Having lived in Bangkok for more than a couple of years, I realised that the daily commute can be considered one of the most interesting times of the day. You might not be convinced, but the daily hustle and bustle in the Land of Smiles does make for an enjoyable experience. Yes, it is not the cleanest and safest city, but you do get to indulge in a vast array of experiences, especially if you keep your eyes glued on the daily lives of locals and their commuting habits.
It took me quite a while to understand the road system here, and how there is order in chaos almost every second, regardless of which “soi” (avenue) you walk through. There can be motorcycle taxis going against direction, snaking through pavements and making u-turns within a seemingly impossible radius. More fascinating is the fact that passengers know exactly what their next move will be – they will wait patiently to get picked up for a THB10 / 3-minute commute back home, or to the nearest BTS.
Let’s not forget the occasional luxury cars that are priced exorbitantly when compared to locally-produced cars, due to import taxes that are easily more than 300 per cent. Yes, they are not as costly when compared to Singapore cars, when you do feel the “pinch” for them when compared to the regular Thai-assembled Honda Jazz and Toyota Camry. These make fully-imported examples all the more special – an experience that we often take for granted given that all vehicles are imported in Singapore. It is this aspect of the pricing system that makes luxury cars stand out, commanding such a significant presence on busy Bangkok streets.
But we do get to benefit from off-beat examples too – samples that we will never see getting approved by the authorities back home! You can easily identify a Toyota Vios with a straight-through exhaust, weaving its way unapologetically through traffic, or a “slammed” truck parked at the basement of a neighbourhood shopping mall for days, making you wonder if it is waiting for a flood to make rapid progress! Speaking of floods, the rainy season in Bangkok is certainly something that we cannot take lightly. Flood levels can rise dramatically due to the poor drainage system, sometimes even high enough to stall pickup trucks, let alone regular family haulers. It’s an experience in itself, and I do salute the locals for braving the floods for at least a couple of months a year!
Another point of worthy mention will be the tuk-tuks that we are all familiar with. Amongst all the noise delivered by trucks with faulty exhaust, buses with mistimed gear ratios and trucks with screeching brakes, I have to admit that the VTEC-like snarl (you heard right!) of the tuk tuks does sound pretty exhilarating. The high-revving motor sounds even better when fully loaded with six passengers, both arms filled with groceries. At first glance, I assumed that this sensation can only be felt by those who swapped their setup for milo-tin, Apexi-style mufflers, but even those with “OEM” builds do carry a sense of occasion with every surge of the throttle!
I’ve selected a range of images that I feel best represent how different Bangkok roads can behave, regardless of weather, time and traffic condition. This, I believe, is one of the subconscious reasons tourists keep coming back!