Traffic in Bangkok is crazy and constant. 8.4 million people live in Bangkok and that does not include commuters or the constant stream of travelers visiting the hub of Southeast Asia. It is said that on any given day, 10 million people occupy Bangkok. The city is huge and it can literally take hours to get across town if traffic is heavy
I had to attend agency training in the city and afterwards I tried to hail a cab to my hotel but failed miserably. The hailing part was fine, it was getting a cab driver to understand and agree to take me that was a problem. A large majority of taxi drivers in Bangkok can not read or write Thai. So even though I was prepared with a card listing my hotels name and address in Thai, the driver may not even be able to read it. I also memorized short Thai translations of the general location, but I could not get a driver to take me. I am not sure if my failure was due to the driver not understanding, not knowing where the hotel is, or simply not wanting to take me because it was too far. My hotel was clear across town and in current traffic would have taken an hour.
When choosing a hotel in Bangkok, I highly recommend staying off a main road or near a landmark that is easy to explain to a taxi driver. The city is so big that most of them don't know or can't find a lot of hotels. I've had this problem every time I've been to Bangkok. Bangkok is comprised of a myriad of Sois, or alleyways, which makes it difficult to find things. If you can, use the BTS, buses, or sky train. To Bangkok's credit, the public transportation system is wonderful. To me, it feels very reminiscent of Tokyo, very efficient.
On this particular day I was no where near a sky train or BTS stop. I was stuck. After 5 cab drivers refused to take me I had no choice but to ask the motorbike taxi across the street. Motorbike taxis are very popular with Thai people as a cheap and fast way to get around. I typically have no qualms with riding one, but trusting my life to the driver while riding across town during mid day traffic in one of the busiest cities in the world is another story. However, the driver knew the hotel and motioned me to hop on. No helmet was offered. What else could I do? I had no choice but to saddle up and ride.
Thai women perch elegantly on the back of bikes, with their arms full of babies or shopping bags, using some innate ability to balance. I realize in comparison I must look like a harlot. There I am with my skirt pulled up, legs wrapped around the driver, holding on for dear life while trying to keep my skirt from completely flying up in the breeze. I wish I wore pants, or full coverage underwear. Oh well, shame is a small price to pay for safety. If I sat side saddle with my lack of coordination I'd fly off that thing so fast. It would be a death sentence.
It gets hectic at the very first intersection, but my driver is quick and determined and with in a few minutes I begin to relax. He seems to be in control....enough. I try not to watch the road as he weaves in and out of traffic. There are times we hug the curb, trudge onto the sidewalk, ride on the other side of the street, run red lights, and cut off a monster truck. Just as I start to relax, we veer onto the on ramp for the highway. It looks like a parking lot and we weave down the middle and from shoulder to shoulder all while avoiding other motorbikes and praying that cars don't make a sudden lane change. 20 minutes later I arrive safety at my hotel. The same ride in a cab would have taken at least double that. I feel full of adrenaline and want to do it again. If you are looking for a rush, taking a motorbike taxi across the city is a great way to do it. I call it real life Frogger. Enjoy!