Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Impressions Continue: Transportation

Traveling Around Bangkok

Bangkok is a city that is full of hustle and flow. The highways and avenues are full of traffic, there is a smog that settles in and fights the sun’s rays in the morning, and the streets are full of food stands, people, and various types of taxis.

That being said, transportation options are numerous throughout the city. Within the last 10 years the Skytrain (similar to the famous Disney Monorail system) and the Metro subway have greatly eased the flow of traffic and transformed Bangkok into a more modernized city. Combined, both systems cover approximately 40% of the urban city and they are very clean and high tech; for example, commercials and advertisements run on loop on flat screen monitors in Skytrain cars. I spoke with my host about the effects and usefulness of the systems and the answer is two-fold. It is very obvious that people utilize them as business workers of all ages, students, and tourists are ever present, but it lacks in the number of places it touches and in the amount of the city it spans.

The transportation systems are supplemented by the bustling taxi system of Bangkok. A traveler can choose from a regular metered taxi, a metered boat taxi, or spend less and haggle with the notorious tuk-tuks (think open air three wheel motorized carts) and moto-taxis (riding on the back of a motorcycle). Although the tuk-tuks are noisy and give the passenger little to no fresh air, tourists flock to them because they are something out of the norm. I followed suit and can testify to the noise and helter skelter that is the tuk-tuks. However when it comes to open air riding the tuk-tuk is the furthest I will go. Moto-taxis, the cheapest option, could be its own extreme game show on Fox. Drivers zip through any opening in traffic they can find in the busy streets, sometimes lodging themselves in between lanes and buses. I would say if a passenger is carrying while on the moto-taxi they run the risk of losing the carry a long or losing the health.

An interesting development will be if they decide to expand the systems. With so many Thais earning a living working as various types of taxi drivers, one must wonder what kind of effect an increased system would have on the employment rate. It touches upon some of the key aspects of development. At what pace should a developing and modernizing take place? You must keep in mind the general population and if they are able to meet the changes that will come; i.e. finding a new job if there is taken by a computer. Furthermore, a topic that will be touched upon in other posts, what is the happy balance between development and maintaining culture. A topic of great importance in Bangkok, where tradition and religion are steeped deep into every facet of daily life.

No comments: