On traveling options in Bangkok
by SeenThat on October 4, 2006
By the end of September 2006 the old Don Muang airport in Bangkok was closed and the Suvarnabhumi International Airport was inaugurated. In this trip to Thailand I had arrived at the first and departed from the second, and had thus the opportunity to check out the new airport and the way leading to it.The days of cheap rides to the airport with bus number three are definitely gone since Suvarnabhumi is located in the southeastern suburbs of Bangkok, an area which was undeveloped until now and was not served by the regular lines. The old Airport Bus service is still available at the same cost (beginning at B100 - around $3) from the same stops around town to the new airport, but this has always been an expensive option.Several regular air-conditioned buses lines were added to serve the new terminal, the most convenient one is bus 556. It leaves from the main entrance of the lottery building on Ratchadamnoen Avenue, just next to Khaosan Road. Being a new and unknown line, the buses travel almost empty; and the day of my trip I shared it with just one couple. It has very few stops in town and then it travels most of the way through an impressive network of highways. The trip costs just B35 (about one dollar) and after leaving the Khaosan Road area travels through the Din Daeng Rama IX Highway.In the early afternoon the access to the highway was rather slow and the trip took a full hour. However, it was an attractive ride offering unusual views of Bangkok. The new airport is located in an area of swamps and the highway support columns rising out of the water are quite a view.The new complex is huge and much work has been done to ensure a smooth access to it. All the buses arriving from Bangkok stop at a special bus terminal, from where free shuttles leave to the airport terminus. The arrangement is simple: the shuttles leave from bays placed across the arrival bays and are painted in a bright yellow color. The shuttles have a circular path along the complex and passengers board and leave at all the stops; they get very crowded thus it is wise to sit next to the doors, a location that allows a clear sight of the signs marking the terminus.Finding the shuttle was the easy part. Inside it I discovered what seemed to be a code of number for the different stops (domestic, international; arrivals, departures) and I happily waited for the right number to appear. Surprisingly, the clearly numbered areas of the huge terminal building had no relation to the numbers appearing in the bus. After a fifteen minutes ride, I left the bus, entered the terminal at a random place and completed a mini-marathon to my check-in window. In that aspect, very little changed since the old days; the departure is an orderly affair, the departure tax is still B500 and leftover local money can be exchanged just next to the departure tax window and after that in the duty free shopping area.After having seen the Singapore and Hong Kong new airports I thought that Suvarnabhumi would have a hard time to impress me, but I was proven wrong. I quickly forgot the unclear signs and was overwhelmed not only by the size of the building, but mainly by its elegance. It was built to resemble huge connecting oval tunnels and it imparts mainly a feeling of being a lightweight, floating, well-lighted structure. Wooden pagodas adorn its interior and in the day of my visit traditional Thai puppet shows were performed at one of the main junctions. Suddenly, the awaiting flight became a secondary issue.
by SeenThat on February 18, 2009
Few methods of mass transport are as attractive as a speed boat roaming the main river splitting a town. In Bangkok, the Chao Phraya Express Boat Company provides five routes of public transport along the Chao Phraya River. Some of the lines offered are rather crowded and getting good views in them is a bit difficult, but if choosing the more expensive lines near the beginning or ending of their operation times, finding seats is easy.The LinesThe five different lines can be differentiated by the small triangular flags placed at their rear side. The routes comprise three zones and crossing between zones results in a fare change. Since there are only two such points the system is simple especially since Zone 2 covers all of central Bangkok between the Memorial Bridge Pier and the Bang Po Pier in the north. Further north, Zone 1 reaches Pakkred while Zone 3 goes south all the way to Ratburana.No Flag LineThis line runs between Nonthaburi and Wat Rajaingkorn from Monday to Friday between 6 AM and 8:40 AM and in the afternoon between 3 PM and 6 PM. Its fares are 10 baht for trips within a zone, 12 baht for trips crossing into another zone and 14 for trips crossing two zones. Also known as the "local line" (the others are called express lines), the boats in this line can accommodate up to ninety people.Orange Flag LineThe Orange Flag Line runs between Nonthaburi and Wat Rajaingkorn. The service operates everyday: Monday to Friday between 5:50 AM and 7 PM, weekends from 6 AM to 6:40 PM. Note that this is the only line operating on weekends.This line features a single fare of 15 baht regardless the distance travelled. The boats in this line are long and narrow and can accommodate up to sixty passengers in their interior; they are similar to those on the No Flag Line, though they allow less passengers.Yellow Flag LineRunning between Nonthaburi and Ratburana, the Yellow Flag Line operates from Monday to Friday between 6:10 AM and 8:40 AM and in the afternoon between 4 PM and 7:30 PM. The tourist boat