Bangkok streetscape: sketching motorcycle taxis

March 15, 2013


A5 Laloran 180g sketchbook; graphite pencil

At the end of busy day, we got into the habit of taking tea at sunset in the enclosed ‘fishbowl’ of the long, narrow cafe attached to the Tawana Hotel in Surawongse Rd, Si Lom. A smart, upmarket hotel, we had the detached cafe, facing directly on to the street, to ourselves for the most part. The air conditioning was blissful. We could sit by a window and watch the passers-by.


It proved to be an ideal situation for some thumbnails. I simply started sketching what was across the street and came to realise that what I was drawing was  in fact a motorcycle taxi rank. Not that there are any signs; this is simply a street corner ‘occupied’ by off-duty drivers and their motorcycles, the idea being that clients, often young business people in a hurry, drop by and hop on the back of the motorcycle. Off they go, without a helmet. Tourists never use them; there are too many road accidents involving them. At home, I draw motorcycles rarely, if at all, so this was quite a challenge. Motorcycles would arrive and depart at will.

Sketching this scene also reinforced something I’d only be vaguely aware of: cement street furniture. While not exactly common, one does come across small outdoor tables and accompanying chairs on street pavements, circular and chunky and made out of cement.


Another evening, we stayed a bit longer than before and I realised that at six o’clock, when the cafe seemed about to close, the television in the background would suddenly play formal music with pictures of what looked like Thai royalty. I realised that we had probably ‘missed’ the National Anthem. It wasn’t in my tourist guide book, but apparently Thais are required to stand in silence four times a day when the National Anthem is played. We knew already about not commenting adversely on the King and on not treading on notes and coins with his portrait, but my travelling companion and I hadn’t stood up. Mind you, we were the only customers and the lone cafe waitress was already standing behind her counter.

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