I’m currently staying in Khao San, which is the backpacker hub of Bangkok. On Wednesday I was heading to my friend Bethany’s hotel to babysit for her son Reuben.
I’m new to town so I decided not to use public transport since I hadn’t used it yet and it would involve taking the ferry which was due to stop soon, and then grabbing a train. Considering I have the worst sense of direction and it was getting dark I decided to be responsible and grab a cab.
I found it hard to find a taxi driver that would actually turn the meter on, and I finally flagged one down from the street.
“300 baht” he told me.
“No. Can you please put the meter on?”
“Ok, ok 200 baht.”
“No. Put the meter on.”
“It’s far away, so it will be 200 baht anyway.”
“So you may as well put the meter on right?”
Finally he relented, gesturing for me to get in the front seat as there were a few cars waiting impatiently behind him. I jumped in and he grabbed my finger, using it to turn the meter on. I laughed awkwardly.
As we drove he told me all about his cat, and I made the usual “how cute” noises. Conversation soon turned to the fact that he found Thai women too small and preferred Western women. I quickly changed the subject and gazed outside, only to find him stroking my face two minutes later.
I yanked my head back, smacking it against the window and gave him my best “what the fuck?” look. Traffic was horrendous, and I was getting more and more stressed, knowing that I was going to be late.
At the lights he pulled out his iPhone, showing me photos of his cat which I agreed was very cute. I handed back his phone and he grabbed my hand, lifted it up and sniffed it. Yup he sniffed my hand. It was creepy as fuck.
I pulled my hand out of his grasp and leaned even further away from him. At this point I was almost cowering in my seat, bag on my lap, arms wrapped around it. I kept my gaze focused outside the window, hoping he would get the message.
As we pulled up to another set of lights he lifted up his iPhone and began taking photos of me. I covered my face and ordered him to stop. He just laughed.
I decided enough was enough and was ready to get out of the car, only we were stuck in traffic on a highway, I had no idea where I was, and I couldn’t see any empty taxi’s. Did I mention I was running late?
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“Yeah I’m meeting him now. He’s a huge rugby player.”
Looking back, I’m frustrated and annoyed that I didn’t stand up for myself more. Usually I don’t take shit, especially from men. So why was I cowering in my seat like a little girl instead of telling him where to go?
I think it was a bunch of things. I’d only been in Bangkok for a few days and hadn’t yet formed an opinion about the people-was he just being friendly and I was being oversensitive? I also didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of seeing me lose my shit. As kids we’re taught to ignore bullies and hope they pick on someone else, and as women we’re taught to not make a scene, to be polite and to not be a bitch.
This continued for the whole trip. He would lean over and pretend to get something so he could stroke my leg, and I felt like my skin was crawling. By the time I arrived at the hotel I was desperate to get out of the car. I handed him the money and he took my hand, refusing to give it back when I pulled. I grabbed my bag, wrenched my hand out of his grasp and slammed that door so fucking hard. I must have looked like a psycho.
This guy enjoyed making me uncomfortable, and would laugh when I told him off. At the time I couldn’t understand why he was doing it, and wondered if I had somehow made him think it was ok to touch me. I was wearing long pants, a t-shirt and had my hair in a ponytail. Did getting in the front seat somehow signal to him that I was sexually available?
Then I mentally bitchslapped myself and woke the hell up.
I did nothing to deserve an hour of being made to feel like prey. Some people are just fuckwits. I wish I had caused a huge scene, because I worry about the next girl who gets into that cab by herself.
I won’t let one incident change how I feel about traveling alone. I’ll learn from the experience, and next time at the first sign of dodgyness I’ll get the hell out of the car. Looking back, my intuition was screaming at me the moment he grabbed my hand to turn on the meter.
For the record the metered fare was 150 baht. Scumbag.