Traffic in Bangkok
Anyone who has been living in Thailand for only a brief spell will know that the traffic in Bangkok is world famous for it's congestion. The heat, humidity and sweltering tropical temperatures can be a real test on the senses.
It's a place were a majority of the vehicles in Thailand are registered and driven. During rush-hour the traffic jams (rot tit) stretch as far as the eye can see. The smog and traffic fumes will leave an unmasked rider sick / quesy within minutes. Asbestos lined brake pads are still used in Asia, further adding to the thick fumes. Only with a decent mask can you bike it and cut around with the daredevil taxi bikers in Bangkok. Even then you might start to feel the traffic fumes start to hit you hard after an hour or two.
The traffic lights tend to be spaced out well but can take up to 5 minutes to go from red to green. During this time whole phalanxes of bikers will line up ahead of the cars, buses and trucks while the traffic keeps on jamming up. The Bangkok police will direct traffic where they can, with most donning protective masks from the fumes they'll buzz out onto the street during the busy times to attempt to keep order amid the chaos. It's a thankless task made more tough by the blazing sun and humidity that blasts off every bright surface.
The attempts to tackle the traffic situation in Bangkok have been encouraging and improved conditions for the biker and car traveller over the years.
An elevated monorail system for passengers was put on the drawing board and given the go-ahead. It would an expensive and financially risky operation but captured the 'go get it' attitude and daring needed for combating the traffic nightmare. Popularly known as the Skytrain BTS it is considered one of Bangkoks greatest success stories in transport and infrastructure.
Adding to the transport network was the Bangkok MRT aka Bangkok Metro / Underground. This serves as a wider-reaching transport network. Where the BTS looks good and impresses the eye it only covers a small section of Bangkok. The Metro rail network however is much larger. Accessing the MRT is a slightly slower than the BTS but it does get you around greater Bangkok beyond the Skytrains range of operations. For bikers the MRT is an added bonus for free-parking up on the fringe stations and going deeper into the city without the traffic hassle. Parking is free at the MRT and there are transfer points so you switch between the BTS and MRT at certain locations.
As bikers we have a good edge over car drivers. Wending between the lanes, buzzing up through hundreds of cars clogged back from the lights it's gives you that bit more pleasure out of city riding. The risk/reward matrix is a bit skewed though with the smog factor and the aggressive nature of bangkokian drivers. Finding your bearings can be hazardous in certain areas, notably the expressway exits / entrances. It can be all too easy to follow traffic flow and end up with the highway police bikers fining you 200 baht or so and turning you around to return to the mayhem below.
Some nice 'Thai' style things you'll see in Bangkoks thoroughfares. Like this weather indication at Panthip.
Keep hydrated and on the move where possible, a bit of wind rush is a good tonic after being stuck in traffic for minutes at a time.
Did we mention you'd need a good charcoal-lined mask on?
Remember, when it's hot outside, keep your cool inside!
On The Road Thailand (OTRT) is the standalone information gateway to Bangkok. Unlike many websites which blatantly over-hype destinations we independently review many of Bangkok's attractions and night life so that you the guest are given a unbiased balanced opinion of a venue.