version runs between Sathorn and Phra Arthit between 9:30 AM and 3:30 PM. The fare on this line is 20 baht, or 29 baht if crossing zones. These heavy monsters of the river can accommodate up to 150 people on their single deck.Blue Flag LineThe Blue Flag Line runs between Nonthaburi and Sathorn from Monday to Friday between 7:00 AM and 7:45 AM and in the afternoon between 5:05 PM and 6:25 PM. The fare on this line is 24 baht, or 34 baht if crossing zones. These boats can accommodate forty people on comfortable – even classy – teakwood seats.Green-Yellow Flag LineThis line features two flags, a green and a yellow one at their rear side. It runs between Pakkred and Sathorn from Monday to Friday between 6:15 AM and 8:05 AM and in the afternoon between 4:05 PM and 6:05 PM. Its fares are 12 baht for trips within a zone, 20 baht for trips crossing into another zone and 32 for trips crossing two zones.Crossing FerriesSometimes, we land on the undesired bank; if so, handy ferries cross the river for the humble fare of 3.5 baht. SafetyThe boats pose no special danger beyond pickpockets that act also on the streets. However, a point of concern are people approaching tourists and offering counterfeit merchandise – usually gems – or special deals at the shop of their uncle the tailor. Avoiding them is simple, just say: "No, thank you."Tha - The PiersExpectedly, many of the piers ("tha" in Thai) near downtown feature attractive markets in their surroundings. Tha Rong Mo, on the extension of Thanon Thai Wang, that separates between the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, is such an example. Due to its location next to main attractions, many stalls there specialize on souvenirs which are rather expensive. The nearby Wat Pho is the main school of Thai massage in the country; expectedly, the area is flooded with institutions led by graduated students. As most piers, this one is located on an alley connecting the nearest road to the river with the waterway; the labyrinth of alleys in those areas always holds surprises, here it is in the form of a Buddhas and Buddhist amulets market.On the Bangkok side of the river the most remarkable pier is Tha Wat Rakhang; it is located in front of Tha Chang, at the northern side of the Grand Palace. The market surrounding it is huge and varied, however, the main attraction is a hard to spot branch of the Black Canyon Coffee, one of the leading chains of coffee shops in Thailand; they offer also snacks and meals. Hidden amidst stalls, it is located right next to the window selling tickets for the ferry crossing the river. Its ground floor is tiny and often unattended. However, a steep staircase leads to a spacious second floor looking over the river. The views from there are stunning and include parts of the Grand palace across the river and far to the south and on the same bank of the coffee shop the unmistakable shape of Wat Arun, probably the better known single temple in Thiland.
by SeenThat on January 8, 2008
The leaded fuel used in Bangkok is the responsible for the sweet-smell of the metropolis smog. Over time I’d learned to cherish it since it is a sign of my being in a loved place.However, breathing fresh air is imperative from time to time. Then, the Chao Praya River is the only place in Bangkok offering breeze; despite being it a weak one, it combines with the gorgeous city sights offered there to create a refreshing break while roaming Bangkok.Old PracticesA people that enjoy living next to water, the Thais make extensive use of rivers and canals as a transportation method; Bangkok – the Venice of the East – provides exciting opportunities for experiencing this aspect of the local culture. The murmuring, slow-flowing waters around the boats are one side of the magic; seeing the city slowly revealing its wonders is the other one.Chao Praya RiverThe Chao Praya River separates between Bangkok and Thonburi – a former Thai capital - and offers many types of boat trips; however, the best way of travelling around and enjoying the main views is the Chao Phraya River Express boat.The route starts at Wat Ratchasingkhon Pier near Krung Thep Bridge and ends at the pier of Nonthaburi (northern Bangkok). The grand views along the trip include the Royal Thai Navy Dockyard, the Thai Maritime Navigation Company, the Old Customs House, Wat Arun, the Grand Palace, and Wat Rakhang.The whole trip takes about 90 minutes; the fares for a standard express boat trip range from 5 to 16 baht (about half dollar), depending on the distance. The boats leave every fifteen minutes from 6am to 6:30pm daily. Special express boats are marked with yellow, red and orange flags, and stop at major piers only. Their fares are 15 baht for the yellow and 10 baht for the red and orange ones; they operate only during rush hours (6 to 9am and 3pm to 6pm).Khlong Bangkok Noi and Khlong Bang YaiAnother useful line is the canals trip along Khlong Bangkok Noi and Khlong Bang Yai. Boats in this route leave from Tha Chang Pier many times daily. The route passes through the Royal Barges Museum (a dockyard for royal barges used in official ceremonies), Wat Suwannaram, Wat Sisudaram, Wat Nairong and Wat Phaowana Phirataram. The highlight of the last temple, which was erected in the reign of King Rama V, is its multipurpose hall built in traditional Thai style. It takes about an hour to reach Bang Yai, from where a boat back can be taken.Busy-dizzy BangkokDedicating a day to river trips allows seeing a postcard of Bangkok’s main attractions in a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere somewhat atypical of busy-dizzy Bangkok.
