Walking in Bangkok ……….. Not as easy as you think
So you’ve decided that you would like to walk around Bangkok to see the sites or you just want to burn some extra calories. You’ve got your map and/or set up your pedometer (on your phone or Fitbit) and you want to hit the pavement. Well think again because walking on Bangkok pavements is not as easy as you think. Walking on the pavement is full of adventures and obstacles and here are the reasons why.
Unlike anywhere else I’ve ever lived or visited Thai people cannot walk straight or even at a decent pace. Whenever you walk behind a Thai they will dawdle and/or walk in a zig zag pattern. This is generally due to the fact that they are ‘playing Lie (Line) or Faybook (Facebook)’. If there is a group of them (3 or more) then they will walk down the street in a ‘wall’ formation. Whichever they are doing, it makes it terribly difficult to overtake them. In fact a Thai university (Kasetsart) is trialling a special lane on its grounds where people who are texting or using smartphones can use one side of the pavement, while the other is for people walking freely. Maybe I should just learn to slow down and walk the ‘drunk’ pattern???
For some reason motorcyclists LOVE riding their bikes along the pavement and not slowly might I add. The majority of them are either motorcycle taxis (win) or couriers HOWEVER it is not limited to these people. I have even seen Thai police doing this. It is against the law to do so and the Govt/Council have installed a large number of bollards to deter such action but all to no avail. People just continue to flaunt the law and ride where they like.
Unlike motorcycles these do not fly down the pavements at speed but you do need to take care when crossing the street (even when you have a green light). For some reason motorists REFUSE to give way to pedestrians. I’m not sure about your country but where I’m from (Australia) a pedestrian crossing usually means give way to people crossing but not in Bangkok! So when crossing the road make sure that you look left, right, left, right and then scurry across the road. Otherwise some Thai lunatic driver will just line you up!
There are 2 temperatures here in Bangkok – hot and wet (rainy season) or hot and humid (normal) so, whenever you decide to walk, be prepared to sweat like hell. In most cases you will need to shower and change your clothes when you arrive at your destination. If it’s the rainy season you will be stuck in some tropical storm (unless you buy a disposable raincoat from 7 – 30 baht) and will be walking in water ankle deep!
Recently, you have the bad air quality to wrestle with as well. Based on a uniformly accepted AQI (Air Quality Index) Bangkok has a PM2 reading in the 1650 to 170 range which is considered to be dangerous. It has come down to below 100 (moderate) but it is still not good for those with respiratory conditions.
Although technically illegal the pavements of Bangkok are littered with stalls selling a myriad of products (food, kanoms, drinks, sexual aides and clothes) all of which are great to look at but, when you are trying to get from point A to B in a timely manner, all add to the adventure of walking.
The pavements in Bangkok are, in short, like walking through a field of landmines. If they are not being ripped up and replaced they are in a constant state of disarray. Some of them are in such a bad state that it makes you wonder how they got into such a bad state. It’s also not unusual to step on tiles (that you think are stable) that are sitting on a bed of water to only then get a soaked foot!
Don’t get me wrong, I love walking. It is one of the best ways to discover new and unusual haunts. Sometimes you can be living somewhere for years and, just from walking a different route, you discover things that you never ever knew about your neighbourhood. And it’s free!! However, if you are visiting or living in Bangkok, sometimes the difficulties associated with performing such an activity is that you just say to say yourself – stuff it, I take a taxi or the BTS/MRT!