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What’s it Like to Live in Bangkok?

Seeing Family Means Seeing the Real Bangkok!

I’m back in Bangkok for my last 10 days of this year’s visit. I’m staying with Noah and Noah’s home is in a peaceful gated Thai neighborhood on the Thon Buri side of the river. This side of Bangkok is mostly unseen by tourists. There are similar housing developments tucked off of busy business streets. The neighborhoods are economically diverse with housing above shops on bigger streets, apartments and condominium buildings and the house communities. The residents shop at the same fresh markets, Seven/11’s and pharmacies. They go to the same neighborhood barbers or salons and massage and coffee shops. So local folks mix and get to know each other.
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Tourists and Travelers in the know stay near the Chao Praya River as from the riverside neighborhood it is easier to avoid the Bangkok street traffic which is notoriously bad. A taxi ride of a few kilometers can take between 20 minutes and an hour and a half. Sitting in Bangkok taxis can eat up your time. The street air is particularly noxious. The variety of vehicles that fill the streets, motorcycles, Tuk Tuks, automobiles, trucks, and more spew emissions that make walking toxic to your lungs, even when walking is quicker than the car ride. I don’t like to sit, I don’t like long car rides, and I hate the traffic and bad air. I carry and often wear a mask with a disposable filter. People wearing masks is a common site.

The Chao Praya River winds through the entire length of Bangkok. It is a major transportation artery. I never tire of watching the boat traffic. From early in the morning until late at night, you can see sizable barges being towed by tug boats on either end. They carry rice or palm sugar or latex rubber and the barge tenders live aboard their boats. There are long tail boats, used as private taxis for transportation, and for tourist rides. There is a network of commuter bus boats that most Thais use at one time or another to get from one area of town to the other, there are cross river ferries, hotel boats, free transportation to mall boats, and huge yachts both private and public, many all lit up for tourist dinner cruises.

By boat it is easy to get to the pier that intersects the BTS, the Bangkok overhead train. The BTS goes many places far from the river and intersects with the MRT, the underground metro system. While the air isn’t much better because the boats all spew fumes too, it’s definitely cooler on the river than on the street. If you must leave your neighborhood in Bangkok, boats and trains are the way to best way to get around.

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Except that the trains don’t stop near Noah’s neighborhood, nor near Terran’s school. Neither are walkable. It took me 30 minutes each way in a taxi afternoon to go from Noah’s to the nearest Post Office. It’s 20 minutes to the neighborhood mall with a western style grocery store and 20 minutes to the nearest train stop. I stayed at Noah’s for 6 days. I found the local open air market, and the garden shop, but much I wanted to do out of reach. II was stymied by the traffic and transportation. I quickly figured out how to call the guards for a taxi and I usually made myself understood. It just took sooo...long to go anywhere to do anything. So I moved back to the Sheraton on the river for my last few days.

I went to Terran’s school a few times. Most if not all of the kids’ parents drive. Terran takes the school van. The school was next to a Home Pro (like Home Depot) mall (with a a Starbucks to make me happy.) At the parking garage inside the mall, the security guard can call a taxi. On Thanksgiving, I made reservations for the Sheraton‘s thanksgiving buffet dinner. I arranged to pick up Terran at school, bring him to run an errand on Silom Rd., and then to the hotel for our Holiday celebration. Noah joined us for our yummy feast at Feast. He drove, and he & Terran went home.

Picking Terran up that day required 9 different conveyances. We actually used 10! It was a 4 hour adventure in Bangkok. I’ve become so used to the street and traffic culture, that often I forget to notice how exotic the journey is! But I delight in noticing the little details of this ever so interesting SE Asian city of 12 plus million people.

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To be at school at 2:30 PM, I started out on the 1:00 PM Sheraton boat (1) to the BTS. Then I took the BTS (2) to its farthest stop, Bang Wa, and then a taxi (3) (not bad, only 10 minutes) to Home Pro by the school. I got there early, had a Thai iced tea, and met Terran at school. We went back to Home Pro to get a taxi (4)to the BTS. Took the BTS (5) to Sala Daeng on Silom, and then hopped into a Tuk Tuk (6) to take us to the shop where Terran had a fitting for some needed holiday clothes.This was his very first tailoring experience. I was having a ball!

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From there we took a taxi (7) back to the BTS, and then the BTS (8) to the Saphan Taksin stop at the river. There we got the first boat (9) in the direction of the hotel. It was the IconSiam mall boat so we made a quick stop there to see the Mickey and Minnie Mouse dressed in Thai costumes for the first time in history.
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Then we caught the hotel boat (10) for the roundabout ride back to the Sheraton. we discovered that Terran is now tall enough to reach the ceiling handles on the BTS. Wow.
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Before Thanksgiving dinner, we had time for a swim at the garden pool and Terran had a bubble bath which he loves.
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The dinner buffet was lovely. It was just the three of us, Terran, Noah and me and it was festive and very delicious.
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Noah took Terran home in his car (11). That was 10 modes of transportation for me and 8 for Terran for the afternoon. It’s a perfect example of how we navigate around Bangkok.

On Saturday, November 30, I went to Noah’s in the morning.
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In the afternoon, Terran and I took a taxi to the Marriott Sukhumvit. It took 1 & 1/2 hours to go 8 kilometers. And the taxi did not have working seatbelts in the rear. I’ve found that only about 1 out of 4 have useable seatbelts. 8 years ago, I bought a car seat for baby Terran. It was unusable as the taxis didn’t have seatbelts to strap it into. Progress is visible albeit slow.

Terran enjoyed being at the hotel and we had a lovely dinner and evening with Sumalai, Danny and baby Ben. They left for the UK the next day.
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Before heading home, we went to the ice skating rink at the mall by the Ekkamai BTS stop. Terran went ice skating and he had a helpful lesson. This is Coach Gan.
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Then, we took the BTS back to the stop 20 minutes from his house and then a taxi home. It still took about an hour but We didn’t sit in Traffic for most of the way! Noah was busy all day and evening with a volunteer project with the Thon Buri chapter of The Amarion Thai Rescue Association (he’s involved with).
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I stayed home with Terran when he went to bed I said goodbye. We had a memorable family week!
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I headed back to the Sheraton on the River for my last day in Bangkok! I’m going to the Bangkok Flower Market so be sure to stay tuned to the blog!

Posted by Nsevers 15:16 Archived in Thailand Tagged traffic bangkok family

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