21 August 2008
I take the BTS, or skytrain, to and from work daily. In fact, for most expats living in the city, it's our primary mode of transportation getting around.
The train runs pretty frequently. For my first few weeks here, I never had to wait more than three minutes. But as I start going out and about in more different times of the day, I have waited double that. Still quite nice compared to my worst wait in DC's metro- 27 minutes.
There's an odd system about how they run it. Each platform is "guarded" by a security officer whose uniform looks almost military-like, and whose main job is blowing the shrill whistle around his neck when he sees someone stepping any closer than a foot from the yellow line on the edge. I rarely see them talk, but I was surprised one evening by an off-duty officer's mumble behind me as we encountered an enormous crowd when he declared, in perfect American English "Oh MY God!"
The people queue up at the platforms. There are arrows indicating where to stand in line, usually two lines on each side of each door. And the Skytrail conductors bring the trains to a stop aligning the doors to the floor markings with very uncanny accuracy.
Depending on the time of the day, as people file in, they sometimes self-patrol and stop entering the car when it gets crowded, forcing everyone in line to wait with them for the next car. However, in the dead heat of the rush hours, that chivalry sometimes disappears. And the foreigners never honor it.
The Skytrain operates only two lines, stations marked with a N,E,S,W and number based on which direction and how many station aways you are from the system's central point. The "central point" is where the two lines interconnect, and is located by one of the biggest shopping centres in the newer part of town, Siam.
On the one interchange station between the two lines, the two platforms have only escalators between them. Thais don't walk on escalators. They just stand, even if the platform they are approach already has a train about to leave. They won't budge until their step reaches the platform, then they will break into a bolt to try to catch the train. Being stuck on the escalator is fast becoming my biggest pet peeve about the Thais.
For some of you who want to know about cost of living stuff:
My daily fare, if I take as close as door-to-door is possible: 20ThBaht/trip for work, which is an equivalent of 60cents.