“You can’t understand a city without using its public transportation system”

Bangkok has a lot of public transportation options: BTS or Skytrain, MRT or subway, buses, ferries and various commuter trains. I spent the majority of my commuting time on the Skytrain, which was my primary way to get to and from campus.

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Bangkok Traffic – you don’t want to be sitting in that
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Bangkok bus
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BTS train

BTS has two lines: Sukhumvit & Silom with one transfer point at Siam station. I had a Rabbit card issued by my hotel, so I could just swipe in and out each trip. However, the entry gates are very quick, so you have to move through at speed or risk getting a swift blow to the hip. The BTS operates two stories above street level, so it’s also a great way to see certain parts of the city. People queue in organized lines to wait for each train, but it is a bit brutal getting into and out of each train. BTS is crowded, especially during rush hour times.

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Silom line
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Sukhumvit line
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BTS approaching rush hour
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The lines for queueing
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Queueing for the BTS

The other transportation options are in varying levels of insanity. For example, i rode a river ferry once with ST, and it was so crowded the crew didn’t even bother to collect our 15-baht fares. Granted, that’s about $0.50, but still. I’ve never seen so  many people on a boat and was so distracted I didn’t even get a picture.

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Bangkok bus

Buses are basically only for Thais – stops are announced only in Thai and not in English. They also have no air conditioning, so it didn’t look like an experience I desperately needed to have. In contrast, the BTS trains are so heavily air conditioned, it’s like walking into a meat locker. Though Bangkok is so hot, this is a welcome detail.

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Sign for my stop, Nana
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BTS trains have reserved seats for monks

There is a convenient commuter train from the main international airport, Suvarnabhumi, whose line terminates at a BTS station, so it’s easy to hop a train from there to complete your journey. The commuter train station sells little tokens you have to use to enter and exit the train, which felt like a throwback approach. But it’s still the cheapest way to get into the city from the airport.

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BTS platform
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BTS entrance
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BTS tracks
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BTS platform

For the most part, if I couldn’t get somewhere on the BTS, it was usually cheapest to just get an Uber or taxi. Rates are reasonably low throughout the city, except to and from the airport. Uber is weirdly cheap in Bangkok. For one of our professional seminar events, we couldn’t take public transportation, so we Uber’d instead. The Uber to the event 30 minutes away, another one to Chinatown from there and home at the end of the evening totalled about the equivalent of $11. Split among 4 people, this is not too bad for a day of being driven around. Oh, and the Uber driver will pay tolls.

Title quote: Erol Ozan

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Getting into the BTS
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Most BTS trains have advertising on the outside… and the inside
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BTS tracks

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