When i arrive in Bangkok by train, a thing that i love to do is to run away from the touts as soon as possible, and wait for a local bus just around the corner.
Taxi drivers and tuk tuk people don’t realize that some of the white faces here are well aware of the way things work, let alone that some of us are actually on a very tight budget. When they tell you “…c’mon, taxi to Khao San Road, only 100 baht..!”, i always tell them that this is pretty much what i budget for a night in my guesthouse. But the nice thingh of this part of Asia is thhat once you told them, they leave you alone. I remember that there’e a red bus stopping here and taking me to Banghlamphu; i forgot the exact fare, but i recall it being under 10 bath. There’s a lot to wait though, so i get rid of my backpack and i lean the guitar on a tree, while i wait in the heat.
After 15 minutes here is the bus n53. It’s an old run down one, open windows and doors, wooden floors and a sweaty driver; it will take a bit to get where i’m going to, but i’ve got more time than money, so i sit down, pay the 7 bath for my ticket and enjoy the ride.
These buses run on a very tight schedule: sometimes they don’t even stop. They just slow down and you need to jump on them before they start running again. The great thing is that these are the cheapest in the country, and they cater to mainly the old people, monks and the few foreigners that want to travel in a genuine way. There’s no air con here, so a lot of the youngsters rather pay a bit more and freeze travelling in the more expensive ones, wich i personally find too cold and crowded.
What i love the most in this kind of buses, is that there are plenty of details to look out for as they give you precise informations about the Thai lifestyle. Beside the driver, there’s always a tiffin box with the lunch: Thais eat several times a day, mainly rice, pork and vegetables. The radio is always on, and the news in Thai are quite loud so everyone can hear what’s going on in the Kingdom. On the windscreen, thare are always stickers with saints and gods, in order to protect the driver and the passengers, and guarantee a safe journey.
Many old women are getting on board, so i stand up and give them my seat. The driver asks me to sit down near him, on top of the engine, the hottest spot in the whole bus. I never understand wether this is a good place to sit or not. As i realize that the journey is gonna take much longer than expected for some work in progress, i notice that the driver is taking a different route and we enter Chinatown. The driver at that point tells me to sit in the front row, as there’s still a longway to go; “..tlaffi jem…tlaffi jem..!” he says. I’m in a perfect position to enjoy the life of the city, wich is getting busier as it’s lunch time and we are stuck in a serious jam.i start shooting random pictures as a soft and soothing rain starts to fall.
Monks are walking fast with their umbrellas, students are waiting for the rain to stop while sending text messages on their IPhones and tourist are getting wet trying to catcha tuk tuk. There’s a cool unexpected breeze blowing through the windows…i love the rainy season !
It will take nearly an hour and an half for me to get to my place. I enjoyed every minute of this ride: sometimes the trip as itself is the real destination. When inside of one of these old buses, one becomes invisible: you can enjoy the life around you and take pictures from a slightly higher point of you. When in Bangkok and you’re fed up with dodgy taxi drivers and shady tuk tuk mafias businesses…you know what to do !!