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Featured Image: Klong Saen Saep Express Boat Approaching the Pier Slowly Near Jim Thompson House
Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 7 January 2023
Klong Saen Saep
Klong Saen Saep Express Canal Boats, Transport Bangkok
A group of four of us first went to Thailand in 1991 for a month. We travelled extensively, using internal flights and just turned up at the airport when we were ready for the next leg of the journey. (It was the pre-Internet age. You used Lonely Planet to locate the area for cheap hotels and one person searched for a good one, while the other minded the bags.)
We went trekking north of Chiang Mai staying the night somewhere near Fang on the night Desert Storm began in the first Gulf War.
After the trek, we took an amazing long-tail boat from Fang down the rapids to Chiang Rai in the Golden Triangle. This was a great trip. But, not so long previously, Akha tribespeople would occasionally hijack the boat armed with AK-47s and steal everyone’s money and possessions. They shot any tourists who protested.
But, this is long ago and has disappeared along with the Golden Triangle as the wild frontier. In those days Chiang Rai was a small but pleasant market town or rural centre.
We’d arrived in Bangkok knowing little about Thailand. The Hotel we stayed in on recommendation was in the Street behind Khao San Road in Banglamphu. We found the whole area incredibly exotic. Thrillingly so!
It was my second experience of Asia, the first being my sojourn at Rukmini’s flat in Jangpura in New Delhi in 1981/82. I thought the district was unbelievably strange and third worldy, not really realising at all that it was a middle class enclave in the centre of Delhi.
We stayed at Ashima’s place in 1995 across the Jumna River near Mother Dairy. At dusk, Delhi’s pollution was like a thick fog, with orange sodium-lights and fires and smoke it was like a scene out of Dante’s Inferno.
Later in the holiday in Khao San Road Bangkok, we stayed in the New Nith Chareon (the Nith was one of the early backpacker guesthouses). I’m very conservative about good places I’ve stayed in and like to repeat the experience. I stayed at the New Nith Chareon for several years. Denise and I stayed there in 1995 on the way to Pakistan and the Karakorum Highway.
But, after that Khao San Road had become too feral and we moved our Bangkok base to Patumwan House near MBK, the National Stadium, Jim Thompson House and Siam Square in Pathumwan. Pathumwan was a good place to be during the day but tended to close down around 10 pm. Nevertheless, we still stay at Patumwan House regularly.
Transport in Bangkok
I remember the frustration, when one had to exit Khao San Road and Banglamphu in 1991 to go to the railway station Hua Lamphong or Chinatown, because it would usually take at least an hour by bus each way. The traffic in Bangkok was an intense gridlock and taxis or tuk tuks didn’t help. From later experience, motorcycle taxis are the best way to go at peak hour, but only for short distances (a couple of kilometres at most) without luggage.
The BTS Skytrain system was opened on 5 December 1999. It initially had a much lower ridership than predicted, locals thought the tickets were too expensive. This had consequences in funding and paying off debt.
But, by December 2005, 500,000 single trips were made in a single day for the first time. Nowadays, the in central areas of Bangkok the Skytrain is always crowded.