Recently in Transportation Category

I just happened to be at the Hualamphong Train station today (after a short visit to pick up some of my company's red tape documents from a government office nearby) and I decided to stroll through the terminal. This train station is always packed full of people loading, unloading, or just sitting around waiting.

I noticed today, though, that they have a new exhibit up in the middle of the main waiting area. It gives some updates on the new Airport Train that is being built out to the new airport at Suwannabumi. The line is being built by the State Railways of Thailand, and so they wanted to toot their horns a bit about what a great train it's going to be.

I am pretty excited about this train as well, since there will be a station a very short taxi ride from my house. It will definitely make getting out to the airport a lot easier, once it starts operations next year. And good news for tourists to Bangkok, the line will connect with the Skytrain at Phayathai station. So getting from the airport on the outskirts of town to downtown Bangkok will just be a quick train ride away.

And even more exciting, a very ambitious map on display showed the SRT's plans. Basically they have mapped out two lines -- one North-South and one East-West -- to cut through the middle of Bangkok. The Airport Link is the East line. But eventually (according to the map) it will go west all the way to Nakorn Pathom province. The North-South line will stretch from Ayutthaya in the North, past the old but newly reopened Don Mueang airport, and go all the way to Mahachai near the coast of the Gulf of Thailand. SRT already owns most of the land to make this happen, so I hope that it will eventually come to pass.

But in 2007, the Suwannabumi Airport line is a reality and is currently under construction. A few days ago, 2bangkok linked to a few pictures from the design drawings for this new line. I noticed that the exact same photos are on display at Hualamphong now. Here are my favorite links:

It looks like the closest station to me will be the Ramkamhaeng Station. But it's not nearly as cool looking as the main terminal at Makkasan. The entire system map (in Thai, but you can get the idea) shows two lines -- one local line with eight stations and one express with just two (Makkasan and Airport). Very cool!

(If you can read Thai, you can see more information about the airport train -- both design drawings and construction updates -- from the Airport Rail Link website)

Fun Filled Weekend

As hoped for, it did turn out to be a fun-filled weekend. We started off on Friday night with dinner at Sphinx (one of my favorites). There were 8 of us, but I was the only one who knew everyone. I figured everyone would get along, though, and they did. The only downside to the night was that one person in our party ended up having a bit of a medical emergency involving alergic reactions, calls to the nearby Bangkok Christian Hospital and my first ride in a Bangkok ambulance! I won't name any names (to protect the innocent) but it was quite a scary, yet surreal experience to watch my friend get rolled down busy Silom Soi 4 on a Friday night on a hospital stretcher.

Luckily, after a night at the hospital and lots of medication, my friend recovered and was ready to go out and party again on Saturday night. So 7 of us met at MBK for dinner at Kanom Jin (another favorite), then watched Spiderman at the MBK VIP theatre (US$5 for big comfy lazy-boy chairs) and then it was back to Silom for some nightlife.

Sunday morning started early (well, relatively early for a Sunday morning) with the new breakfast menu at the now-open-24-hours-a-day Coffee Society. (Anyone else noticing I spend a lot of time on Silom when I have guests in town?)

Then, to finish off the excitement, Piyawat and I rode the brand new rot fai dtai din (underground train). We took it from Silom to Jutujuk Park. Since it was the first day (and a Sunday) the trains were jammed packed full of curious Thai people.

My thoughts on the new subway? It's quite impressive. It reminds me a bit of the MRT in Singapore. The stations are clean and roomy and the cars are exactly the same as the Skytrain. In fact, when you are inside the car, it looks and feels exactly like you are riding the Skytrain, except that there is nothing to look at outside the windows. For that reason alone, I like the Skytrain better. The subway (although it is clean and quiet and effeicient) is kind of boring because there is nothing to look at.

Not to mention the subway doesn't really go anywhere interesting that the Skytrain doesn't go, other than the Hualompong train station. Some friends have mentioned and recommended the IT Plaza on Ratchadapisek, so maybe I can check it out sometime.

I am thoroughly enjoying my time in Chaiyaphum. Of course it is very good to spend time with Pond and to see what his new life is like. He has been a great tour guide, driving me around the countryside to see temples and waterfalls. I've also spent time walking around town, shopping at the open markets and trying to avoid the many motorcycles in the street. (It sometimes seems as if every province outside of Bangkok has at least these things: street vendors, motorcycles, countryside, waterfalls, and temples).

On the way back from Chaiyaphom earlier tonight, I sat in the front seat of the bus. This gave me a clear view of highway traffic from the perspective of a big bus. In some ways, I wish I didn't see what I saw. My bus came inches from ramming the backs of various cars and trucks and other buses. I'm sure all busses do the same, but usually I am shielded from the truth of the road when I am sitting in the back. "Ignorance is bliss" as they say.

When we left Chaiyaphom for what was supposed to be a five hour ride to Bangkok, the bus was mostly full. But that didn't stop us from making numerous pickups along the way. In one town, an additional 20 people got on the bus. They were given plastic stools to sit on in the aisle. I was lucky to have a real seat, even though the view wasn't very kind to my nerves.

We finally made it back to Bangkok, arriving after six and a half hours on the road. As I walked from my house to MBK for dinner, I didn't even mind the noise and the traffic and the crowds. As I continue to live in Thailand for the foreseeable future, I will have to remember that a weekend trip to the countryside greatly aids my peace of mind in Bangkok's polluted concrete jungle.

Holes in the Floorboard

skytrain.jpgInstead of taking the Skytrain to and from work lately, I often take the bus. While the Skytrain is airconditioned and comfortable and modern (read: Boring!) the bus is a whole 'nother story.

I like taking the bus for several reasons: 1) in the "winter", its not too hot, 2) it only costs 5 baht (10 cents), 3) if there is no traffic, it takes me door-to-door faster than my walk-ride-walk Skytrain commute, 4) I can watch the often interesting street scene go by, and 5) I can sit and study my pasa Thai (Thai Language) flashcards.

Tonight I was studying my flashcards when I happened to look past them to the wooden floor. Right below my feet the floorboards had been punctured (ripped? rotted? broken?) and I could see through the 2X4s directly to the street racing immediately below my feet.

Ahh... I guess that's what you get for 5 baht!

P.S. My comments about the Skytrain are mostly in jest. When I first arrived in Bangkok I thought the Skytrain was the coolest ever. If only San Francisco's MUNI was half as efficient! But now, even though I ride it most days, I am used to it and so a ride on the bus makes life, shall we say, more interesting...

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Transportation category.

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