Here are some photos to help people visualize traffic situations in Thailand. All of these pictures were take along Pitsanulok Road heading towards Thammasat University and Ta Praatid on a Friday afternoon. I normally commute between Ratchadapisek area and Thammasat in the late afternoon. This takes roughly 45 minutes on average, but there have been occassions where it takes 2-3 hours!!
In New York the typical taxi color is black and yellow, but in Bangkok you’ll get a full range of colors from bright pink and orange to combinations of orange and green or blue and red. Taxis run 24/7 in Bangkok, although it can be hard to find an available taxi during morning and evening hours. It is especially difficult to grab a taxi when it is raining. The bright colors of Bangkok taxis make them easy to identify in the jumbled mess of Bangkok traffic.
Make sure you use metered taxis whenever possible as the taxi fare is calculated using a system of distance and/or time that is standard. However, if you do get in a taxi and the taxi driver doesn’t want to turn on the meter you can either get out and try to get another taxi or negotiate a flat fare beforehand. Metered taxis generally have the picture and license information of the driver posted in the taxi car. The license of the taxi is also posted in the taxi car in case you have difficulties with a certain taxi driver and need to make a complaint.
I love getting my car washed in Thailand. There are always so many people working on my car and it’s 100% hand wash. There’s an entire range of wash and cleaning services to choose from. You can even get your engine or undercarriage washed and upholstery shampooed. Most car washing services are located at gas stations and lots of times there are minimarts or little coffee shops where you can grab a drink or a snack while you wait for your car to be washed.
The best thing of all is the price. For 80 baht, roughly $2.50, I can get a basic wash and interior vacuum. For 300 baht, roughly $10, I can get a wash, interior vacuum and exterior buff. For a bit of extra nice treatment, I can get a wash, interior vacuum, exterior buff and wax for 600 baht, or $20. I was accustomed to paying $10 before tip for the most basic car wash in the United States, so the car wash prices in Thailand are very reasonable.
Anyone driving a motorcycle can also use the car wash services to get their ride washed and detailed.
We live in very stressful and challenging times. Many people work very hard and then play hard and it leaves little time for the recommended 8 hours of sleep. Some individuals even boast about how they function on very little sleep. These people are living on a survival basis; just trying to make it through the next work day, enjoy some more fun activities and start the whole process again the next day. City dwellers are especially prone to this cycle because they are exposed to ever changing situations and so much stimuli from morning to night.
Here are some suggestions to help increase your quality of sleep:
- Sleep between the hours of 10:30 pm and 6:30 pm for optimal sleep.
- Have a regular sleep routine. Try to go through the same steps when you get ready for sleep each night.
- Avoid grains and sugars before sleep since they increase your blood sugar levels.
- Sleep in total darkness and turn off all electronic devices in your sleeping area.
- Avoid such things as watching the news or any such stimulatory media before sleeping. Instead try to read something relaxing or spiritual or reflect on your day.
- Calm yourself or meditate to mentally prepare yourself for sleep.
- Avoid drinking large amounts of liquids a few hours before you plan to go to sleep and go to the restroom before you get in bed to reduce the chance of waking up in the middle of the night.
Take a look around most parking lots in Thailand, you’ll notice that most people park by backing their cars in. This took a little for me to get used to as the skills required for backing a car into a parking spot in a crowded parking garage is not something your typical American knows how to do. After much practice, I think I’ve grasped the basic idea, but I do struggle when I’m in a hard to maneuver situation.
Why do Thais back into their parking spots? Most people I’ve talked to say that it’s easier to drive out of the parking spot when you are parked with the front of your car facing the way you need to go. In this case, all you need to do is put your car in gear, take a look in front of you and drive away. But, if you parked with your head in first, it is difficult for you to see the cars behind you when you are pulling out to leave. This can be especially frustrating in parking garages or when other cars don’t want to stop to let you back out.
The other thing that Thais say is the benefit of backing into a parking spot is that when you find your parking spot and start backing in, you have a very clear view of the cars around you. Other drivers are aware of what you are doing and those behind you have to wait for you to finish backing in. They think that backing out of a spot is more likely to cause accidents since the driver has a much more restricted view of the cars behind him.
The Thai viewpoint on parking by backing into a parking spot is well taken and in the case of parking in Bangkok, where drivers tend to be a bit impatient, makes a lot of sense. Generally, I try to follow what other people who are parked are doing in order to keep in line with the parking norms. Parking in Thailand has definitely improved my ability to maneuver in tight places and drive in reverse. Now, if only I could fine tune my ability to parallel park.
