Bangkok's Busy City Streets at Night

Bangkok Guide: Getting Around the City



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Depending on where you’re headed, Bangkok has more options for getting around than most cities. A lot of tourists opt for the sputtering tuk tuks that are featured on brochures and guide books everywhere. But maybe you don’t feel like getting ripped off or spending an unexpected afternoon shopping for a new suit because the driver has a side deal with a shop owner to bring customers in. To escape the infamous tuk tuks, many people go with one of the red and blue metered taxis for hassle free transit. Although avoiding the choking Bangkok traffic can be impossible, so you may want to catch a ride on the relatively new BTS train. For a slower pace, you can also try a Chao Phraya River taxi. No matter what your choice of transportation is, it’s likely to be an adventure in this town.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    For many people, their first view of Thailand comes here: the foreign passport immigration line. I have no idea how many people come through these lines each year, but it seems like they do a pretty good job of crowd control

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    Once you've had your fill of tuk tukkin', it's easy to catch one of the blue and red metered taxis of Bangkok. Unlike the tuk tuk's, there's also usually air conditioning inside too.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    Before you get in the cab though, you'd best have a good map or a native Thai speaker. Bangkok is a maze of ancient streets and most cab drivers don't understand any english. Sometimes they can't read Thai either so it can make navigating the city tough. Steve has picked up a great sense of the geography of the city though, and sometimes knew where we were going better than the cab driver.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    Translating a Bangkok map to a Bangkok native can feel a little weird, but sometimes it's the only way to get from point "A" to point "B".

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    Traffic in Bangkok is legendary and follows the third world rule of driving: if there is an opening, it will be filled by some kind of vehicle.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    Traffic drives on the left hand side of the road in Thailand. Steve kept me from getting mowed down by passing cars and scooters a few times when I forgot about that.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    Sometimes even Buddha gets stuck in traffic in Bangkok.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    In a recent attempt to modernize the city and relieve some of the traffic, the BTS train service was built.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    It reminded me a little of the Washington DC Metro that I used to take to work.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    Steve, Alex and I weren't commuting to the office, but it was nice to get off the buzzing Bangkok streets and ride the modern train. Photo by Alex Iams.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    Might be hard to catch a tuk tuk in high heels!

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    The BKK airport lobby: just remember to pick up some Burger King before you go through security!

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    When the train stopped and the doors opened, everyone filed out in an orderly line. Steve and Alex towered over the Thais, so they were pretty easy to spot if I ever lost sight of them.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    You can also get around town on a Chao Phraya River taxi. The murky ribbon of brownish water runs down the middle of the city and is probably the easiest way to get to the buddhist temples (wats) lining the riverbanks.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    The buddhist monks even have a designated area for them to stand in the water taxi.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    Many of the taxis are propelled by long tail engines, which are pretty much a car motor with a propeller welded to the end of the drive shaft. Not really all that efficient, and incredibly loud, they seem to show no sign of going away.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    The further downstream you go from the temples, the more modern the city becomes. Towering high rises mix with ancient wats to compete for the desirable riverfront real estate.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    But once you've had enough of Bangkok, it's really easy to book a flight to anywhere you might want to go next through one of the many travel agents based here. We took all our business to the Charlie Connection agency.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    Alex's flight in from Tokyo was delayed because of the typhoon in Japan in early October 2004. Steve and I had some time to learn more about the BKK airport while we waited for the flight to arrive though.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    After Alex flew in, we pushed through the yelling lines of taxi touts pushing inflated transportation prices and got a ride back to the Taewez Guesthouse. For about $3 a night each for the spacious air conditioned room, it really felt like we were getting a deal.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    The form of transportation that Bangkok seems to be the most famous for is the tuk tuk. I have no idea where the name came from, but no matter where you go, the drivers will verbally jab "tuk tuk?" at you. Sometimes it's fun to ride in one of these little buggies that are a cross between a golf cart and a carriage, but more often you can get to your destination just as cheaply (and probably safer) if you just take a metered cab.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    Inside the tuk tuk, the driver is perched at his little wrought iron seat which gives him a perfect vantage point to direct the hurtling machine. Many tuk tuk drivers have deals with local businesses to funnel in customers. When Steve and I were here in 2001, we spent an unexpected afternoon getting sized for new suits because we had fallen as easy prey to an opportunistic tuk driver.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    Steve, Alex and I crammed into a tuk tuk to catch a ride over to see the buddhist temples along the Chao Phraya River. The three of us weren't going to fall for the old suit shop trick this time. Photo by Alex Iams.

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    When they're not squiring tourists around to suit shops to pick up an extra baht, clever tuk tuk drivers sell the ad space on the sides of their tuks to companies such as this competitor to Red Bull. Not sure I'd make a purchase based on what I saw advertised from a tuk tuk though!

  • Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004

    Bangkok: Navigating the city - October 2004
    At night, the inside of a tuk tuk can look like a low tech space capsule. The drivers don't seem to notice this effect, and still judder along spewing sooty exhaust fumes as they weave in and out of the constant traffic of Bangkok.