Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

Hard to Read – Thai Numerals

January 8, 2010

Along with having its own alphabet that’s used for the national language Thailand also has its own symbols for numeric digits. They are not used much in normal communication or commerce – the Western system is much more common.

Here are the digits from zero to nine:

0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9

Note the tiny difference between the “4” and the “5”.

I’ve found two major uses for the Thai numerals:

  1. Price lists where the business owner wants to conceal that Westerners pay a different (invariably higher) price from Thai people.
  2. The registration (licence) plates for military vehicles.

Here’s an example of (1):

Dual Pricing at Pangsida National Park

Dual Pricing at Pangsida National Park

This the sign at the entrance to Pang Sida National Park in Sa Kaeo Province. Thai adults pay 40 Baht to enter the park, children pay 20 Baht. Foreign adults pay 200 Baht and children 100 Baht.

And an example of (2):

Thai Military Police Toyota Camry

Thai Military Police Toyota Camry

The registration is “2335” :  ‘๒๓๓๕’ in Thai numerals.

In both cases the main reason seems to be obscurity rather than tradition.

See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thai_numerals.

Bangkok Flooded – Again!

January 6, 2010

Bangkok Rainy Afternoon from the Apartment

If it’s any consolation to the Europeans and North Americans freezing in snow and ice – we had a rain storm in Bangkok this afternoon. It poured like it was monsoon season. All the sois around my apartment are flooded and I can’t go and buy groceries until the water goes down. The storm drains in this neighbourhood cannot keep up and they’ve become clogged with stuff in the cool, dry season.

See also https://bkkphotographer.wordpress.com/2009/09/12/deluge-in-bangkok-city-flooded/

Everytrail to Pattaya

January 6, 2010

I made an Everytrail version of my railway journey from Bangkok to Pattaya on New Year’s Day.

You can view the trip at http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=458559. I also embedded a slide show on my Google Pages site at http://sites.google.com/site/thebkkphotographer/home/by-train-to-pattaya. It’s below the PicasaWeb slideshow.

I stopped using Everytrail because it does not import my pictures from Picasa Web Albums as it says it is doing. It links to them. That means as I delete old albums to make way for new ones my Everytrail trips lose their pictures.

EveryTrail Import Selected=

EveryTrail Import Selected Photos

I won’t delete this album from Picasa Web.

Everytrail has improved its user interface since I last used it. I think it is a great idea. I think it is hard for them to make money other than with Google ads. Maybe the business plan is for somebody to buy them.

EveryTrail Pattaya Trip

EveryTrail Pattaya Trip

By Train to Pattaya

January 4, 2010

SRT LogoI woke up early on New Year’s Day morning. I had nothing to do and I remembered that there is one train a day from Bangkok to the beach resort of Pattaya (พัทยา). On the spur of the moment I decided to take a day trip to the seaside.

The State Railway of Thailand (SRT) posts timetables for most, but not all, of their services on the web. Here is the timetable for the Eastern Line.

Eastern Line Timetable

Eastern Line Timetable

Ordinary train #283 leaves Hua Lamphong Station at 6:55am (Monday to Friday only). But I did not need to take the Subway all the way to Hua Lamphong. The Eastern Line passes quite close to my apartment as it travels along Phetchaburi Road. It’s the corridor used by the new elevated Airport Express trains.

The train gets to Asoke Station at 7:22am. It was easy to take the Subway two stops to Phetchaburi Station and walk a short distance to the station. Note that the trains stop on the eastern side of Asok-Montri Road after they have crossed it.

In contrast with the modern Airport Express Station above Asoke is a tiny halt. There’s a simple concrete platform next to the single track and a hut for the level crossing operator. Even though Asok-Montri Road is a major thoroughfare the level crossing gate is a simple wheeled affair that the staff push across the road – dodging the cars and motorcycles that try to get by them.

I checked with the level crossing operator and he confirmed that the train to Pattaya was running on New Year’s Day. “Ka-pom!” – so I was fine.

Asoke Station

Asoke Station. The Airport Express line is on the right.

Thai trains “always” run behind schedule and my train was five minutes late even this short distance from its starting point. I do not know why SRT do not update their timetables to be closer to reality. I hoped that the train would be quiet on a holiday and so it was.