A professor of mine made an interesting comment in his lecture about Thai banks. He made the observation that Thailand’s banks could have their own parade because each bank has it’s own distinct color. Each bank is easily identified and distinguished from other banks simply by color. A rather astute observation and helpful in situations where you are searching for your bank’s ATM machine.
Here’s the run down in no particular order:
- Bangkok Bank – Dark Blue
- Siam Commercial Bank – Purple
- Kasikorn Bank (formerly Thai Farmer Bank) – Green
- Krungthai Bank – Blue
- Bank of Ayudhya – Yellow
- Tanachart Bank – Orange
- Government Savings Bank – Pink
- Siam City Bank – Red
- Standard Chartered Bank – Blue and Green
- TMB Bank – Red and Blue
I experienced one of the most trying traffic situations this evening as I spent almost three hours sitting in my car. I was trying to go from my work in the Meng-jai area of Bangkok to Thammasat University for my Friday evening lecture. Normally, this journey across town takes around an hour or so. I usually leave a good hour and a half to get to Thammasat and a little more time to find parking in order to be in class by 6:30 pm.
Of course, I was running a little late today and the rain complicated matters. I tried to bypass traffic by taking the Ramintra Motorway to the Rama 9 Motorway and then getting off on the Yommarat exit. This tactic normally works very well and gets me through rush hour traffic with relatively few problems. But, I soon as I was within a few kilometers of the Yommarat exit, I knew something was wrong because cars were already stopped and waiting to get off.
I spent over an hour simply inching along the motorway, trying to get off at the Yommarat exit. I soon as I could see the intersection at the end of the motorway off-ramp I saw the reason for the hold up. The lefthand lanes which were head to Lan Luang were at a stand still and the majority of the cars were trying to go in that direction. I made the decision to go down Pitsanulok Road, even though I knew it was block off by the protesters a few intersections down.
Once I got past that crazy intersection and found an alternate route on Si Ayutthya Road, I arrive at Thammasat twenty minutes later without any further difficulties. I must say though that spending so much time stuck in a car can make one a little stir crazy. Traffic is one of the most frustrating things about living in Bangkok and trying to get around the city, especially in the rain.
Thais idealize Japanese, Korean and Chinese countries. Just look around your local shopping center and you’ll see all sorts of Japanese eateries. Japanese cartoons and anime are staples in every young Thai person’s childhood. Korean pop culture, TV shows and celebrities have infiltrated into Thailand and are very popular amongst young and old alike. Finally, Chinese culture is the grandfather culture to which many Thais are strongly connected to. Large parts of the Thai population still celebrate Chinese holidays and practice Chinese rituals and traditions. Many foods in Thailand are Chinese or influenced by Chinese cooking, such as dim sum and rice noodles.
In contrast to the Korean, Chinese and Japanese cultures which are highly respected by the majority of Thais, many Thais have negative viewpoints of countries closely neighboring them. Poorer countries which have struggling economies like Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar are looked down on. The culture of these countries is seen as inferior to Thai culture and not held in high regard like Korean, Chinese or Japanese cultures. Malaysia is the only country which borders Thailand that escapes these inconceived notions and is seen more as an equal to Thailand.
It’s hard to believe that in all the years that I have visited Thailand and been living here, I’ve rarely stepped foot in Thailand’s neighboring countries. My family is originally from the south of Thailand, so I have been to Malaysia’s interior and some border towns a few times. I once went to Cambodia to help a friend do a visa run and the experience was not very pleasant. I also ventured into a Myanmar border town near Three Pagoda’s Pass once for an eye opening experience.
Aside from Malaysia, I have not ventured far into any of Thailand’s neighboring countries. I think that the reason is mostly because none of my family wanted to travel in Laos, Cambodia or Myanmar. It is common for Thais to travel all over Thailand before considering travelling in any of those countries. Many people prefer to visit Hong Kong or Singapore for a short holiday and spend their time spending lots of money in modernized settings. For those with more time and more money, China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and the US are more desirable destinations.
I’ve met many foreigners who have travelled to Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia more than I have even though they’ve been in Thailand for only a few years. Perhaps farangs are more adventurous and ready to “rough it” than Thais are or perhaps they are not held back by their negative impressions of these developing countries. I hope that in the future I find a travel partner who wished to visit one of Thailand’s neighboring countries with me, but somehow I don’t think it will be one of my relatives.