Amulets as blessings on the road

In Thailand, a taxi ride may be an introduction to Thai culture and belief. Hence, it might even become a kind of religious experience regarding all the sacred objects and talismans that Thai taxi drivers arrange on their dashboard altars.

You may ask yourself the reason for these talismans. Well, since the majority of Thai people are Buddhist, they believe in karma and that each person’s fate is predetermined by previous actions. In other words, this means that what happens to a person, happens because they have caused it with their actions.

A typical yet unusual combination of talismans and mascots in a Bangkok taxi*

A typical yet unusual combination of talismans and mascots in a taxi

Thus, Thai people to some extent believe that safety, 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 an car accident it is because of his negative karma that has finally caused this result. 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.

Thai Taxi Altars: Too much is never enough*

Thai Taxi Altars: More is More

Therefore, on the one hand Thai taxi drivers turn to pok pong which is magic or spiritual protection against danger and harm and pong gun, on the other hand, to avoid accidents by minding practical safety measures such as wearing seat-belts and helmets.

On the road with Buddha*

On the road with Buddha’s protection

Nonetheless, pok pong plays an essential role to counter the negative influences radiated from the passengers. Thus, taxi drivers transform their cabbies into spiritual life insurances: they decorate their dashboards with numerous talismans and amulets. To bless their car, some drivers have a Yantra drawn by a monk on the ceiling.

Yantra painted on the ceiling of a cab*

Yantra painted on the ceiling of a cab

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

Flower garlands for blessing the journey goddes Mae Yanang*

Flower garlands for blessing the journey goddess Mae Yanang

Sometimes not only the inside of a taxi is decorated but also the outside. Thus, Taxi drivers may customise their cars with mascots, stickers, lamps and flags. They also serve as protections against negative karma. But well, finally it’s all about driving good and safe