Thailand Transport is a Cultural Connection
Transport in Thailand is varied and fun. Besides the standard bus, ferry, plane and increasingly numerous private automobile, there are quite a few local ‘oddities’ that help define Thai culture and lifestyle. Product Director Koen went out on the streets of Bangkok to list you the most interesting ones.
Most people think first of the famous tuk-tuk as quintessentially Thai, but this three-wheel vehicle actually originated in Japan, made by Daihatsu. Nowadays the tuk-tuk is still widely used despite the more popular ‘taxi-meter.’
A three wheel bicycle ‘taxi’ which can still be seen in the countryside and in smaller towns, but is rapidly disappearing. Nowadays, the drivers are mostly the older generation and they provide transportation for shop owners returning from their early morning trip to the fresh market and the occasional tourist who manages to find them. In our Markets, Monks and Mouthwatering Snacks morning trip in Chiang Mai we take guests to experience a ride on a samlor.
This three-wheel motorcycle, also known as the ‘Isan tuk-tuk’, originated in the northeastern part of Thailand. It got its nickname because it became popular at the time when the first orbiting US Skylab Space Laboratory made a re-entry to earth in 1979. It’s mainly used by farmers but also as a way of transport for locals and tourists in places such as Koh Si Chang.
Other three wheel motorcycle variations, like the above one in Sukhothai, can be found in the countryside all over Thailand.
Typically a passenger vehicle, and adapted from a pick-up or a larger truck and used as a shared taxi. It takes its name from the two bench seats fixed along either side of the back of the truck; in some vehicles a third bench is put down the middle of the seating area, which doesn’t stop people from standing there as well! All kinds of variations exist, but the ones used in Phuket are especially photogenic.
In Bangkok when you are facing total gridlock this is the only way out! Keep in mind though that the drivers are often riding like maniacs, so not for the faint hearted… They are ubiquitous in the cities and the drivers wear orange, green or red vest uniforms.
Long tail boat
Well-known means of river transport, but also sea-worthy, the long tail tour through Bangkok’s khlongs (canals) is considered a must-do tour experience for travelers. The only drawback though remains the (very loud) engine noise.
A lot of westerners were introduced to this Thai speedboat by its appearance in the 1974 James Bond thriller ‘The Man with the Golden Gun.’ If you’re into offering exciting experiences, look no further! Guests get to experience the speed of these boats in Bangkok as well.
River taxi boats
Probably the most economical way to travel along the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, these riverboats can be a crowded experience.
The State Railway of Thailand runs intercity trains. A lot of our guests travel by night train. A comfortable and inexpensive way to get from Bangkok to distant cities such as Chiang Mai, Nong Khai, Ubon Ratchathani or Surat Thani. In a 2nd-class sleeper there are two rows of facing seat pairs; each pair is separated from the next by a dividing wall. A table folds down between each pair and at night the seats convert into two fold-down berths, one over the other. Curtains provide some privacy and fresh linens are provided. A toilet is located at one end of the car and washbasins at the other. First-class cars provide private cabins for singles or couples.
There are two very popular trains not part of the state railway network: the Kanchanaburi to Sai Yok historic ‘Death Railway’ traverses the famous Bridge on the River Kwai. The Mae Khlong-Mahachai railroad is a charming ride through the countryside that terminates in the middle of the fresh market in Samut Sakhon.
BTS Sky Train & MRT Subway
Elevated light rail or underground, respectively, these air-conditioned trains so far only serve central Bangkok. They are probably the most efficient way to get around in Bangkok, especially in the city’s notoriously known rush hours.
Intercity buses are the main kind of transport in Thailand, especially to those parts where the railways are non-existent. Nowadays, the long distance ones are becoming more and more outrageous in appearance; loads of additional lights, fancy accessories and decorations!
In the countryside, these Etan farmer trucks are used a lot for transporting rice, goods and people.
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