Pattaya Train Entering Asoke Station

Pattaya Train Entering Asoke Station

I had my choice of seats in a 10-carriage train drawn by a 1980s vintage Alstholm diesel locomotive. Unfortunately there were some men in the first carriage I chose who were already drunk on Chang beer – that at 7 o’clock in the morning. Maybe they’d been up all night partying. I quietly left them to their party and went to a quiet carriage.

Progress is slow through the eastern suburbs of Bangkok. It passes the newly built Airport Express depot. I saw some of their new rolling stock parked outside. It will be some months before they are in daily use.

Airport Express City Line Train at the Depot

Airport Express City Line Train at the Depot

Like main ordinary trains this one was free for Thai people. Foreigners have to pay the normal fare. The fare to Pattaya was 33 Baht – about US$1. I paid the conductor and he gave me some small blue coupons as a ticket. By contrast the express bus costs 113 Baht (US$3.33).

I didn’t have any breakfast, but I didn’t have to worry. A group of vendors boarded the train at Khlong Tan Station. They had baskets of goodies for sale. I chose fried rice with a fried egg on top plus a bottle of water. That cost me 30 baht (less than  US$1).

My Breakfast on New Year's Day

The vendors walk up and down the train all the time shouting for customers. That can be annoying if you’re trying to sleep but it all adds to the local colour. I did wonder how they are organized and whom they have to pay to have the right to sell food on a particular train.

Many more passengers joined the train and by Hua Mark Station it was full. I shared my seats with a Thai family on their way to Chachoengsao.

Once we got outside the city the train speeded up and it got to Chachoengsao on time. For the rest of the journey I had a lot of space. I kept on switching seats in an attempt to photograph each station.

The carriages were second-hand Japan Railways stock. They used to be air-conditioned but the SRT disabled the units and installed fans. The doors and windows were open all the time.

Third Class Carriage Interior

Third Class Carriage Interior. Note the ceiling fans, the open windows and the unused air-conditioning

The SRT are upgrading the Eastern Line to double track. This is mainly to speed freight (goods) traffic to and from the port of Leam Chabang.

Double Tracking on the Eastern Line

Double Tracking on the Eastern Line

The train stopped at many small stations that are not listed on the English timetable. It was good to get out of Bangkok into the country again. Because everything was open my Nikon Coolpix P6000 kept its GPS connection for the whole journey. Thus all my pictures were geocoded by the camera. The train was slow enough that the positions were quite accurate.

Don Si Non Station

Don Si Non Station

The train fell behind schedule as it crossed from Chachoengsao Province into Chonburi Province but we arrived in Pattaya only 13 minutes late at 10:48am. That’s very good for the trip.

Most of the remaining passengers disembarked at Pattaya. The train continues to a place called Ban Plu Ta Luang. As I said, it is the only train of the day. It returns to Bangkok, passing through Pattaya at 14:21 (according to the timetable). That was too early for my day trip. I took the express bus back to Bangkok. In contrast to the 3:30 train ride the bus takes at most two hours and is often quicker than that.

Pattaya Station

Pattaya Station

That’s typical for developing countries where the train is slow but inexpensive. The Bangkok – Pattaya roads are so congested there is a great opportunity to upgrade the railways and provide a true alternative that gets many diesel buses and maybe some cars off the road.

I paused on the to take some photos. That was a mistake. Public transport in Pattaya relies on songtheaw. They are small pick-up trucks (mostly Isuzu DMax and Toyota Hilux Vigo) with two rows of seats under a metal canopy. (The Thai name means “two rows”). They take about 12 passengers at a squeeze. Only one songtheaw met the train and that quickly filled with passengers and departed.

The only songtheaw to town

The only songtheaw to town

I waited around but people shrugged when I asked if another songtheaw would come. I should have pushed my way aboard.

So I had to walk into town. The station is about one kilometre from the main road. Fortunately there was a local map on the wall of the station. I memorized the route and walked all the way to Sukhumvit Road. There I was able to get a songtheaw to Beach Road and the sea.

Fortunately it was not too hot and I found a “108 Shop” on the way to get some water. It was a lesson learned – I shouldn’t have hung around the station being a train-spotter and should have pushed my way onto the songtheaw.

