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Friday, March 4, 2011

BANGKOK TODAY

The Kingdom of Thailand, once known as Siam, is headed by King Bhumidol Adulyadej (Rama IX), now leader for more than 60 years, the longest serving current head of state.  Everything seems back to normal, which is not to say that all is well, for the National Assembly is finalizing plans to censure the government headed by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.  No problem with the King, as he also is commander in chief of the Armed Forces.  Well, let me rephrase this.  He has been in the hospital for a year and a half now and is 83 years old.


Bangkok today is like what it was before those riots.  The only relatively new thing I can remember is that there is now an actual electronics market called Pantip Plaza which is best accessed by taxi, for it is in a dead spot away from the mass transit systems.  Picture Akihabara squashed into one large five story building and you have this mostly computer arcade.  All sorts of counterfeit DVDs ($2.50 for Avatar) and software sold here.  Across the street is Pratunam shopping area where you can buy mostly clothing.  Then there is the Chatuchak Weekend Market on 35 acres with unimaginable variety.  The Suan Lum Night Market opposite Lumpini Park is now officially closed.  Of course, there is Patpong Night Market, where, in addition to street vendors selling a variety of fake stuff, there is sex for sale.

Just when you thought you know how their mass transit system works, there is a surprise.  First of all, there are three separate mass transit systems, and they don't recognize each other.  You need separate tickets or passes for each.  They don't even share any stations.  Anyway, the Skytrain is the best of the lot, although the MRT subway is okay.  The third is the Suvarnabhumi Airport Rail Link.  

Taxis are relatively cheap, and busses are even more economical, but there is a wide range of fares depending on distance, air-conditioning and a bunch of other factors.  Then there are the tuk-tuks (which you don't see much of anymore) and motorcycles.

From the airport to town and town to airport, the cheapest way is FREE using the airport shuttle bus.  The S. Airport Rail Link is around $5, same for the Airport Express Bus, taxi in the range of  $13 and airport limousine closer to $35.  The Sheraton Grande Sukhamvit limousine costs around $70.

Speaking of air travel, Thai Air has given an ultimatum to their overweight people, as women flight attendants need to stay below a Body Mass Index of 25, with 27.5 for men.  See if your job is in trouble:


Of course, Air India tried this and ended up hiring them back.

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