Tag Archives: traffic

Commute

In theory, living with my parents comes with several perks. I get to see my family every day, not worry about paying rent, eat cooked meals. What’s not to love? 

My daily commute, that is what.

Since my drive falls during rush hour, I am on the road anywhere from 3 to 4 hours on any given day getting to and from work. 

It was much worse before I got glasses. I’d squint into the darkening sky and feel tired and cranky. Then I got glasses and everything got better. (No, seriously, lack of eye strain is the BEST. #Iloveglasses)

The other perk of my job is that my boss doesn’t have me come when he is on vacation. And as he is mostly retired, he goes on vacation a lot. I have yet to go more than 3 days driving in at a time. 

Anyway, I’m apartment hunting and plotting my return to Madison. Until then, I’m grateful for:

  • glasses
  • vehicles that run
  • family 
  • an awesome job 
  • retired bosses

 

 


12 Hours Off

My last day, I met up with a friend for a quick lunch before heading to the airport. My flight left at 6 pm. Or so I thought. 

Turns out, in my eagerness to leave Bangkok, I somehow confused the times. I didn’t leave till 6 am the next day. 

Which left me a whole night with no place to go and three huge suitcases. 

Thankfully, I made this discovery at lunch and my friend kindly offered to let me crash at her apartment. Thailand, as per usual, was not going to let me go without a traffic jam. We hailed a taxi for the 40 minute trip to her apartment…

And arrived 3 hours later. 

It ended up working out, however. My friend helped me repack my suitcases and we watched movies and walked around her local mall. She was flying out a week later also to move back home to the U.S. so it was a day of goodbyes for both of us. 

I made it to the airport by 2 am and managed to stay awake till I boarded my flight.

It all feels very symbolic, in a way. I showed up too early. A friend reached out her hand and helped pull me out of my confusion and anxiety. Traffic made things messy. It all worked out in the end. 

And that it did. It all worked out in the end. 


Rating Grab Drivers

Grab = Uber here in Thailand

It occurs to me that maybe I have low expectations for my Grab drivers. After each trip, the app asks me to rate my driver. And I think to myself, “Well, he did not try to kidnap me. That seems like a 5 star trip to me.” 

If I’m feeling truly pleased with my driver, I might tip them. But then again, I might tip them if they freaked me out and I just want them to go away and not stick around finding me change. 

Besides stars, you can rank drivers based on “cool rides” and “great music” and “good navigation skills.” If I really, really like my driver, I’ll usually check all the boxes even if they did not turn on the radio or say a word to me. 

Sometimes, however, drivers get really into these categories. Like, I rode in one car where the driver had a small TV so not only did you get to listen to music, you got to watch the music videos too. Drivers also seem to switch to American pop music when they see me. I’m not always sure how I feel about that. 

I had a motorcycle taxi driver today I generally liked. He actually hesitated about two seconds longer than normal at intersections. I thought maybe he valued safety. Then, as we neared our destination, we came upon a stretch of cars parked bumper to bumper. And instead of slowing down, he picked up speed. I kept thinking, “It is a shame I’m going to die with this person I know nothing about except that he has a pleasant smile.” 

I rated him 5 stars. 


Further Tales of Transportation

It seems I primarily blog about transportation, but fighting thousands of people to get from Point A to Point B is truly the most exciting part of my day. 

In the end, yesterday’s motorcycle taxi proved the right choice. He drove on the side walk and weaved in and out of bumper to bumper traffic, but I arrived basically on time. Overall, a positive experience (and almost tame in comparison to standing in the back of a pickup truck hurdling down a mountain…but that’s a story for next week.)

Coming home from Bible study, my phone lasted long enough to inform me which route to take and then died. Filled with trepidation, but unwilling to hazard a taxi without the security of a GPS, I climbed aboard and held my breath less I miss my stop. It then occurred to me that I had my other phone on me and the GPS on that one would work regardless of internet connection. Unfortunately, it was also at only a few percent battery. 3% and almost there…but oh! Turning on a side street….2%…are we going left now? 1%…almost to my street….

Thankfully, it lasted to my destination. 

Today I went grocery shopping and one glance at the night sky and crammed bus convinced me to go home by taxi. (The longer I stay here in Thailand, the lazier I get.) I’ve lately noticed that people on buses pay less notice to me, which I attribute to my appearing less lost all the time. I decided instead of using my Grab app to call a taxi (which charges a minimal fee and increases the price during rush hour traffic), I would instead risk flagging a taxi down and battle it out for the meter price. Perhaps my less-confused expression would mean less chance of getting taken advantage of.