At first the idea was frightening. I couldn’t speak the language; reading it took me ages and thus I wouldn’t be able to read the signs on time. Without even considering the option, I began exploring the metropolis using other methods.After a while I changed my initial reluctance. Buses ceased being threatening; in the worst case I would find myself in a random, unknown quarter. I could always catch a taxi and return to known areas.Reinforcing the change was the fact that Bangkok is a safe city and thus buses posed no threats. The other eternal concern of a traveler - loosing precious time – was solved by dedicating a day to the exploration of Bangkok buses; now I could justify my aimless wandering in circles.The foreign letters, the strange sounds and the many variations of buses did not make the beginning easy. The need to make a quick transaction on them without understanding the language was worrying. However, soon became clear that brain surgery is a more complex topic; riding the buses was simple.PayingThe first lesson was not paying while boarding; a tickets’ seller approaches the passengers during the trip expecting to get approximately the right fare, paying the 7B fare with a one thousand baht note was an obviously bad idea. MapsThe bus trajectories maps turned out being inexact.EfficiencyBangkok buses turned out being very effective at all times, especially since they travel all night; crossing the city on one of them at 3am is an inexpensive pleasure. However, at peak hours it may take hours to cross the city, thus planning is essential.ViewsI began looking around. Buses are taller than taxis and tuktuks and thus allow sightseeing; a new and less congested Bangkok appeared before my eyes. Traveling in an air-conditioned bus was more appealing than the fanciest taxi and both advanced at the same speed.Fellow TravelersThe denizens made justice to the local claim that Thailand is the land of the smiles. Some of them wanted to practice English with me; others wanted to pull out the weirdly placed hairs on my arms. More experienced people around them shyly apologized for their peers’ conduct. Despite the misunderstandings and a few embarrassing moments I always felt as being among good people.New BangkokA new city was so discovered, with quarters neither reached nor mentioned by travel agencies. I found markets selling local products and not souvenirs; people shopping for their next meal and eating their regular lunch; a living city instead of a museum.Red and Green BusesThese buses are by far the cheapest ones; at 7B per trip regardless the distance you can hardly find a better deal. After midnight they charge 10B.They do not have air-conditioners and their frequency is low; thus hordes of people attack them once they arrive. Using them at off-peak hours is a good tactic.The most useful lines leaving from Khaosan Road are:Line 2: leaves from the stop in front of the Lottery Building on the main road leading to the Grand Palace, just south of Khaosan. It reaches the Central World Plaza, from where all the main shopping locations in town are accessible, and through Sukhumvit Road to the Ekamai Eastern Terminal leading to the south-eastern parts of Thailand.Line 3: Leaves from the closest road to the Chao Praya River, just west of the road around the temple at the west end of Khaosan. It reaches the Chatuchak Weekend’s Market.Air-conditioned BusesAir-conditioned buses are painted in yellow, blue or white and sometimes appear in two-car long buses; the doubles are usually a bit cheaper.The fare depends on the distance traveled; the destination’s name – or the nearest landmark to it - should be pronounced to the tickets’ seller SLOWLY and clearly in English. The most useful line from Khaosan Road is the 511 (it exists also as a red or yellow bus numbered 11 – but with a very low frequency). However two slightly different lines operate with the same number; if there is no additional sign on the bus, it reaches the Central World Plaza, Sukhumvit Road and the Ekamai Eastern Terminal. If there is a white sign in front of the driver, it means that this is the highway version of the bus, which after reaching the Central World Plaza climbs the highway instead of continuing through Sukhumvit Road.Purple BusesThe purple buses are minibuses operating in relatively few lines along downtown. They feature a flat fare and a seat is guaranteed; once full it does not take more passengers.Unlike the other buses, here the fare is given directly to the driver. All of these lines are doubled by cheaper ones.TV AnnouncementsIn front of the Central World Plaza there is a bus stop with television screens. There, a couple of screens on a high pole show video clips as well as announce the buses approaching the station using a sophisticated system.
