It’s no secret that businesses worldwide have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with industries dependent on people being out and about struggling to survive.
Since March 2020, Bangkok taxi company Ratchapruk and Bovorn Taxi has been holding on by a thread as Thailand’s tough COVID-19 restrictions left the bustling city’s streets quiet.
With passengers nowhere to be found and no other options, a slew of the company’s drivers hightailed it to the safety of their home villages, abandoning their cars in carports and gas stations as they got out of Dodge.
Though some attempted to ride out the pandemic, once the second wave rolled in, the income decrease proved too much to withstand, with most drivers unable to cover the company’s daily driver fee, which had already been cut down to 300 baht ($9.09)—half of its usual cost.
After enduring several additional waves, Thailand hit its deadliest numbers in Aug. 2021, accounting for 97% of its total cases and 99% of deaths.
During that time, the company amassed a “taxi graveyard” of 2,500 vehicles and a mountain of debt to the tune of 2 billion baht ($60.8 million) from the initial purchase of the fleet.
With no direct assistance offered by the government, Ratchapruk and Bovorn executive Thapakorn Assawalertkul says if the company doesn’t receive help soon, they will be in “real trouble.”
Rather than continue to let the cars sit idle, the company has turned the fleet into rooftop gardens as a means to help feed its remaining employees and their families.
Staff who took a salary cut and remained in the city built the car gardens by stretching black garbage backs across the rooftops with bamboo frames, adding soil and seeds to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, string beans, and more.
The beauty of an urban garden sprouting out of the colorful cars looks more like an art installation than the response to a deadly virus, a vision intended by the company, who hopes it will serve as a form of protest and draw attention to the plight of taxi drivers during the lockdown.
By Meghan Yani, contributor for Ripleys.com