It seems that the webmaster has been really stealing the show over the past few days with a mouth-watering lowdown on the nation’s munchable treats, leaving the likes of myself to serve up and write about another one of Thailand’s greatest glories and that is the unforgettable…… Bangkok Bus.
Arriving in Thailand via Don Muang Airport for the very first time, there are stacks-a visual sensations to send ones receptive senses into orbit. Welcome to Thailand! Just walking out from ‘Arrival’ you may be greeted by scores of menacing looking taxi drivers asking to the likes of ‘Hey you, where you go?’ and before you have even had the time to look out the window at the sight of the smog, you’ll be on the receiving end of a handful of brochures advertising ‘Tricky Thailand Tours,’ ‘Rajeesh’s Finest Tailors’ and if you are a single man, a colourful series of rather naughty looking brochures advising you to get a ‘oily-massage bath-tub- special’.
There are a whole series of visual wonders for the newly arrived visitor riding into the town center. He may be flattered by the size of the capital’s awesome shopping malls, the impressive skills of the Bkk motorbike driver as he weaves in and out of traffic congestion scratching every car door on the way, or even the saucy sight of the Bkk University student in her 6 inch high heels, 4 inch long skirt and a top so short you can see her belly-button popping out. But perhaps…..there is no sight so awesome as the….. ‘Little Green Bangkok Bus’.
Now, perhaps it’s part of Thai culture to live 27 family members under one roof, that fitting a 100 passengers on a 15 foot-long bus is completely the norm. As for the foreign tourist who has even dared to venture on to such a flimsy auto-mobile he can be witnessed grabbing-on for life-sake, wobbling back and forth like a telly-tubby and accidentally fouling the air with the not to fresh odour of his newly-arrived hairy arm-pits. Even though most of the passengers on the bus are already half suffocated and squeezed in like sardines with a standing space of 5 squared inches – the ever-wise Bangkok Bus Conductress can be still be viewed flapping her arms like a delinquent-duck and yelling to the passengers at the the top of her voice “Friggin’ move up and stop wasting space, more folks are needing to get on at the next darned stop!”.
Now there are two types of species which collect the fares on Bangkok’s baddest buses. The less common one is the male version. Besides actually working, he enjoys passing his working hours by: sitting at the front window pointing out to the driver the sordid sight of anything in a skirt, smoking out the window, cursing at the driving abilities of fellow motorists and laughing at elderly Farang tourists trying to cross at a zebra-crossing. Then for some strange reason, the male version loves nothing more than acting like a lunatic and hanging out the doorless door with an arm and a leg outstretched in mid-air.
Then of course, there is the ever-common female version. Usually weighing more than the actual bus itself, she enjoys passing her time excitedly waving her baton up and down rattling the money inside and shrieking at all the passengers to “Get out your fare money… and make it snappy’. When stuck at a red light she loves nothing more than meticulously counting, carefully folding and stuffing all the 20 baht notes she has collected into her shirt pocket. She looks so proud of the fare money she has begotten; you would imagine she was the actual owner. On other occasions she often takes the upmost pleasure in bringing along her children just for the fun of it. Completely indifferent to the sweated out, suffocated passengers who are constantly gagging for breath and a bitta air, let alone a seat – the conductress has her 3 sons slept out on the bus’ front rows with stacks of her own big bags of morning vegetables plonked on what ought to be….. ‘seats for the passengers’.
Next, we have the Bangkok Bus Driver! This not so endangered species loves nothing more than speeding off at the red lights racing against another driver of the same number bus, and bus company. If you thought they looked as they were competing for something from the look of their whirlwind antics, then the answer is – ‘Yes they are’. Whichever driver shoots around the Bangkok circuit picking up the most passengers in one day, does in fact earn the most commission money. The baton shaking cheerleader bus conductress also gets her fair share, and so that’s the reason she attempts to stuff as many folks on to her bus as is mathematically possible.
Other strategies Thailand’s bus drivers use in taking on the most passengers in one day includes holding the bus up at the bus stop for as long as possible before a hot-headed traffic policeman comes strutting up to the front of the bus shaking his fist violently at the driver and raving at the top of his voice ‘Shift it monkey, you’re violating the traffic law!’ In fact, most of the nation’s bus drivers have little, if any respect for the law whatsoever and spend half the day committing as many road violations that they can possibly get away with. When getting fined just the once, they can be heard at the front of the bus roaring and ranting about the “Darned traffic police, have no sympathy for anyone but theirselves!’
So, for any of you folks out there wishing to experience for yourselves a surreal super-duper ride on Bangkok’s most eccentric and rather volatile mode of transport, here are a few words of advice:
1. On seeing your bus of choice approaching the bus stop, it is highly recommened to sprint towards the entrance even if the darned thing is still moving. When the bus finally does come to a stand-still, do as the locals do, and barge your way on to it even if the descending passengers haven’t even got off yet.
2. Whatever you do, do not bother queuing-up! This is Thailand, and even though a Thai may have the patience to wait 2 years to kiss their girlfriend for the first time, having to wait-in-line for a time-span of 5 seconds is a…. horrendous ordeal …. beyond even contemplating about!
3. Next, riding a Bangkok Bus successfully also depends on a certain amount of skillsmanship and this factor deals with both getting a seat and securing it. The buses are usually pilchard-packed-out with folks fighting for the occasional seat, so you will have to place yourself strategically. Then attempt to gain the most personal standing space possible by continously thrusting your arms around and looked real-pished – also aim your standing positon in the direction of at least 2 possible passengers who look as if they’ll be getting off soon. Should you be on the receiving end of any distasteful looks from any other standers, just give them one of them “You don’t wanna mess with a frivolous foreigner” looks.
4. Should this fail and after an hour or so you are still standing, you are advised to go for dirty tactics and these include: intentionally swaying and kneeing the seated passenger every time the bus turns a bend, turning your back to the passenger-seated with your rear-behind poking in their face or putting on one of those “I’m gonna seriously…..vomit” expressions. Good chances are, the seated passenger will get so intimidated by such pathetic behaviour that he or she will soon be dashing off at the nearest stop.
5. On successfully acquiring a seat, you’ll be wanting to keep it regardless if any elderly person, three year-old kid or pregnant mother gets on to the bus. I sincerely advise you to….. do as the locals do – when spotting a possible threat ascending the bus and needing a seat – just pretend you are fast asleep and completely oblivious to their presence.