by SeenThat on October 20, 2009
Bangkok is a big metropolis located roughly at the center of a very populated country. Thus it features an extensive network of buses connecting it with every corner of the kingdom. To avoid congesting its avenues even more, the buses use three terminals: Mo Chit serves northern and northeastern destinations, Ekamai serves the east and some northeastern destinations and Sai Tai serves the south and west. This last category includes popular destinations for travelers in the kingdom, including Kanchanaburi, Nakhon Pathom, Damnoen Saduak, Hua Hin, Phuket, Surat Thani, Koh Samui, Ranong, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Hat Yai, and others.A New TerminalIn December 2007, a new Southern Bus Terminal was inaugurated in Bangkok. Located in the Taling Chan area of Bangkok, it is quite far from downtown Bangkok and the other bus and railway terminals.The step could be understood: the older terminal was rather small and very close to the Grand Palace area (across the river from it, on the western side of the Pinklao Bridge). One Little DetailThe new terminal follow the typical Thai design of such structures; it reminds very much of Mo Chit, though it is smaller. The air-conditioned top level features the ticket selling windows, fast-food restaurants, and various shops. The selling windows are organized per destinations and include an English description; electronic screens announce the departure times. At the ground level are the bus bays.A really wonderful terminal, it provides everything a traveler expects, except for one little detail: a good location. Reaching it is difficult, especially during rush hours.Reaching the TerminalThe new terminal can be reached with bus 4 from the Victory Monument, this bus resembles very much the classy shuttles operating from the airport and is very spacious and comfortable. However, the trip to the terminal costs a staggering thirty baht as compared to the regular seven baht fare; to that, the transport to the Victory Monument should be added. The Skytrain has a station at the Victory Monument. A cheaper option from there is the rather infrequent air-con bus 515.Taxis will reach the terminal from anywhere in town, but they aren’t faster than the buses. During the rush hours it is worth remembering the taxis fares is based on the distance and time traveled, thus such a trip can get quite expensive. Moreover, being taken to the old terminal by a distracted taxi driver is a possibility. If the terminal looks old, crowded and is just next to an elevated highway, then it is the wrong one. The new one is very spacious and somewhat similar to the Mo Chit Northern Bus Terminal.Travelers roaming Thailand may find themselves attempting to move from Mo Chit to Sai Tai – for example while traveling from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui. The best option in such a case is to take a taxi or the Skytrain from Mo Chit (note that the Mo Chit Skytrain Station is far from the Mo Chit Bus Terminal) to the Victory Monument and bus number 4 for the rest of the way.No, Thank YouAll this is extremely cumbersome. Another popular option with travelers are the private buses leaving from Khaosan Road. However, those are of significantly lower quality than the Thai public buses and several scams are known to take place in them.Luckily, other options exist.The old terminal – Sai Tai Mai ("mai" means "new" – the terminal moved several times) – still serves as a parking place for buses. In one occasion I spent the day in Bangkok Noi before traveling to Hua Hin. Instead of reaching the new terminal, I approached the old one. There I found a bus passing through Hua Hin and in its way to the new terminal. The driver didn’t look surprised at my boarding and I was able to pay for the ticket at the bus. It worked, but there are no guarantees for this approach. Another option combines trains and buses. A train can be used for reaching nearby Hua Hin, and from there buses to the desired southern destination. If using this option, be ready to divide the trip in various segments: instead of expecting to find a direct bus connecting Hua Hin with Hat Yai, take one to Surat Thani and continue from there with a direct bus to the final destination.However, trains have strict timetables and the traveler may be in a rush. In such a case, from the Victory Monument – the same departure location for the bus terminal – are minibuses to Nakhon Pathom. From this town it is possible to advance south- and westwards using local buses. Other similar options exist.
