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Photos: Truck art in Thailand thrives on anime, Michelin Man and Transformers

Updated: Mar 23, 2018 12:01 IST

Music pounds from the speakers and LED lights ripple across the customised cabs at a “truck party” hosted by proud Thai drivers showing off their lorries in Rayong, Thailand. These 20-wheeler behemoths turn heads with lurid graphics and paint-jobs of everything from unicorns to Transformers and Disney characters --with large Michelin Man dolls often adding to the visual assault. (Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP)

“The relationships it creates can also be useful when you have accidents or technical issues on the roads,” Inklom added, of a job that is often lonely and also prone to being targeted by criminals in remote areas. Thailand is a major logistics hub and long-haul truck routes connect goods from Myanmar and Laos to the North, Cambodia to the east to Bangkok and Malaysia in the south. (Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP)

At a warehouse near Bangkok, dozens of workers cut stickers and spray on designs ranging from traditional flower patterns to Japanese robot anime craze Gundam. It belongs to Sirintra Phichitphajongkit, managing director of Soonchai Industry, one of Thailand’s largest truck assemblers that has recently devoted a section to painting trucks. “I think it’s about psychology” Sirintra told AFP. (Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP)

A Transformer-inspired detail on a painted truck at the Soonchai Industry workshop in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand. When the trucks are “nicely decorated, drivers are motivated to be extra careful and not to leave any scratches on them,” Sirintra said. Thailand’s lavish vehicle decoration originated with bus paintings - and the Michelin Man. (Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP)

The tubby white mascot known as “Bonhomme Michelin” in French is given by the company to customers who buy a certain number of tyres. Drivers say they use the figurines for decoration as a way to show off their wealth. But truckers today are adding wackier local designs to the mix and installing accessories like loudspeakers and extra wing mirrors. (Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP)

Though decorating vehicles is prohibited by Thai law over safety concerns, drivers get away with small fines and sympathy from admiring police officers. That wasn’t always the case. The community was long perceived as led by shadowy, drug-ridden machos idolising “bad boy” icons from Che Guevara to Saddam Hussein with stickers on their trucks. (Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP)

Suphot Saengow, leader of The Artistic Mind Truckers Club of Thailand said that earlier tough guy designs reflected the lifestyle of people who endured long drives on the road. But now they appreciate looking more polished and friendly. (Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP)

That is certainly the case for Wichukorn Wongdara who drives a bright green truck carrying rocks from an out-of-town quarry destined for a Bangkok construction site. The unicorn on his truck - designed by his daughter - aims to attract admiring eyes and deter thieves, who sometimes siphon off fuel from parked trucks. (Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP)

Models line-up in front of custom-painted trucks a truck party in Rayong. “It’s been a dream to create my own fancy truck,” Wichukorn said. “What do I get out of it? I get the feeling of pride when people come to look at my trucks and praise how beautiful they are.” (Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP)

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