Not being a real fan of public transportation, when they started building the Skytrain in Bangkok and turned Sukhumvit into a dark and dank overcrowded alleyway (as opposed to the sunny overcrowded street it once was) I wasn’t a happy camper. I changed my mind once the system was up and running. It’s a great and cheap way to get around town, convenient to most areas touri normally go.
Now I tend to select a hotel by how close to a BTS station it is. The one I stay at most often is almost next door to the Saphan Taksin station, which was once the end of the line. Now the BTS crosses the Chao Phraya which I’m sure is a boon to daily commuters who live on the far side of the river. The Saphan Taksin BTS station is also where you catch the express boats plying the Chao Phraya, so it’s a great station to call home with multiple transpo options readily available depending on where you are headed for the day.
The powers that be have announced they are going to close Saphan Taksin while a second track is laid which is budgeted to cost 670 million baht. Currently a single track runs across the river causing a bottleneck at the station. If you’ve ever taken the BTS into Saphan Taksin and had the train come to a stop and go into hibernation mode just outside of the station, that is why: it’s waiting for the train coming from the opposite direction to clear the track so it can proceed.
While Saphan Taksin is closed, plans are to build a 700 meter Skywalk system from Saphan Taksin to Surasak Station, the next closest station, complete with moving sidewalks. Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra announced the plan last week saying, “We will ensure that commuters continue to enjoy convenience. With the Skywalk and moving walkways, it will only take them five minutes to get from the Saphan Taksin Station to Surasak Station.”
I guess that all depends on how you define convenient. Whether it is escalators or moving sidewalks the Thai government tends to only install a set moving in one direction. I hope they do better with the planned Skywalk system. But I’m not holding my breath.
When the construction and closure will begin is still up in the air. Approval needs to be obtained from various governmental agencies (so lots of cash will be exchanging hands) and there is currently a minor graft problem being worked out between the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and BTSC, the current operator of the Skytrain system, with Krungthep Thanakom, the legal investment arm of the city administration, involved in the dispute too. Uh, so even more cash will be exchanging hands.
I like walking around Bangkok and devote hours to doing just that. Tacking on a five minute hike to get to and from my hotel just to catch the BTS is a different story. So it looks like I’ll be soon looking for a new hotel to call home when I’m in the Big Mango. Maybe I’ll try the Kempsky. It’d be nice to run into Beachlover on my next visit to Bangkok.
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