Bangkok Transit more than just a commuter mover
December 1999 saw one of the most important innovations in the history of Bangkok take place when the Bangkok Transit System (BTS) opened for business. Since then, according to its website, there have been more than 1.9 billion passengers who have utilised its services to get around a relatively restricted but nonetheless key area of the capital.
In the early years, the BTS, or Skytrain as it was more universally known, began at On Nut in the eastern side of the city and went as far as Morchit in the north, National Stadium to the west and Saphan Thaksin, right on the Chao Phraya River, in the south-west.
Nowadays it crosses the river into the Thonburi side and, over in the east, begins at Bearing.
In the early days it was viewed as being an expensive mode of transport for the average Thai, and even today it’s not especially cheap. Yet it is extremely convenient and in peak times it can be almost impossible to get on board.
Over succeeding issues we will cover the various stops on the BTS, because even though readers may be residents of Bangkok, it’s almost certain many of you have rarely taken time out to check out the surroundings between the various stops. After all, most residents of major cities across the world rarely do much exploration of their backyard environments.
The BTS was followed a few years later by the opening of Bangkok’s underground rail network (MRT) and this was linked to a few key BTS stations to give commuters even greater access to large areas of the city. For example, it used to be that National Stadium BTS was the closest to Hualamphong Railway Station, and ‘close’ meant a 45-minute walk should one be so inclined. The MRT means a commuter can go from, say, Ekkamai BTS to the Asok interchange station and walk down to take the MRT direct to Hualamphong Railway Station.
Equally, the link to Suvarnabhumi International Airport means simply taking the BTS to Phya Thai station and then going upstairs and taking the link train to Suvarnabhumi.
With Bangkok’s traffic varying between a nightmare at the worst of times and an incredibly difficult inconvenience for the remainder, for the person who is able to travel fairly light, the BTS and MRT are perfect. Even if your destination is not on the BTS or MRT routes, the chances are that you can get yourself to within ‘striking’ distance of your intended destination and simply hail a taxi for the rest of the journey.
We’ll begin next issue by starting at one end of the BTS line and work through until we’ve covered the lot, all in air-conditioned, above-the-ground comfort.