Normally, one sight of my Western features sends taxis scurrying in my direction; I have to fight them off. Murphy’s Law being what it is, today I could not get one to slow down to save my life. The few I did manage to connect with looked baffled when I told them my destination and sped off. I finally managed to convince a driver to let me give directions. And you know what? For as much as I complain about Thai taxi drivers, this guy was great. He was polite, did not protest when I demanded he use the meter, and even attempted to explain when I expressed concern that he were in the wrong lane to turn left. I spent half the price I would if I used the Grab app. 

Overall, I would say I am almost becoming confident in my ability to figure out which transportation mode will get me from Point A to Point B for the least hassle and cost!


A Tale of Transportation

It started with the pouring rain this morning. One crack of thunder and I decided a taxi sounded like a better decision than either walking or taking the public bus. I pulled up my trusty Grab app (like Uber but less awesome) and found…no taxis available. Surprised, I hit search multiple times. Nothing. 

I grabbed the bus. Unfortunately, potentially because of the rain which stopped almost as soon as I got on the bus, traffic crawled. I ended up showing up for class 30 minutes late. Of course we had a new professor today and he was on time. 

Then because I wore my rain shoes this morning, I decided to take the bus back home. Somehow I missed my stop. It took me a while to notice. I kept thinking, “Wow, this commute feels long.” But it wasn’t until I realized I did not recognize anything out my window that it dawned on me that I must have passed my stop.

Being the logical person I am, I thought to myself, “Well, I know this bus runs past my apartment in both directions, so eventually it must turn around.”

Turns out it does. And it only took 4 hours of riding the bus to get me back! In the meanwhile, I got to see the very outskirts of Bangkok and chat with a very nice 70-year-old woman who was seriously concerned by my nonchalant attitude and gave me detailed instructions to get to her house in case the bus just kicked me off somewhere. 

Obviously my prolonged bus ride threw my afternoon off a little. In order to get to Bible study in time, I dumped my stuff and ran out to call a taxi. With an hour and a half to take a 30 minute drive, I thought I gave myself plenty of time to beat rush hour. Little did I know. 

After the hour and a half passed, and then another 30 minutes after that, I finally just paid the driver, dashed out of traffic, and walked for 20 minutes on foot. I don’t think the cars budged an inch between when I left and when I arrived at my destination. I did try to run but it took all of ten seconds for me to remember I don’t run. And also even if I wanted to, people walk sooooooooo slow. 

Thankfully, the kind people at my Bible study saved me dinner and I joined a group of them walking back. We opted to take the subway/sky train. As we left, the pastor noted, “Barring anything unforeseen, you can always count on the sky train to get you places quickly.”

So obviously, guess what experienced a delay “due to high volume of traffic”? Once the the sky train got us to our destination, my friend and I boarded a bus and things went fairly smoothly for a while. I got on the bus and off at the right time. I caught my transfer bus pretty easily. And then I somehow missed the stop for my apartment. 

Not feeling like an adventure to the outskirts of town again, I immediately got out. Somehow I still managed to go over 6 blocks without noticing we passed my stop! This obviously called for a trip to the nearest convenience store to buy a myself a Snickers.

Some days demand chocolate. 

I then thought about calling a taxi, or at least a motorbike taxi, but after due reflection on my day, opted to walk. And lo and behold, I finally made it home!


Thai Rush Hour Traffic

Nearly 2.5 hours.

It took nearly 2.5 hours to go 4 miles this afternoon on the bus. Granted, I was on a bus headed into the busiest part of the city at rush hour. But 2.5 hours!

Buses might be the cheapest form of transportation but for my sanity I might stick to taxis…even the motorcycle ones.


Friday Adventures

After the excitement of coming home to an apartment with no electricity, yesterday ended on an almost anticlimactic note. Not long after I posted my blog, my landlords sent someone to sort it out. Only my room appeared to suffer an outage. The rest of the building was fine. Three, non-English speaking men showed up and went into the little electrical/storage room that I assume services the entire floor. They then started flipping breakers. Now, I am not entirely sure how breakers work, but it strikes me as singularly inefficient to flip one breaker, look expectantly at the still dark apartment, flip another, look at the apartment, flip another…but eventually it worked and I got electricity again! 

Maybe because of that, or because I got too much sleep, I woke up cranky this morning. I decided to channel my crankiness and finally buy a cell phone and data plan. My previous attempts all came to naught and left me exhausted and frustrated. I figured my crankiness would keep me going. 

