Last trishaw driver still rolling at 76

Thong Mektanee, 76, takes a passenger for a ride in Sawankhalok municipality in Sukhothai. (Photo by Phubate Faithes)

SUKHOTHAI: Thong Mektanee began driving a trishaw in Sawankhalok municipality when he was 26 years old and shows no signs of slowing down 50 years later. He’s the last of his kind.

The town of 18,000 in Sawankhalok district once had around 50 three-wheelers roaming its streets. But as  motorised trishaws took hold and more residents acquired motorcyles or cars, demand dwindled for the traditional mode of public transport.

Now the town has only one trishaw left. But Mr Thong says he’ll keep riding as long as there are passengers and as long as his body lets him.

When he first climbed into the saddle of his three-wheeler in 1968, he said, a ride cost only one baht. It costs 20 times more today.

Over the past half-century he has seen numerous colleagues leave the business to seek other jobs due to the drop in passengers, he said.

Thong Mektanee, 76, waits on his trishaw for his next passenger. (Photo by Phubate Faithes)

Mr Thong keeps his trusty vehicle in excellent condition, so much so that he’s been offered far more than the 4,100 baht he originally paid for it.

“I was approached to sell it for 15,000 baht. I declined the offer,” he said. “I will keep it for the younger generations because it has helped me earn money for years and years.”

Every morning he parks his vehicle to wait for passengers at a coffee house near a Shell petrol station. He will go anywhere his customers want within the municipality.

The work keeps him fit and healthy and gives him a chance to talk with other people. But he can’t tell when the last trishaw will be seen no more on the streets of Sawankhalok. That, he says, will be up to the call of his body.

“I will pedal until my body cannot stand it anymore,” he said.

Video by Phubate Faithes

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