Mo Chit is Bangkok's northern bus terminal and the largest terminus in town; it serves destinations in the north, northeast and parts of Thailand's eastern coast. It is located away from the Skytrain and Metro stations of the same name, but can be approached with bus number three from near Khaosan Road and taxis. The terminal is divided into three zones. One serves buses travelling within Bangkok, another is the arrival area and the third is the departures zone. The last is served by a four-story building. At the entrance level, tickets are sold to northern destinations, while the third one serves the northeast. Both host also waiting areas, restaurants (including fast food as KFC and Mr Donut) and basic Thai food plazas. Unluckily, Mo Chit looks nowadays as under foreign occupation, with cameras crisscrossing the waiting areas and access gates; policemen, soldiers and plainclothes policemen swarm the place. The tickets selling windows area is an awesome sight, with dozens of tiny booths featuring larger than them Thai letters announcing the destinations served by them. The parallel English names often appear, though not always. In any case many of the staff speaks some English and purchasing the desired ticket is a breeze after the correct window is spotted. Make sure you know the departure bay number since the terminus is huge and wandering in the search of a single bus can be a lengthy affair.Reaching Mo ChitAll the buses marked Mo Chit reach the terminal, of special importance is bus number three connecting the terminal with Khaosan Road; it passes also not far from the Grand Palace.A point to keep in mind is that the Skytrain Sukhumvit Line features a station called Mo Chit. This station is located on Phahon Yothin Road between soi 18 and 20, next to the Chatuchak Weekend Market and Park, but it is a few kilometres away from the bus terminal. The same holds for the subway’s Kamphaeng Phet and Chatuchak stations.If arriving by taxi, refer to it as Mo Chit Song ("Mo Chit 2") or Mo Chit Mai ("New Mo Chit") since the original bus terminal was in a nearby location.Travelling Independently in ThailandLearning to travel in Thailand was not easy. One of the biggest barriers was the tonal language; it took me several months to distinguish between the curiously rising and dropping sounds. Even learning the letters was a challenge, since the vowels could be placed above, below, before or after the relevant consonant. Moreover, knowing how to read was not enough because some words kept their traditional Sanskrit spelling while they were pronounced in modern Thai. To make the confusion complete, some names had several versions; for example, Thais refer to "Bangkok" as "Krung Thep," or the "City of Angels."Over time, the barriers began to collapse and I found it easier to use the local transport. Thailand has an extensive network of trains and planes, but the trains are slow and old while the aircrafts take out the fun of travelling. However, for historical reasons, Thailand has maybe the best highways network in South East Asia, which is complemented by buses of extraordinary quality. Many are scheduled so (sometimes at the price of forced stops along the way) that they leave at the first hours of darkness and reach their final destination early in the morning. Arriving around 8 AM - following a comfortable night - is a good way to begin a visit at a new place. Moreover, the bus would usually stop along its way at places that otherwise I would not have visited.After Midnight in Mo ChitMany Thais work at night. The hot climate favours travelling by night and thus travel hubs are open all night; all-night markets are their natural extension. Mo Chit being the largest terminus in the city led to it having the largest among these markets next to it. Inexpensive travel-related items aimed for a short term use while in the kingdom are excellent purchases here. Backpacks, T-shirts and similar items are good buys. At least two 7-Eleven branches are in the area, one next to the arrivals area, and the second next to the food market. The food market, located between the arrival and local buses areas, is a must since it features all the main Thai snacks and simple meals. This is an excellent place for getting a few tasty lessons on the local eating habits. The first thing a traveller may note is that the servings are relatively small and that every stall specializes in one or two dishes. This is typical, probably because the heavy heat transforms big meals into unpleasant experiences. Thais eat several tiny meals during the day, most of them of the meat-over-rice or noodle soup types. Interesting snacks are offered by small griller stalls serving sausages, skewed meat (including whole tiny birds, three on a stick), and skewed lumps of flour mixed with fish, meat or insects; the last are a big hit in Thailand and can be seen in most convenience stores as well as in television and billboard advertisements all over the city.With such prospects for an entertaining visit, who can avoid Mo Chit after midnight?
