Busy by bus

‘A tale of transport and two cities’

For any keen observer or specialist in Public Transportation Krung Thep Mahanakhon, the capital of Thailand, is a lust for the eye. From bus to boat, train and tram though the latter only in the past. Plans for the revival, the Khlong tramway loop, resting somewhere on a big pile never implemented ideas.
At least one could have built a heritage line around the Ratanakosin isle, a real tramway and not the resembling replica on rubber tyres making a tour along the palaces and through the neighbourhood.
There’s a guided bus way and project for a monorail although the new minister of transport changed his mind and wanted a heavy rail instead. Hopefully his decision is based on real knowledge and not something fashionable, even within the world of transportation there’re trends. Obviously he’s not aware of the fact Bangkok already possesses a monorail not for the purpose of real public transportation but as a indoor outdoor transfer between a shopping mall and amusement park (Future World). This 1.6 kilometre long line was opened in 1994. There’s more on the menu; private mini buses, tuk-tuk and countless taxi-cabs with meter or without, the so called crawlers, even a pillion ride on a small motorcycle through the many Soi’s.
The rickshaw is gone; it would obstruct today’s traffic flow to much if it’s possible to stream at all, a complete standstill is no exception. A separate bicycle lane and the rickshaw would be number one again certainly during rush hours although the third wheel could be a hinder as well. Better one uses its own bike and paddle to the desired destination. The capital in the new age for sure would be a much friendlier environment. More rail under and above the ground is another option.

In the year 2002 an optimistic cartographer and publisher released a city map complete with subway lines. A bit hasty, forethought or pure visionary what ever, this will not happen it goes beyond the reality.
Anyone familiar with Thailand’s second big city must admit that it still has a village like character where even less complicated means of conveyance did not succeed. It’s about two decades ago since Chiang Mai’s lovely city bus system with several routes collapsed. Dark yellow painted vehicles in all sorts and shape needfully maintained and refurbished at an own workshop, a third world atmosphere but it worked. After closure only the Song Thaew (two benches in the back of a pick-up truck) remains and the rumour went that it was their trade union’s decision to kill the bus service in order to have the realm for them alone.
Years in a row there was no proper Public Transportation system until lately the local government established another one; CMB – Chiang Mai Bus. White medium sized cars with thirty-two seats in a special configuration on five routes and again it did not work. Maybe the Song Thaew stronghold sabotaged once more whatever and wherever they could or the public reject it. A mass demand fails to appear and thus the network shrinks to a single line from the central bus station to a leisure destination out of town. Route Nº 11 running between 06.00 and 18.00 hours with a thirty minute interval, twenty-five rides a day. Four services ended at the airport according the despatching board at the terminal. A city bus company in a nutshell and actually all it is.
The station is called: the Arcade and still plays an important role in departing or arrival for the long distance traveller. It’s always a remarkable sight to see the numerous double deck cars between five and nine p.m. leaving and turning towards the highway number 11 heading for Bangkok and other far away destinations. The longest distance without doubt is Phuket, serviced daily.
On the other hours there’re a lot of movements too but the mentioned ones seems to be popular. Arriving at the capital in the early morning after half a night doze on an adjustable chair while the aircon is fully blowing, a lot of Thai people seem to like it though wrapped in thin blankets. I have other thoughts about transportation. Train services from the other station is rather meagre and actually only for them with a lot of time or lack on cash. I guess the train lost a lot of customers to the plane mainly the budget carriers. It’s not they are any cheap if you buy a ticket short before leaving but well ahead there’s an advantage. On the other hand for a lot of Thai the principle time is money became a daily routine. Neither businessman nor woman is willing to endure a minimum of twelve hours ride by train between the two cities and in case of being lucky without any delay, a rare achievement these days.
That’s why in another story I said the Thai Railway in fact is a big rolling museum and nothing against it as long as you are prepared to enjoy a pace of the past. It’s not asking for any further comment… I am.

This article is simultaneous placed on the http://www.2bangkok.com Forum under: Thailand from the train

A special configuration

Trains at Chiang Mai idle in the sunset while the tracks down the line are submerged.

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About Robert von Hirschhorn

Author / Performer or in Dutch: schrijver / dichter
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