Transport In Bangkok: The Highs, The Lows, The Motorbikes

It shouldn’t be impossible but it is.

All I want to do is get from point A to point B as quickly and easily as feasible, but Bangkok is a labyrinth that even a minotaur would get lost in.

The streets are numbered haphazardly and addresses are a jumble of tangled information like the confused cords of wire that hang over them.

Google Maps is as reliable as a barstool sexpat in the sack. It both provokes and unprovokes. It provokes the desire to get to boo’s abode, making the distance look short and easily navigable, but it soon diminishes that desire once we’re on our way with its myriad commands of lefts and rights and seemingly senseless changing directions.

Nevertheless, to bae’s bungalow we must go — but how? By train? Motorbike? Automobile? Well here is a rundown of the public transit in BKK to help us decide.

Above and Below Trains

transport in bangkok

A curiously deserted MRT station. By Anton (CC BY 2.0 licence)

The Sky Train (BTS) covers 36 kilometers in Bangkok with a total of 34 stations and two main lines. One running along Sukhumvit Road and the other going towards the Chao Phraya river. The two lines meet, like the most economically minded lovers’ rendezvous, at Siam.

While the two lines started off small they have since been extended and expanded with another planned extension going from Mo Chit station in northern Bangkok towards Don Mueang Airport although the line has hit some delays due to governmental change.

The vehicles are powered by a third rail, which surprisingly enough has seen few suicides. Whether this is because of the guards preventing jumpers from having the time of their lives, a lack of depression in the Land of Smiles or the influence of Pokémon Go has yet to be confirmed. There is no doubt that Pokémon Go players are having a field day taking the trains through the city and swiping at pokestops as locomotion takes them around and about, however.

While the BTS hovers above, the MRT sinks below.

The underground subway system runs more often, and quicker than its high minded friend.

The Metropolitan Rapid Transit system serves more than 240,000 people over 43 kilometers with 35 stations and one main line. Another line is to be built and the main blue line is to be expanded as well.

The MRT can become just as crowded as the BTS but with the trains coming more often it is not quite as infuriating when trying to rush to bae’s condo. That said, the MRT cockblocks Pokemon Go players with its underground features so don’t expect to see Pikachu down below.

The two train systems are not wed but do have a tête-à-tête in Sukhumvit, Mo Chit and in Silom making it relatively easy to get around town via the trains.

In addition to the growth of the systems, Bangkok is seeing the mass construction of condos along the lines. Luckily gentrification is not considered a dirty word here in old Siam.

Bus

The most economical and therefore the most terrible method of getting about town is by the public bus.

These vehicles crawl through traffic like tortoises and with the same sense of charm, which is to say very little.

transport in bangkok

By Junpei Abe (CC BY 2.0 licence)

Their beaten red shells supposedly get their passengers where they want but really just increase the รพ sense of ennui. The routes are all in Thai so if you’re a foreigner that can’t be bothered with learning how to read sawatdee krap, your best bet might just be take a walk — but then again prices are cheap for this local experience at a low of 7 baht and a high of 22.

At that cost you can buy your giik some extra som tum… if you ever get there.

Boat

Someone once said that Bangkok was the Venice of the East. While painting BKK with European romanticism, the boats that take commuters up and down the Chao Phraya river along with the inner canals of the city aren’t made mobile by some swanky mate in a horizontal-striped shirt and a fancy mustache.

The boats of the khlongs and river are moved by basic lawnmower engines.

transport in bangkok

By Mark Fischer (CC BY-SA 2.0 licence)

That’s not to say they aren’t quaint, and cheap. It can be quite fun to see the dilapidated residents of Bangkok next to the luxury hotels while traveling on the Chao Phraya river, and who doesn’t gasp with wonder at the sight of caved in docks and floating pieces of plastic? If that doesn’t create awe and wonder in you then the permanently browned water will do nothing for you, nor will the salty stench of the water.

All that said, it certainly beats taking the bus.

Automobile

Taking a car around town in Bangkok is better than a bus and less smelly than a boat, but like a bus, you will be fucked by the traffic. A car is only really sensible when you want to feel the existential despair of being stuck, like in a bus, but want the luxury of air conditioning.

Obviously the well-to-do have their own cars, as being bourgeois is all about publicizing your miserable condition in a slightly more luxurious situation.

On the flip side, there are taxis. Back in the day people used to hitchhike, now there is Uber, which is like hitchhiking with your phone, with limited options.

transport in bangkok

By Chris Parker (CC BY-SA 2.0 licence)

Gone are the days of ass, grass, or cash. Now it’s all about the Benjamins, which is too bad for people like me who are able to sell their body easier than pulling out their wallet. Along with Uber are the abounding pink, yellow, blue and green taxis, which — when traffic is light — are a good way to get to your darling’s house.

Pro tip: don’t bother getting in a taxi between 7-10am and 4-7pm.

Motorbikes and Tuk Tuks

Tuk tuks are often a scam and generally overrated.

transport in bangkok

By Colin Tsoi (CC BY-ND 2.0 licence)

They use the same engines as boats and put put around town at the same speed. Their size negates the nimbleness of a motorbike and their lack of luxury denies their passenger the nicety of being cool. You also have to haggle with prices that are always a pain in the ass.

I’ve had some real nice tuk tuk rides in Isaan though that were memorable, but besides once in a while as a novelty, your best bet is to shy away.

Motorbikes, however, are the answer to all of life’s problems.

transport in bangkok

By Denis Todorut (CC BY 2.0 licence)

They are fast, they are quick, they are cheap, and while they are naught to be found in the rain or able to go far at all, they will provide you the option for suicide that the BTS denies you.

Most motorbike passengers don’t wear helmets, which is fine if you are particularly adept at landing in a soft pillowy bush when the driver smashes into the rear end of a car, but whatever. And just because loads of people die because of motorbike accidents doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take a ride.

After all, nothing makes one lust for life so much as a near death experience and your sweet darling will appreciate your bravado in finally making it to their place having faced the dangers of public transit in BKK.

 

What’s your favourite way to get around Bangkok?

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