Monday, November 11, 2013

Awful Day on Bangkok's Buses and Taxis

Heads up. Rant today.

First things first, we headed up to Mo Chit (the northern bus station) to buy our bus ticket to Chiang Mai for this Thursday. We learned that the train to Chiang Mai has derailed 12 times this year, so they shut it down for maintenance (probably a good idea, huh?). With the train out of commission, we figured more people would be taking the bus for the festivities this weekend, so we wanted to buy our tickets early.

We are NOT missing this celebration. It's one of the main reasons we came on this trip in the first place.

So we took the BTS to Mo Chit (which, as I mentioned before, is not the same Mo Chit as the bus station, in case you were wondering), and then hopped on local bus 77 (no a/c, but fast and fun with a nice breeze with all the windows and doors open) over to the right Mo Chit.

We bought our tickets for the exact bus and time we were hoping for, and we were feeling pretty good about our day so far.

And then it got worse.

We had planned to go to the Grand Palace for most of the day. Since we woke up early to get our tickets, at this point in the day, it was about 9:30am. Still our whole day in front of us. We took a taxi back to the BTS Mo Chit, where I had seen a bus earlier (while waiting for 77), that could take us straight to the Palace. When the bus came, we got on and told the ticket lady, "Royal Palace," and she said this bus was going the wrong direction so get off and get on the same bus but on the other side of the street.

I knew we were heading the right direction, but I thought maybe the bus goes north here and then gets on the highway around to the south or something. So we got off and waited on the other side. When that bus finally came, we got on and paid our fare and everything seemed fine. Until we didn't turn. And then we kept going farther and farther away from the Grand Palace. Then we got to a stop and the ticket lady told us this was our stop, but it most certainly was not the Grand Palace. Later on we would learn that the Grand Palace and the Royal Palace are not the same place, as dumb and confusing as that is. And they're far from each other.

So the bus kept going farther and farther away, past the airport and beyond anything worth seeing. And then it pulled into a dirt parking lot and they kicked us off the bus into the sun. We had reached the end of the line.

So we stood there in a small patch of shade for half an hour (which, in the moment, felt like forever) until a bus started up again and taunted us by just sitting there for forever, but that turned out ok when we got into an air conditioned bus, but then they made us pay again. This time more than double the original fare since we were going almost the full length of the bus route. Boo!

Winding through traffic in Bangkok is terrible. Probably the least drivable city I've ever been to. Seriously, if you can avoid driving in Bangkok, do so at all costs (unless you have a moto, then you're fine). The bus took almost two hours to get to the Grand Palace. We arrived after 1pm, very tired of traveling and exhausted and frustrated. At this point, we were too late to visit the Grand Palace, since we wanted at least 3 hours inside.

With the exception of the water taxi, there is no public transportation in old town, so we opted for a taxi to get out. Except we couldn't get out because of traffic. We sat in the taxi and watched the meter creep higher and higher while slowly inching forward. He took us on a roundabout way because roads were shut down by the military, and at one point I opened the door and almost jumped out of the car because I was so upset and frustrated with how the journey was going.

We finally arrived at our new destination: Jim Thompson's house. Upset, hungry, and frustrated, Jim's house had a difficult challenge of turning our day around, but you'll read more about that in the next post.

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