Bangkok Traffic. A daily battle that I love to hate. I spent a couple of years working as a Bangkok substitute teacher and could find my way to any corner of the city using the least time and the least baht possible. My favourite form of transport is the 8 baht blue and white non-air bus. Windows open, smell of pollution, crawling past streets lined with the office girls, market vendors, bums. Ah, but I regress.
Below is my guide to Bangkok transport. An abuser's guide - if you will.
Does he know where he’s going? Does he even care? Sure he does. He's your friendly farang loving taxi driver. Just jump in and point to the meter. Sit back. Relax. Enjoy the Bangkok scenery crawl past for an hour or so before your driver admits he hasn’t the foggiest idea where you are. Last week he was planting rice in Surin. Now he's in Bangkok City. Pay the fare (with a generous tip ) and step out onto a strange street lined with stalls selling fried insects. There's a funky smell in the air. Don’t be alarmed. Just hold out your hand to the oncoming traffic. There are hundreds more clueless taxis itching to whisk you away and spit you out at your unintended destination. Repeat until intelligent driver found.
Tuk-tuk mister? Speak English? Only 20 baht? Where you want to go? Sexy lady? Now Happy Hour? Look only? Yeah. You have to love these guys. Great for tailor-shops, government gem stores or anywhere else the driver has a nasty little scam brewing. Don’t believe the temples are closed. They aren’t closed. Temples never close. Use Tuk-tuks only once. Take photograph. Post photo on facebook. And never use one of these two-stroke scamming pollution buckets again.
Now we’re talking. Great for those that haven’t yet figured out the bus routes or enjoy travelling like cattle on the way to market. The views are great and the only way to travel lower Sukhumvit to Siam if you don’t have a more than a week to make the journey. Avoid use during sociable hours.
Frighteningly modern. The rotfia shuttles beneath sin city with the precision of a polished lug through the barrel of a high-class bean-shooter. Climb down into the subterranean utopia. The London Tube this is not. Clean, precise, fast. Only the Germans could achieve such a thing.
So modern. So clean. So smooth. How did they do it? Siemens again. So German. Over ten minutes wait between trains excludes this as a commuter option. But for getting into the city from the airport (what it was intended for) this is a thing of beauty. Just make sure your hotel is next to the airport link stop. I hear the Nasa Vegas is nice. Otherwise refer to the rest of this list and the best of British to ya.
Wow. What a network? Bangkok bus system reaches every nook and cranny in the city. The fast-track-training scheme for drivers gives Somchai from Ubon another chance in life. Last week he was driving an old beat up Honda wave and drinking white whiskey on the farm. He was thinking about suicide daily. Now he has a fast speed passenger vehicle and enough ya ba to propel him to work double shifts. Accidents? Pah. He fed a mangy soi dog some sticky rice this morning so there’s no way this love boat's gonna crash, baby.
An unemployable toe-rag buys a vest from the mob. Cost? anywhere from 1k to 500k. He joins the motorcycle taxi gang for life. You need to find out a bus route? Want to pay a bill? Deliver a package? Ask a motorbike taxi. You want to find out where the cheap accommodation is? Ask the dude in the orange vest. Motorbike taxis know everything. Everything apart from how to drive a motorcycle. Use only in emergencies and keep in mind if you do crash and need immediate medical attention you are in luck. A motorbike taxi is the only means of transportation that will get you to the emergency room with any chance of being alive on arrival, as long as you don't crash again, on the way.
You. Are. Never. Safe. On. Foot. You see those black and white lines painted across the road? Now, they may look like zebra crossings. In fact they are designated suicide zones. Cross by all means, but don’t expect to live. See those red lanes painted on the sidewalk with pictures of bicycles painted on them? Those are motorbike lanes. In fact all sidewalks, pavements, and footpaths are motorbike lanes. Bangkok is the only city in the world where you can skilfully cross four lanes of traffic and make it to the pavement the other side of the road only to be mowed down by a Honda Wave 125cc.
Enjoy travelling in Bangkok. And when that bus races through lanes of traffic, narrowly avoiding collision at every jerk of the wheel spare a little thought. When that Tuk-tuk pulls a wheely in rush-hour traffic. When the guy in the orange vest doesn't have a spare helmet. Remember In thailand death is not the end. It is simply the transition to a a better life.
Sisterray / James Newman's latest novel Bangkok City is now listed on Amazon.