South East Asia Diary 2011 – Public Transport in Bangkok

Four days in Bangkok one experienced several different modes of public transport. Each of them has its own pluses and minuses and comparisons with Mumbai are inevitable.

The concept of a “crowded” train is far different. An average local train in Mumbai will probably have three times more the number of people than the most crowded peak hour train (both BTS and MRT).

The BTS or Skytrain is of particular interest since Mumbai will soon be served by an elevated mass transit system. However one has to discount the basic nature of the Thai people – following order. They stand where it is marked; in the main connector stations where the crowd is bigger, they form queues; they don’t push around; they offer seats to the old guys and by and large the inside of the trains there is general silence (but for the loud announcements and TV screens). One has to consider the converse of all this when wondering how robust the Mumbai Monorail will turn out.

The BTS (SkyTrain) in Bangkok

The other thing that one immediately notices (and this can be generalised to any place outside India) is that there is negligible honking on the roads. The traffic jams of Bangkok are legendary but no one even whimpers with the horn. All of us in India know how much we love our car horn. One can actually hold a normal soft-toned conversation sitting at a cafe on a sidewalk.

The one form of transport that Mumbai can definitely pick up from Bangkok is the boat / ferry system. While Bangkok has a network of canals as well as the Chao Phraya river, Mumbai has the sea as well as a number of creeks linking up the suburbs. There were couple of projects that were short lived but then my guess is that they were possibly ill-planned. However, one needs to consider using low cost boats which can transport lots of people speedily. Most of Mumbai’s work areas are along waterfronts – Nariman Point, Worli, Bandra Kurla Complex, Vashi, Belapur, etc.

Bangkok has as many people as Mumbai and its geographical coverage is probably much bigger. So there is much to learn from here.

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