A one hour flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok got us to the capital city in the late morning and we wasted no time in exploring. After getting settled in our hotel and grabbing a quick lunch, we set off to explore our hotel’s neighborhood of Sukhumivit – known to be a popular area for expats and teeming with shopping malls, hotels, and restaurants.
We chose this particular area and hotel due to its proximity to both the Skytrain and subway system. Accustomed to the intricate maze of public transportation in NYC, I figured Mr. S and I would easily take to Bangkok’s more modern Skytrain and subways. And we did. Eventually. Once we figured out how to pay.
To purchase tickets for the Skytrain, one must know which stop they are heading to. That was easy enough, so Mr. S and I queued up for the ticket machine. “Notes and coins” it said. Good, because we had no coins. Not good, because the machine kept spitting out our 100 baht bill. We decided perhaps it would be better to wait in the line for the man behind the window. When it was our turn, we played a short game of charades to indicate that we’d like two tickets to our destination. We knew our fare would be a total of 84 baht so we handed the smiling man our 100 baht bill and he returned to us a handful of coins, which we assumed was our change of 16 baht. We didn’t get tickets, but we presumed that since we paid the man directly, we could just enter through the side handicap gate attached to his little window. So off we went, boarded the train, arrived at our destination, got off the train, and then…couldn’t exit the train station. We looked to others around us for a clue and everyone had a ticket to put into the turnstile which would then open. But we had no tickets. We weren’t given tickets. A very polite officer saw our confused faces, smiled at us, then wordlessly escorted us to the station’s window. Again, the game of charades, except this time we didn’t know how to mime “We paid already but we didn’t get tickets.” In her broken English (and always, everyone, with a kind smile), the attendant said, “You pay now.”
“No, no we paid already. We paid 100 baht and got change back, but no tickets,” I protested. After fruitless miming and hand signals, I decided to pull out the coins we received as evidence of my claim. Mr. S says he figured it out before I did…but I didn’t realize our faux pas until I saw that it required both of my hands to hold all the change I pulled from my wallet… The first man in the window didn’t give us 16 baht in change. He gave us 100 baht in coins so we could go back to the “Coins only” machine. Ohhhhhh….. “Ok, yes, we pay now.”
The second time we had to take the Skytrain, Mr. S and I were ready. Again, we had no coins (the “Notes and coins” machine was broken and just the “Coins only” machines were available). We tagged teamed to cut down on our wait time so I stood on the machine line while Mr. S lined up at the window to get change. We thought we were so smart, so Bangkok Skytrain savvy until Mr. S returned to me from the window with two tickets and 16 baht in change in his hands. We’ll never know the secret to Skytrain success, but the moral of the story is to always have a ticket and always count your change.
So the Skytrain took us to the meeting spot of our first activity in Bangkok – a guided night tuk tuk tour, visiting some of the city’s landmarks via the infamous motorcycle tuk tuk. Stops included Klong San night market (to sample some street food), Wat Prayoon (where we got a glimpse of some monks in training), the Giant Swing, Wat Pho’s grounds, the 24 hour flower market, dinner at a local Pad Thai restaurant, and finally ending in Chinatown for dessert. From living in NYC, I know that tourist attractions look and feel very different in the night time vs. the day time, so even though we didn’t have full access to some of the temples, it was still a really cool experience to be able to wander the grounds at night.