I have been lucky to visit a few capital cities of the world. And while all of them have their charm, they have one thing in common, traffic jams! It seems to be true all over the world. Delhi has it, so does Bangkok and London. I heard of motorcycle taxis right from my first trip to Thailand. It is a pity that it took me so long to go for a Bangkok motorcycle taxi experience though. This time as I was staying a few days extra, BTS, motorcycle taxis and the like were high on my agenda! They are famed to cut through the traffic!
There was a stand right next to my hotel in Nana. My plan was to ask one of them to give me an aimless ride around the block for 100 baht. However there was a hitch when I tried to execute it.
I approached the friendly looking man at the stand. I was not sure if he would understand my English but he was good! I told him about my plan. The first thing he did was to laugh! Then he said he would not know what to charge for such a trip! I mean here I was, willing to spend money on a joy ride and here he was, refusing money because he was not sure what to charge!
I tried persuading him, saying charge whatever you want, take me around the block and drop me back at the same place. But he would not budge, he would just laugh. I think he found the idea novel, that someone just wanted a ride and come back to the same place.
Rather than admitting defeat I shifted gears and modified my plans on the go. I knew I was close to Terminal 21 a popular mall in Sukhumvit. I had no plans to go there immediately but then since the man would not give me an aimless ride, I asked him if he would drop me to Terminal 21. He smiled again and agreed to take me there for 30 baht.
It was a short ride. I also feel he saved me any surprises and drove with caution. Still I got a flavor of the real thing, your knees really get close to cars, almost brushing them! And the guy was going slow for my sake.
I was at my destination within a few minutes. I am happy that I went ahead and did the motorcycle taxi ride. I am truly surprised that the guy refused to make money out of me for what he thought was unnecessary expenditure on my part!
The next time I am going to be more adventurous and go on a longer ride, but this time I will do my homework and quote an actual location. Otherwise who knows the next person would refuse an aimless ride too!
PS. I didn’t ask his name, and I could kick myself for that.
PPS. I was invited by Tourism Authority of Thailand on a FAM Trip but I extended the trip by a few days. This is an experience I had while roaming on my own.
I realized that I was in love with the London Underground on my recent trip. It also reminded me that Delhi Metro is my preferred mode of transport in my own town. So when the opportunity came to visit Thailand I decided to extend my stay. My sole purpose was to explore Bangkok by BTS on those extra days. And what fun it was!
I have been to Thailand 8 times, 7 times with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, including the present trip. I feel comfortable out there. But this was the first time when I was staying back, extending my trip and roaming around on my own. I am glad I did that.
My trip started at Bangkok, I went on to Amphawa, Hua Hin and Kanchanaburi and then came back to Bangkok at the end of the trip. While I was the guest of Tourism Authority of Thailand I was staying at Courtyard by Marriott. It has two BTS stations close to it Chit Lom and Ratchadamri. For one night I stayed on my own and I shifted to a less expensive hotel Studio Nana in the Nana area. I picked the hotel for the sole reason that is was 260 meters away from the Nana BTS.
When I was all on my own, the first thing I did was, I went to Chit Lom and bought a day ticket for BTS. Bangkok has three lines the BTS (sky train), the MRT (underground) and the Airport Express line. But the trick here is that unlike Delhi Metro smart cards and Oyster Cards in London, the lines here have separate cards. The day card for BTS will not work on MRT or the airport express line.
I used the BTS the most. A day pass costs hundred and twenty bahts which is roughly 240 Indian rupees. From what I understood it give me 140 entries to the BTS. Every time I would complete a journey, it would detect 1 baht from my account which meant I could enter and exit hundred 140 times during the day. It is much more than you would ever be able to use in a day.
Bangkok.com has an excellent post which lets you click on each of the stations and see what to explore nearby! I relied on it heavily to find my way around the stations.
All the BTS stations has staff at the ticket counters as well as on the platform. At the platform there is always security. I found the staff courteous at all the times. The security would initially get a little confused as to why I was staying on the platform and not exiting! But then I would point out to my camera and everyone would be smiles. All the BTS stations have maps and directions. I only took trains in wrong directions twice but that is just me!
I knew from my previous experience that Saphan Taksin was close to Asiatique (you need to take a ferry across) and the riverside activities. However I have done all that on my previous visits. This time I just strolled around and went back to the BTS.
My adventure was to visit Udom Suk which has a quaint local market. There was no tourist other than me, hardly anyone spoke English. I bought rice cakes and like all street food in Bangkok they were excellent. There was a lady in the market who spoke English but as we started chatting, she got customers. And business comes first.
My point was just to go around, explore, get down at any BTS that caught my fancy. I know you must be thinking what kind of a mad person would do that but that is just me!
There was a young boy who was reading a comic book in the BTS and I asked him if I could click a picture. He was happy to let me click. There were times when I was the only tourist in the entire train but that was because I was moving out of the tourist areas. If you remain within the main attractions, many tourists use the BTS. It makes a lot of sense as you can easily bypass the legendary traffic of Bangkok.
However at the peak hour the BTS gets crowded like anywhere else. It no longer remains a joy ride. At the peak hours you can still use it because people are courteous and polite, people queue up. But use it only to go from point A to B. It is no longer a joy ride!