Unfortunately, endorphins kicked in on the 2.5 mile walk to the nearest mall and I ceased feeling grumpy. Not that it ended up being only a 2.5 mile walk, as I managed to get lost. I may have no sense of direction but I know how to follow my nose and my nose quickly told me I had no idea where I was. I decided to cross the street. This proved an extremely challenging task as traffic kept whizzing past.

I don’t think I dawdled too long staring at traffic, but apparently I dawdled long enough. A police officer popped out from nowhere and literally stopped all lanes of traffic to help me cross! Sometimes looking helpless works quite effectively. 

Once I crossed over, I found my way to the mall with little difficulty. The malls here are…huge. The one I visited easily had 7 floors. I kept trying to count them from the escalator and then realized I couldn’t even see them all. And this mall isn’t even the biggest or most well known one around! 

Mindful of the advice I received from the internet, I began my phone hunt by comparing the prices of various phone retailers in the mall. By which I actually mean I furtively stole glances at the price tags on the kiosks full of phones and tried not to make eye contact with the salespeople. I’m very susceptible to sales pitches.  

I knew, though, which place I wanted to buy a phone from the minute I saw it. Only females worked there and I immediately liked the look of one, joyful looking saleswoman who barely looked out of her teens. While her knowledge of English lacked breadth, she knew enough to help walk me through the various phones and prices. As I only wanted a basic smart phone, don’t know much about phones, and couldn’t read the packing describing the options anyway, the conversation went something like this: 

Me: “And they all work with Google maps?”

Her: “Yes! Google maps comes with all of them.”

Me: “And I just need to go buy a sim card and data plan? Nothing extra?”

Her: “Yes, they all work that way.”

Me: “…”

Her: “…”

Me: “…”

Her: “…”

Me: “So…how are these different?” 

Her: “They all come with Google maps!”

Me: “Would they work in the United States?”

A confused shrug. 

Her: “This one comes in two colors and this one comes in three.” 

And so forth. I appreciate her patience. Eventually we found one for me. I think she found my inefficiency a form of haggling because she even lowered the price a few times. We parted mutually satisfied and she asked to be friends on Snapchat. 

I then sallied forth to get a data plan. The last time I walked in, I did not realize I was supposed to get a number at the door. I was politely chastised for overlooking this step. Now I confidently walked in and received the little ticket that would send the next person who spoke English in my direction. 

Except apparently no one spoke English today. Or at least, it took 3 of them to help me and I’m not really sure about the results. They asked how long I would be in Thailand and we spent several minutes trying to figure out the translation for “June.” They then disappeared and reappeared with a sim card, a price tag, and the information that I was set for the next 6 months. As I payed an obscenely low amount for the plan, I’m skeptical about how much data I actually received. Unfortunately, all my inquires met with equally blank and confused faces. After posting this, I’m going to try and see if I can figure out what I got! 

I then ventured forth from the mall and – buoyed by success – decided to swing by a drug store and buy face masks. The pollution is down considerably but with all the walking I do, it can’t hurt. Drug stores here keep everything behind the counter so I’ve been too intimidated to buy masks before. The lady who helped me proved very cheerful. After learning I was from the United States, she said it was much colder in Chicago than in Thailand. I agreed and said I was from a place near Chicago. She was delighted by this discovery! For a moment we basked in mutual understanding about the frigidity of Illinois. Then I tried saying something else but we apparently maxed out her English and I was politely dismissed from the store. (Thankfully by that point I acquired a box of face masks.) 

For my final errand, I visited my favorite store: Tesco. In England, Tesco reminded me of Pick ‘n Save. Here it seems more like a Wal Mart. Not that I am complaining. I love that I can buy jam, a mug, and a pillow case in the same place and not have to worry about haggling over anything. 

The only difficulty I ran into at Tesco was finding instant coffee. Actually, finding it was easy. The store carries a variety of instant coffee flavors and types. Finding one, however, that doesn’t list “sugar” as the second ingredient is almost impossible. While I’ve enjoyed waking up to what amounts to little more than hot chocolate every morning, I’m a black coffee kind of girl and I miss it. Forget coffee beans and a coffee pot, though! Everything here comes instant. (In the end I did manage to find a non-sweet mix and am enjoying a cup with Digestive biscuits right now.) 

I walked out triumphant and loaded with groceries. The bag then split down the middle and it dawned on me I had a 2.5 mile walk home. I almost took a taxi but I decided taxis were for the weak and I marched on. By the time I arrived home, my arms were shaking and my legs aching but by golly I made it! 

And so my Friday adventures roll to an end. Sort of. I need to work on a paper tonight (and probably the rest of this weekend, ugh) but I think this feeling of triumphant success should last at least until next weekend’s adventure!