Readers' Submissions

Delightful Bangkok – By Underground To Miss Puy



7.40 p.m. already! I quickly need a ticket for the underground train to reach my 8 p.m. date with Miss Puy on Silom. From Soi Asoke, it is easiest to go to Silom road by the all new underground train: because on the skytrain you would have to change trains, and a taxi would take hours. For Miss Puy, I don't want to be late one minute.

It is my very first time on the underground train. I don't want to waste time experimenting with the ticket vending machine; I hope there will be a real person, a real English speaking person I mean, selling tickets. And yes: There is a real person selling tickets – with a queue of 20 or 30 hopeful commuters waiting to be serviced.

But I am so lucky: Just only ten or 15 people line up in front of the ticket machines, a mix of Farangs and Thais. I line up for the machine, too.

I remember my destinations: From Windsor Hotel on Sukhumvit soi 20, I walked to soi 21 aka Soi Asoke. The skytrain station there is called "Asoke", while the underground station on the same junction runs as "Sukhumvit". I want to go to the northern end of Silom road; the skytrain station there is called "Sala Daeng", while the underground station on the same junction runs as "Silom". This is confusing enough, but it does explain why you can't buy combined skytrain-underground-tickets: Where stations on the same spot have differing names, you can't issue combined tickets, I figure. I bet that the bus stations on these spots have even other names again.

At the ticket automat, I stand in line for ten minutes. I missed at least one train by waiting here. Will Miss Puy be angry with me being late? Then I have reached the touch-screen – and see Thai writing only! Hell, can that be, the monitor shows just Thai script. I can't find any hint where to switch for English. Can that be?

Welcome to the machine: The monitor graphically displays the train's course through Bangkok, and you can touch your destination to pay the right amount of money. Now from the curves and the number of stops I almost figure where to touch for "Silom" station. But who knows for sure? Behind me is a uniformed Thai school boy with IPod-cables dangling from his oversized earlobes. "Please, sorry, sorry", I beg extra-loud, entertaining a whole line of bored hopeful underground travellers behind us, "sorryyy, please show me the Silom stop". – "Oh, Silom", the teenie says with a cool grin from under his headphones and presses the appropriate pixels on the screen.

"Ah, khop khun maak khrap, my saviour!" With a plastic token I rush to the entrance gate. At the gate, I want to squeeze the coin into a slot, but there is no slot. I stand around like a dummie looking for a slot which is not there and seemingly would not materialize at short notice. Again a Thai comes to help me; the lady explains: "Just touch with token here." I only have to hold the token against a steel panel, and the gate opens for me.

"Ah, khop khun maak khrap", I smile to her, finally through the gate, rushing to the platform, slightly regretting that she goes a different way. Maybe I missed one more train by swinging the token around the unreceiving machine. Will Puy be angry with me being late – a farang unable to use the underground?

There is the escalator. I want to rush down, but Thais block the stairs: They rest two by two on the steps and don't walk one centimeter, but wait patiently to be ferried down on their human beings conveyor belt, like cattle in a slaughterhouse. I stand behind a firm khun-Thai-block, fuming, and cannot proceed down to the train I hear there, stopping and departing; the Thais don't try at all to make it to that one.

8.20 p.m. Finally I reach our meeting point, McDonald's at Robinson's on Silom. No Miss Puy. Maybe she left angry, assuming I never show up, just another farang playing games? I couldn't call Puy from the train, no signal there, but now I dial her with my hand phone:

I hear a thundering noise in the line. "Puy? Puy?? Where are you now?" – "Ah, sorry, I on the bus to meet you, but start too late, sorry, I still on Ladphrao." – On Ladphrao??? Doesn't Ladphrao have an underground station now, I wonder? But maybe she has her reasons not to use the tube?

"On Ladphrao??? How long you need to Silom?" – "Ah, sorry, maybe one-and-half hours." – "One-and-half hours???" – "Yes, sorry, I start too late. Sorry, I think I go back home know, too late to meet you today."

Stickman's thoughts:

Ahhh, the old "nud Thai" rearing its ugly head.