanatorn may also look into the matter that many thai fishing boats now sail under Myanmar Flag ...(Read More)