by SeenThat on January 11, 2008
Certain aspects of modern cities create effects and links that in the past were not possible. The Skytrain in Bangkok was built on an elevated rail crossing Bangkok high above the street level and created a virtual street connecting the main attractions in the city. Thus, a virtual street serving the denizens of a pseudo-virtual era had been mindlessly created.In any other city, the Skytrain would have been regarded as a monstrosity. However, Bangkok has its own rules. Its climate has two basic modes: sunny or cloudy and rainy. If it is sunny, the Skytrain structure successfully blocks the harsh tropical sun and creates a welcomed shade for those walking on the street level. If it is cloudy, Bangkok gets a glorious gray light, soft and warm which invites for long walks through the city. Then, the grayish Skytrain structure seems to be the most natural thing, a mirror-like reflection of the sun light.StationsUnlike similar mass travel systems, the Skytrain stations are rather minimalist and have few shops catering for the hordes crowding them; with the exception of a casual coffee shop or snacks stall at the main stations. The reason for that oddity becomes clear just by taking a look at the streets below the stations: they are surrounded by commercial centers providing any possible human need or wish.RoutesThe Skytrain routes look awkward at first, but they make a lot of sense. There are two lines that meet at Siam Square, the system’s nexus. There, the trains travel on two levels above the street and create an eternal and blessed shadow over the people hurrying to their favorite shopping mall. Roughly, the lines create a misshaped "X" over the city.The shorter line draws a half circle from south to west; it connects Silom with Ploen Chit and reaches the Chao Praya River.The longer line runs from north to east and connects Mo Chit and the Chatuchak Market with Sukhumvit Road.Most of Bangkok’s attractions can be explored by traveling exclusively on the Skytrain, with the obvious exception of the Grand Palace.TicketsAll the stations are served by automated selling machines which are easy to use; they feature English menu. To get a ticket the destination zone (marked in an adjacent map) must be typed and the exact change given. Nearby are manned windows where tickets can be purchased from a human and change can be got. Single Journey Ticket, Skycards valid for two years, 30-days passes and One Day Passes are available.SpeedThe modern, comfortable and air conditioned trains are the fastest way to travel across downtown Bangkok, especially so during the rush hours which in Bangkok apparently last twenty-four hours every day.Main StationsThere are too many stations for a complete review here, but some of them are worth specific mention.On northern Bangkok, Mo Chit Station gives access to the northern bus terminal and the Chatuchak Market, while Ekamai Station - at the other side of the same line - is next to the eastern bus terminal.Siam Square, Ploen Chit and Chitlom stops offer access to the city’s main shopping area.
by SeenThat on January 30, 2008
Bangkok’s Metro resembles in shape and design its older brother in Singapore. As there, the passengers are protected from the railway gap by glass walls spiced up with doors opening whenever a train arrives. The cars and stations are very similar and comparably comfortable and efficient.HistoryDue to Bangkok’s muddy underground and the 1997 economical crisis, the subway construction suffered many delays and was inaugurated only in 2004, eight years after the construction began. SpeedRoaming Bangkok at eighty kilometers per hour, the metro is difficult to beat in this aspect.LinesNowadays, there is only one operating line – called "Blue" – which is twenty-one kilometers long, it has eighteen stations and connects Bang Sue with Hua Lamphong through a loop reaching Phra Ram 9 highway. Combined with the Skytrain two lines, the complex mass transport system draws a rectangle on Bangkok’s map. Other lines are planned.Interchange with BTSConnecting from the metro to the Skytrain is possible at the Silom Skytrain's Sala Daeng Station), Sukhumvit (Skytrain's Asok Station) and Chatuchak Park (Skytrain's Mo Chit Station) stations.However, there isn’t yet a joint ticketing system with the BTS Skytrain, though the situation can change soon.FaresAs with the BTS Skytrain, fares depend on the distance traveled.The fares have changed a few times; however, the longest trips cost slightly over an American dollar. There are single trip tokens and contactless stored value cards which can be purchased at the stations.AccessAll the stations are equipped for handicapped passengers’ access and have flood’s control mechanisms; the last are important due to Bangkok being close to the sea and on a low area.MapsConveniently, on the stations’ exits are maps showing the adjacent surface level area.Main StationsThe Metro system connects the Bang Sue Railway Station with the Hua Lamphong Railway Terminus, both in downtown Bangkok while drawing a wide open rectangle on its way; it crosses several important areas and attractions. Here are the main ones listed:Bang Sue: This metro station gives access to the Bang Sue Junction Railway Station.Chatuchak Park: For access to the Chatuchak Weekend Market, the Mo Chit Bus Terminal and the BTS Skytrain Silom Line.Petchaburi: For access to Petchaburi Road, a popular shopping area north of Sukhumvit.Sukhumvit: For access to Sukhumvit Road, the main shopping area in Bangkok, and connection to the BTS Skytrain's Asok Station.Lumphini: For access to Lumphini Park, the main green area in Bangkok and to the main Muay Thai shows in Bangkok.Silom: For access to Silom Road and the BTS Skytrain's Sala Daen Station, one of the main commercial and business areas in town.Hua Lamphong: For access to Hua Lamphong Railway Station, Thailand’s main railways terminus.