On my last day I took the Airport Express link by changing from BTS at Phaya Thai. Even though I had a day pass for BTS, I had to buy a separate ticket for the airport express line. Not every station of BTS has elevators or escalators. There was an escalator at Nana to lug my heavy suitcase up the station. But I could not find any to get down at Phaya Thai. The Airport Link has escalators and lifts.
I had an interesting conversation with a boy from Germany on my way to the airport. He asked me if I am an Indian? I said yes and he asked- “so do Indian women travel solo?” So I told him about the story about me being a travel blogger and how I was hosted and how this was the first time I was extending my stay in Bangkok. Otherwise I never took the airport express, I am treated like a princess by the Tourism Authority of Thailand, dropped to the airport in fancy cars.
But it was fun to explore Bangkok by BTS on my own. It is pocket friendly too. It helps you to avoid traffic jams. Only at the peak hours the BTS gets crowded. So next time when you are in Bangkok, buy a day pass and explore Bangkok by BTS. It is super fun and it will take you beyond the regular tourists spots too. I could touch one terminal station Bearing this time. The next time, I am going to do better! Next time I am also not going to return my Oyster Card, I am going to keep it as a souvenir.
PS. I was invited by Tourism Authority of Thailand on a FAM trip. However, I extended the trip to explore Bangkok by BTS on my own.
I started wearing dresses in my forties. I too busy to pay any attention to what I was wearing before that! Busy with what, that I don’t know. It is not that I pay a lot of attention to what I wear even now! But when I entered my forties I decided I am going to do a lot of new things and wearing dresses was one of them!
It was a beautiful evening in Bangkok. We were going on a dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya River. Finding the driver in our crowded hotel lobby was a task. Finding all my team members was another task. We were staying at Eastin Makkasan Bangkok which is a large hotel, very popular with Indians and foreigners! The hotel lobby is at a higher level that the car park lobby. That would lead to further confusion. Some of us would wait at the hotel lobby while others at the car park lobby!
We, a friend and I, were in the lift, going down from the hotel lobby to car park lobby. Both of were wearing evening dresses. She looked pretty in red. There was a hotel employee in the lift, a bell boy I presume.
My friend and I both were lamenting the fact that we have tummies which made wearing the experience of dress a little less enjoyable. I caught the reflection of the bellboy in the lift door. He was highly amused and as far as I could read it, his expressions said, “Don’t worry, you both look good!” I am thankful to him for his silent addition to our conversation! The cruise dinner was beautiful. I love watching the Bangkok City from the boat.
I was shopping alone in the Indra Square, it was at walking distance from our hotel. I love shopping in Bangkok. I am someone who is not into brands! But in Bangkok you do get a lot of casual clothes at a throwaway price. Of course, there are high end malls in too, but they are not my scene.
I was looking at a denim dress which I liked. I asked the shopkeeper, “Don’t you have one in A shape? With the elastic at the waste, I have a lot of tummy, I am not sure it would look good on me!” She laughed and said she too had a lot of tummy (which was a lie) and the dress would look good on me! After all she was wearing one like it too! I ended up buying the dress.
In spite of not working since May 2015, my fitness routine has only marginally improved! So, I am sure the tummy is going to be a companion for quite some time! But then, I am also not giving up on wearing dresses!
PS. My 7th trip to Thailand was in association with Byond Travel.
This was my seventh trip to Bangkok but first to Wat Benchamabophit the Marble Temple at Bangkok. I noticed the Italian marble walls only when the guide pointed it out. My attention was captured by the ornate roof of the temple! It is also known as the temple of the walking Buddha. People usually do Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho) Golden Buddha (sitting Buddha) and the walking Buddha as a circuit.
While in the car, our guide told us his name is Ex. I started teasing him gently “which type of ex”, to which he replied ex as in excellence! Most of the Thai guides I have met, go by a nick name. Thai names can be a bit difficult to pronounce by foreigners. But the best was my guide in Krabi who took us to the Emerald Pool, hot water spring etc. When I asked him what is his name, he said innocently, “I have no name!” But then I digress.
The construction of the Marble Temple started in 1899 by the great King Rama V. The Marble Temple in Thailand is smaller compared to Wat Pho. The entrance fee is 20 baht. To go inside the prayer hall, one needs to remove the footwear. But for walking around the temple there is no such restriction. Thai Temples have a dress code. The knee and shoulders should be covered. A capri and t-shirt with sleeves would be fine. I was wearing trousers and a t-shirt with sleeves. I entered all the three temples without any trouble.
The main prayer hall of the Marble Temple has a stately statue of the Golden Buddha. But along the perimeter of the inner hall there are 52 statues of Buddha from various places and era. Three of them are walking Buddhas. There is one statue which has its origin in India!
After clicking pictures to my hearts content, I paused for a while in the inner courtyard of the temple. An elderly gentleman gestured to me to click his picture from his phone! I am always happy to click pictures. I clicked a few for him. In the meanwhile a tourist (good looking too) gave me his point and shoot and repeated the request. I told him 10 baht laughingly. Then I clicked two-three pictures for him and gave his camera back.
The elderly gentleman then asked me, “India? Nepal.” I said I was from India and asked if he was from Nepal? To which he replied, “No no Thailand.” Then he took out a Buddha locket, gave to me and walked off! That to me personifies the beauty of Thailand. I felt truly blessed at that moment. That was the moment that explains why I so love to travel! The Marble Temple will always remain a special place for me because of the blessings from the elderly Thai gentleman.
PS. I visited Thailand this time with Byond Travel.