I posted a selection of photos to Picasa Web Albums here with a slideshow at http://sites.google.com/site/thebkkphotographer/home/by-train-to-pattaya.

Here’s a map of the Thai railway network:

Thai Railway Network

Haze, Low Clouds, Pollution?

December 26, 2009

I shouldn’t be so complacent about the good cool-season weather we are experiencing in Bangkok while my European and North American friends are freezing. This is the view from the apartment about 10am on Boxing Day morning.
Haze, Mist, Pollution?
I don’t know if it is just mist or pollution but it isn’t very attractive. The atmosphere feels heavier than it did a day ago.

Nevertheless I prefer this to freezing temperatures and snow.

Remember This Information

December 26, 2009
Bangkok Taxi Driver ID

Bangkok Taxi Driver ID

All licensed Bangkok taxis require the driver to post an identity card like this on the dashboard. It also shows the toll-free number of the Passenger Protection Centre – 1584.

It’s a good idea to remember (or take a picture of) this information in case of problems. If the driver sees you note it so much the better – he or she (yes there are a few women driving taxis in Bangkok but I estimate less than 1%) may decide it is not worth scamming you.

Most taxi drivers are honest but the few bad apples affect passengers’ perception negatively. See this post on the realities of taxis in Bangkok.

I Confess

December 23, 2009

To a self-satisfied grin when I saw this headline on the British Daily Mail newspaper on sale on Sukhumvit Road yesterday.

Why Can't We Cope in the Snow?
“Why Can’t We Cope in the Snow?” indeed! I remember trudging in the snow to school, college, shopping and work when I lived in England. Trains stuck in the snow, road accidents, tripping and falling. It was all part of life every winter, and it still is. Every day I read of chaos on Eurostar and heavy storms on the East Coast of North America.

But here in Thailand there are lots of inconveniences and annoyances, but in the cool season the weather is perfect for me.

I’ve noticed many foreign tourists in Bangkok this year. Christmas week should be one of the best weeks of the season. I think tourists have forgotten about last year’s political chaos in Thailand and the closing of Bangkok’s airports. They’re coming for a warm holiday in the sun. At last Thailand is delivering.

Camellias on a Grid

December 22, 2009
Camelias on a Grid

Camellia

Here’s another find from my ancient Flickr history that I’d completely forgotten.

I used to live in Santa Clara, California. It’s a small city about 70km south of San Francisco. It is famous for a few things including having an excellent private university.

The Camellia Society of Santa Clara County holds a show the city every February. I attended the show on February 2006 and afterwards exercised my budding Lightroom skills to create this grid of 24 examples. I still like it although I don’t know what I was thinking to create the grid in that green. Light grey would have been better.

You don’t see camellias in Thailand so this bought back some memories.

If you are interested the 2010 show will be held at the Community Recreation Center, 969 Kiely Boulevard, Santa Clara on February 20th and 21st. I am sure it’s free for visitors.

Here’s a link to the American Camellia Society web site: http://www.camellias-acs.com/. It has a lot of good photography of some very beautiful flowers.

Camellia Society of Santa Clara Count

Bangkok Subway Extended Hours

December 22, 2009
Extended Operating Hours

Extended Operating Hours

The Bangkok Subway will run until 2am on New Year’s Day 2010. That’s good news: the trains usually stop just before midnight.

They’ve just started posting signs like this on the trains and in the stations.

A Trip to the River

December 21, 2009

I got up too late to go to the seaside on Sunday. I did the next best thing and took the Skytrain to the river. The Chao Phraya River runs through Bangkok and is the coolest place to be on a hot day. Today wasn’t especially hot but the river breezes were still welcome.

I took the best river bargain available – a 3 Baht (about ten US cents) passenger ferry ride from Central Pier (Saphan Taksin Skytrain Station) to Thonburi side. I got great views of the river and the hi-so hotels on both sides. I’d forgotten how big the Shangri-La Hotel is.

The light was fading when I came back on the ferry. I was going to walk back over the bridge but I was lazy. I got this shot of one of the Chao Phraya River Express boats docking at the pier next to ours. My little Nikon Coolpix P6000 did a nice job and I think it is good example of “filling the frame”.

Chao Phraya River Ferry
I like the warm tones.