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Getting around in Bangkok, or how to rule the urban jungle

Getting around in Bangkok, or how to rule the urban jungle

Marie Lecoq - 2012-01-25

It’s a well-known fact: transportation in Bangkok is famous for wiping the smiles off the faces of its visitors. So you might as well jump right in and begin to chart this urban jungle as soon as you dare.

After Thailand’s myriad temples and Buddhas, the famous tuk-tuk may well be the country’s most photographed cliché, and the legendary motorised tricycle is still the most picturesque means of transport the capital has to offer. Swindlers and rip-off artists notwithstanding (overpriced fares, unexpected destinations...), the tuk-tuk is just right for visiting the very animated Khao San Road tourist quarter, but little else.
 
As soon as you’re ready to go a bit farther, a different strategy is called for; tourists have a wealth of options to choose from.
 
The transport superstar
Bangkok’s transport superstar is without a doubt the SkyTrain, a.k.a. the BTS (Bangkok Mass Transit System). Speedy and ultramodern, this ten-year-old elevated metro is linked to the Blue Line of the underground metro. Slowly but surely, the SkyTrain is helping improve the image of what is still considered to be one of the world’s most polluted cities. Two lines are currently in service, with extensions expected to be up and running in the near future.
 
You can count on them!
Bangkok taxis, easily recognised thanks to their flashy colours, offer a decided advantage: an actual functioning meter which relieves the visitor from having to negotiate the fee. At around € 10/£ 8.35 for a cross-city spree, fares are reasonable. The adventure itself, however, is likely to be a bit turbulent due to the frenzied driving style that rules here; emergency braking and weaving in and out of traffic are generally the least of it.
 
The bus: watch your watch 
Naturally, the megalopolis has an extensive bus network, though figuring it out can be challenging unless you’ve lived in Bangkok for several years. But if you’ve got the time, why not take the plunge and see what happens? Like in the good old days, an employee will pull out his roll of tickets and pocket coins before you can say Jack Robinson. Though you should take care to avoid peak traffic hours, buses are an excellent way to share the daily lives of Bangkok natives for a few pennies.
 
By foot or by boat, suit your fancy
The most appealing way to discover Bangkok may well be by ferry. On the calm waters of the Chao Praya at dusk, the temples and other architectural highlights of the capital are awash in a golden light: postcard prettiness guaranteed!
 
Naturally, for those who enjoy walking, the Bangkok pavement awaits regardless of the city’s sadly legendary pollution issues. Don a good pair of walking shoes and keep a means of protecting the face handy, as certain quarters are particularly ‘misty’.
 
In 2008, the city of Bangkok launched self-service ‘green’ Bangkok Bike stations in some of the tourist areas. A very well-intentioned initiative, but not for the faint of heart.
 
 
PRACTICAL INFORMATION 
 
Transit Bangkok: www.transitbangkok.com
 
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