by SeenThat on August 8, 2008
Four lines of trains lead out of Bangkok; they are called according to the direction they travel to: Northern, Northeastern, Eastern and Southern, the last is connected to the Malaysian railways.Hualampong: Bangkok Railway StationLocated on Rama IV Road, Rongmuang, the Bangkok Railway Station is easy to find; nowadays there is a Metro station right at its door, Bangkok's Chinatown is across the highway. The Hualampong Station was built between 1910 and 1916, and modernized in 1998; its huge hangar features short towers at its corners and is one of the best known landmarks in Bangkok.The station provides 24-hour service, including a post office, money exchange services, a Thai food plaza, bookstores in Thai and English, information booths, luggage deposit, hotel reservations and fast food joints, including a Dunkin's Donuts branch. Its central hall is mainly used as a waiting area, but at its backside are twenty-four ticket windows, including some reserved for foreigners, which issue computerized tickets; unlike in China, the staff speaks reasonable English.TrainsThe services are divided into regular trains, rapid trains, express trains, and the Sprinter or special express train; these offer 3rd class, 2nd class sleeping, 2nd class and 1st class sleeping cars with or without air-conditioning. The trains are rather old; traveling across Thailand by bus is faster.Planning a trip is easy, since the trains keep the same daily schedule; detailed timetables are available at the counters; reservations for the 1st class cars are not necessary.Sturdy locomotives and dwarf, boxy cars define the Thai Railways; they impart a solid sense of safety and silently imply a capability to survive any accident.Security and PricingIt is highly recommended to travel first class, since there are recurring reports - and most Thais would warn about that - of thefts in the lower class cars; if traveling in the lower class cars, care should be taken with the luggage and no food should be accepted from strangers. The price of first class tickets is considerably higher than a parallel trip on bus; while third class tickets are much cheaper than the similar bus tickets.LinesThe Northern Line connects Bangkok and Chiang Mai, through Ayutthaya and Phitsanulok. The first special express train leave daily from 8:30 AM to 7:35 PM; the trip lasts twelve hours. In the opposite direction, there is one morning train at 8:45 AM and thee in the evening, at 4:30 PM, 5:50 PM and 9 PM; slower trains are available at other times. As of August 2008, a first class ticket costs 1353 baht to Chiang Mai. The Northeastern Line reaches Nong Khai, through Nakhon Ratchasima, Ubon Ratchathani, Khon Kaen and Udon Thani. There is a single special express train leaving Bangkok daily at 5:45 AM, but it reaches only Ubon; in the opposite direction special express trains leave from Ubon (2:50 PM, 7:05 PM from Si Saket); slower trains reach Nong Khai. The best option from Bangkok is the express diesel railcar, leaving at 6:30 PM and reaching Nong Khai at 5:05 AM; other express trains leave Bangkok between 8:20 AM and 9:50 PM (6 trains). A full trip from Bangkok to Nong Khai in first class costs 1217 baht and longs ten hours.Aranyaprathet - the northern border cross with Cambodia, leading to Angkor - is the final destination of the Eastern Line; though there is a side line reaching Chon Buri and Pattaya. This train has only third class cars, a trip to Aranyaprathet costs 48 baht ($1.5!!!).Malaysia can be reached down to Butterworth with the Southern Line, which reaches also Hua Hin, Chumpon, Surat Thani, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Hat Yai and Yala. Five special express trains leave Bangkok daily between 8:05 AM and 10:50 PM. A first class ticket to Hat Yai costs 1494 baht. The whole trip to Malaysia longs twenty-one hours, while to Hat Yai just about fifteen.
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