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Bangkok’s taxi graveyard brought back to life with mini-gardens

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Abandoned taxi cabs in Bangkok
Abandoned taxi cabs in Bangkok   -   Copyright  AFP
By Ben Anthony with AFP

An open-air parking lot in Bangkok has become a gardener’s haven in an attempt to feed out-of-work drivers during the coronavirus pandemic.

This mass graveyard houses many of the city’s most flamboyantly coloured taxi cabs which have been left idle since tourism to Thailand declined at the beginning of 2020. Instead, the Ratchapruk Taxi Garage has taken matters into its own hands by growing vegetable patches on car roofs and farming frogs in piles of abandoned car tyres.

Following harsh lockdown restrictions in the Thai capital, the taxi cooperative has seen the majority of its drivers quit Bangkok and return to their home villages.

"This is our last option," Thapakorn Assawalertkun, one of the company owners, tells AFP, adding that many of the vehicles still had large loans outstanding on them.

"We figured we'd grow vegetables and farm frogs on the roofs of these taxis."

The aubergines, chillies, cucumbers, courgettes and basil grown on the cars - along with the frogs - will help feed the out-of-work drivers and employees.

And if the crops have a good yield, they plan to sell any surplus at local markets.

"Growing vegetables on top of the roofs won't damage the taxis since most of them have already been damaged beyond repair. The engines are broken, tyres are flat. There's nothing that could be done," says Thapakorn.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the Thai tourism industry?

Thailand imposed tough restrictions to deal with a deadly spike in COVID cases in recent months, including a night-time curfew.

International tourists ordinarily account for 11 - 12 per cent of Thailand’s GDP. This number dropped by 83 per cent in 2020 as a result of strict entry requirements imposed upon foreign arrivals during the pandemic.

During December 2020 alone, the country received just over 6,000 foreign tourists - a 99.8 per cent decline from December 2019, when there were nearly 4 million visitors.

The Thai government estimates a loss of 100 billion Thai baht (over €2.6 billion) in the first quarter of 2020, and a loss of about 1.4 million jobs as a result of this slump.

With COVID cases peaking, initiatives like this one at the Ratchapruk Taxi Garage are key to helping unemployed workers find food during this difficult time.

Watch the video above to find out more.

Video editor • Ben Anthony