Thursday, August 2, 2012

MY BANGKOK ON FOOT - THAILAND


Stop for pedestrian sign
OK, so the title of this posting might be a bit misleading. But I do love to explore cities on foot. Singapore is a heaven for pedestrians. Cannot get any better, I think. There are even 1000 S$ fines if a bicyclist does not get off his bike and push it through an under path. Also most of the areas in Singapore you can walk in the shade of the galleries of shop houses, or on really nice sidewalks. 

Bangkok on the other side is hell for a pedestrian. There are streets with no sidewalk. And if there is a sidewalk it is usually full with street vendors, food stalls, garbage or anything that can possibly block your way. It is simply impossible for a wheelchair to move through Bangkok and very cumbersome for a regular person to walk. 

Not only will motorcycles and cars be parked in a way where you have to move onto the street, but motorcycles will frequently use it to by-pass the traffic in the opposite direction. And they will not stop for an pedestrian. 

Skytrain or BTS
Attempts to color code the area that needs to be kept free failed completely. Pedestrian crossings are completely useless as nobody will stop for an pedestrian. It is a life and death game to make it across streets like Sukhumvit or Rama IV.  Even signs which ask drivers to stop for pedestrians are a complete waste of money. Even right next to a police station, nobody cares. A crossing which I have been using all week at Rama IV and Sathorn Road is made up of 4 sections with need to be crossed, all marked with pedestrian crossing marks on the street and you basically have to run across or walk halfway into the street and maneuver between the oncoming traffic. There are also pedestrian bridges but they are really never where you need them or you find yourself hiking up and down in a zig-zag movement just to make it across right across the street.

Areas where you could actually walk like small streets, usually have many holes in the pavement, so you constantly have to be on the watch out for holes, leftovers from dogs at the same time while fending off offers for a "welcome massage" or other obstacles. 
 
Subway or MRT

By the way, it is not any different in Indonesia or Malaysia, but I feel it is even more ridiculous in a 12 million people city like Bangkok. 

A nice way to get around though (even though it is very limited) are the Skytrain (BTS) and the Subway (MRT). Those trains are very clean, very reliable and I think cheap. The system is easy to use, even for a foreigner who speaks a minimum of English. Try Munich in Germany as a foreigner...or even as German who does not use the system often. I sometimes have no idea where one zone starts and ends and how expensive a ride in Munich is supposed to be. 

Subway station
So, BTS and MRT will get you around safely, but at one point you still have to get back to the annoyance of either walking or being ripped of my tuk tuks or having a lengthy discussion with a taxi driver that you do not want to go sightseeing but just want to go from A to B with the meter on. 

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