Strolling in Bangkok

April 16, 2013
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The Bangkok Transit System--more commonly called the skytrain--was one of Bangkok’s most used public transportation, in my opinion. It was, however, dramatically crowded at rush hour. However, the systematic trains that engulfed large crowds were better than the main roads where traffic jam was inevitable.

I had just finished a day of entertainment at several shopping malls. There were no purchases made; the prices were too high, except perhaps for foreign tourists who brought in one-fifth of Thailand’s economy.

It was interesting how Thai people reminded me of Japan. Thailand is nicknamed as The Land of Smiles and the culture’s basis is respect and keeping a cool head in any situation. As proof to this theory, almost everyone except for a few line-cutters chose to stand in line for upcoming trains.
Quite frankly, I felt like a gecko.

Inside the train, noisy cell phones were quickly turned off. A public transport, by all means. Sanitation was remarkable with the no food consumption policy was going to keep it that way. Closing my eyes, I leaned on the automatic doors, ignoring the sign that had a warning with a big red ‘x’. It would take an hour and a half to get home.

My destination was the Victory Monument station which also worked as the roundabout where every bus in the city came across. I had to take the one in orange with the number 515. Tired passengers would scramble for the seats. The bus lady who collected the fares was always a tad bit over her mid-twenties and had a hoarse voice. Couldn’t blame the lady or the passengers for being so weary after a long day.

These trips were good experience, like walking in the shoes of an ordinary citizen (wasn’t there a quote from a novel that said never judge a man until you walk two moons in his moccasins?). It was both entertaining and interesting to see humanity condensed to five dozen people in limited space. Diverse social classes and age groups meant distinct appearances and grouping: Dark colored suits and briefcases for the business class. Black skirts or shorts and white blouses for the University students. The wrinkle-faced middle-aged ladies were inseparable with their shopping bags. Rarely one would smile with a wise expression. There came the joy of examining people, where one could spend half an hour in this process.

In the bus, few offered seats during rush hours, even to the elderly. There was always air conditioning. But it cost the engine, which complained heavily by sending vibrations whenever the bus stopped for a traffic light or another anxious passenger. The glass window would rattle against tired foreheads, and sleep would desert them.

I left the BTS and drifted along with the tide. There was a bridge that connected the station towards descending stairs that gave a pretty good view of the whole bus station and the traffic jam. I stood, knowing that there was no use in going down with the crowd until my bus came. There was a couple beside me with their cameras. Unlike the many others who bustled past, they had a quiet demeanor. It was an interesting scene at the rush hour.

There was a tap on my shoulder, and I swung around, then faced an anxious Thai lady who was a tad shorter than me. She looked quite awkward in the midst of everyone who seemed to know exactly where their destinations were. I remembered a day from the memories of last summer when everyone was quickly walking. There was faint despair when one tried and failed to find someone who had a heart kind enough to ask directions.

“Sorry for asking you this, but do you know where to catch a van?”

She spoke in Thai. I felt pleased and amused at the same time.

“Where are you headed for?”

It was a region that I had never heard in my life.

“Sorry.” I smiled, perhaps a little ruefully. “I don’t really know the place…although most of the vans wait over there.” I paused, considering about adding the last comment. “By the way, I’m Korean.”

A faint glimmer of surprise lit the lady’s eyes. She nodded, then walked away hurriedly. I turned my eyes away as the crowd engulfed her slim figure in an instant.

Bangkok, the ‘city of angels’, burned bright with orange glares. How much did I know of its roads, culture, and its language when I had lived over ten years? Thailand, the land of smiles, was an inseparable part of me. I had been judged as a khon Thai, a Thai person. However, I was still a foreigner within the core.

I looked back at the couple with the cameras was smiling, taking photos of the busy crowd. Hovering over that topic, I took my camera out. There wasn’t much hurry, and the night was young. I took a couple of contrast shots until my designated bus came rumbling from the distance. Leaving the familiar yet enigmatic city once again, I promised to bring a doodling notebook for the next visit.

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