There are several things about Bangkok I marvel at regularly - the ability of taxi drivers to take you somewhere 2 minutes ago they appeared not to have heard of, the fact that Thai people never seem to shout (seriously never so much as a cross word) and the way that in this slightly polluted city they have the most amazing subway and sky train. Admittedly both are on the small side, but you can always hope they get extended. The subway (MRT) has a rather clinical feel about it, you are politely reminded every 5 minutes not to eat or drink in the stations or on the trains. This leads to the tidiest trains and stations you will ever come across. So clean that someone cleared away the bench, you have to stand. There is only one route for the subway, from Hua Lamphong (the main railway station) to Bang Sue (if you have a 12 year olds sense of humour you'll see why I chuckle to myself). It is very clever, there is no turn around they simply swap lines before the last station. This ensures that you always leave from the same side. All the stations have about 4 exits, which the first time you arrive there is always a journey in itself, get the wrong entrance and you could find yourself trying to cross a road that resembles the M25 at rush hour. Yes there are green men over the crossings, but the cars don't pay attention to them, they are just an indication that it is time to dice with death. The Sky train (BTS) has 2 routes and covers the downtown area and is normally the place I see the most Farangs (westerners). It covers the areas of Silom, Siam and Sukhumvit; these cover the main shopping malls and a lot of bars. On the BTS you get a good view of the city and there are plenty of little stalls selling snacks, handy as I always seem to get over there at lunch or dinner time. Despite the fact they let you eat and drink you still never see anyone doing it and again the station are nearly immaculate. They do however have the weirdest adverts; today I noticed one for whitening lotion. You know how you buy Johnson's holiday sun moisturiser; well over here Johnson's are selling a product that apparently will make you whiter. It's a true sign of giving the customers what they want; I have put a photo in Bangkok album to prove it. Over here, as in many countries in this region, it is not good to have a tan, it shows you must be poor and have to work in the fields or outside. All I can say is they must think Westerners are very poor; I was just thinking how I had finally got a bit of colour. The best bit about both the BTS and the MRT is the price, from my stop (Thai cultural Centre) to the BTS connect station is a whole 20 baht. I spent some time thinking how all this use of the tube was expensive, until I realised I am paying about 33p to travel the equivalent of Marylebone to Waterloo (Bakerloo line for those not used to the underground in our fair capital). Even better I save 3-4p as I purchased top up cards for both. A bit like the Oyster card (sorry another London thing), it does charge you for every journey, but it saves having to queue at the machine and you look like a local as you swipe through. The only problem with the card is that I now don't have a regular supplier of 10 baht pieces. I need them to work the washing machine in the condo and the ticket machine only gives change in 10 baht pieces, so now I have to grab them where I can and even plan the shopping around making sure I get one. That made me sound like an addict, well when I'm scrounging of others I probably look like one as well.
I need to add something about the ticket barriers, they are vicious, see the photo, they are two red cheese shaped things. They fool you into thinking you have all the time in the world to pass through, but as Louisa and Maggie have discovered pass through too slowly and you can be wedged and held in a cheese sandwich. Ouch!