Monday, September 13, 2010

Bangkok's BTS Skytrain: An Introduction

The BTS Skytrain sailing along - far above the traffic below

If you've been reading this since the beginning back in March of this year (oh, stop lying - I don't know anyone who's read all of it other than me) you've seen many references to the Bangkok Transit System - or BTS - but nothing more than a Night Photos post and mentions of "we'll cover that another time soon" to explain it. "Soon" has finally arrived.

I've been going back through images from different trips and trying to pull illustrative examples of how the system is laid out, how you can access it, where it goes and what's near the stations it stops at and discovered that while I've been in and around the stations hundreds of times it's usually been while on some mission or another and time hasn't been taken to photograph it very well, sorry to say. We'll try here, though.

There are already many sites that can provide the basics, so rather than re-create the wheel I'll refer you as we go along to some that have been helpful to me in the past: the first being the official BTS Skytrain site. The link I'm including is to the site in English, but if you can read Thai, more power to you!

Informational signs in the stations themselves aren't always where you'd expect to see them - and it isn't all in English - but there's quite enough to get you where you want to go, if you're willing to be observant and look. There are always people working there who have dealt with tourists from many nations, so don't feel you can't get directional help - but again, you have to be willing to seek it out, be patient and keep a firm grip on that "mai pen rai" (nevermind, it doesn't matter) attitude.

I leave extra time to be confused and get lost, and if my Thai friends give me the "where were YOU?" look I tell them "Sorry! I am using 'Thai time!' ". There are always maps and guides available at the service windows that will fit into your fanny pack or pocket, and I'm sure web sites in whatever your native tongue is (Swedish, Finnish, German, French, Russian, whatever) that will give you more detailed information, too.

It's considerably faster to get you from point A to point B than a taxi if you're going any distance, especially during the three- to four-hour morning and afternoon traffic windows, when you can spend an hour sitting in a cab and only go five blocks. I'm not kidding. You can ride the entire Sukhumvit line from one end to the other in about 30 minutes.

Bangkok Transit map, showing the Sukhumvit (light green) and Siam (dark green) lines, as well as the the MRT/Subway (dark blue)and river boat stops.

During non-commute hours if you're out with a friend or two it can be cheaper to take a taxi than pay for individual tickets, but considering most taxi rides can be in the range of 70 to 90 baht (you can check the current exchange rates for your currency here) a BTS ticket between 15 and 45 baht it's more a matter of where you're going and which seems more convenient for you at the moment.

In the next installment we'll take a closer look at routes, fares and tickets.

A Silom line Skytrain heading into National Stadium, the current end of the line near MBK Mall.


artful said...

are the cars air-conditioned ?

Was Once said...

Next you have to tell about National Stadium Olympic SIZE pool.....that you can use! It was 100 B per swim, but might have changed. Off hours when no swim team is there.

khunbaobao said...

If someone knows about the pool at National Stadium maybe they can enlighten us? I'm not a strong enough swimmer to do it for exercise or fun.

And yes, artful, the BTS cars have air conditioning - sometimes a little too cold for me!

Christian said...

"I don't know anyone who's read all of it other than me" well, I did and I'm sure I'm not the only one!

khunbaobao said...

Thank you, Christian. I'm not sure if I should send kudos or a 2,000 piece jigsaw puzzle to help occupy your time!

Just kidding - I appreciate everyone's participation and hope I can keep things interesting enough for all and sundry.