Day #159: Bangkok transport


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Asia
September 8th 2013
Published: September 17th 2013
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Bangkok is not a feasible city to walk around, so I have been trying out the various forms of transport. My preferred so far is the taxi as the drivers usually speak a little English and the journey is metered and inexpensive (although about 1 in 5 drivers tries to negotiate a price - always about four times what it should actually be - when they see you are a foreigner), plus taxis are everywhere. On the downside Bangkok is often gridlocked, so journeys that look short on the map take forever. The most popular mode of transport for tourists is the motorised tuk-tuk: in theory they are cheaper than the taxis, but haggling the price is so much effort that unless you are the sort of person who really enjoys haggling you end up paying more than you would for a taxi.

The ways to avoid the traffic are the Skytrain, Bangkok's fairly new metro system, which is not underground but runs on massive concrete tracks that don't do anything for the city's appearance, although you do get a good view from the train. These raised overground track systems are quite popular in Asia for both metro and bus systems - Xiamen had the bus version - but you couldn't put them in a picturesque city. The metro system only has two lines so far, so doesn't go to a lot of places. The other option is the motorbike taxi, which is harder for a foreigner as the drivers rarely speak any English, and you also have to haggle the price with them. They have a strict territorial code whereby each motorcyclist is attatched to a particular "station" covering a particular area of the city. A motorcyclist will not pick up a passenger when he is outside of his patch, even if he has dropped another passenger nearby - he will always return to his station to pick up passengers.

Not so much in Bangkok, but in other Thai cities, the pick-up is very popular. These are vans with a seating area at the back - the passengers sit on benches running along the side of the van, facing each other. You can hail the pick-up anywhere and ask where they are going, and if they are going in your direction they let you on and drop you off where you have requested. They rarely turn down a foreigner, as the fare is about ten times higher than for the locals (still very cheap). Some pick-ups run set routes at set times (the school run is particularly popular) and they are often used as transportation: I think some people use them to move house, judging by what I have seen them carrying.


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