A while back I tested out the new Bangkok Airport train link (check out the first review on this page) and a few days ago I got to check it out once again. I decided to take it again as I had no luggage this time. Getting to the train station at Suvarnabhumi is easy as you just take the escalators down to the sub-level. But getting a ticket was not that easy – all the ticket machines were out of service so all people had to line up at the counter. The platform when boarding the train is not ideal – when there is lots of people on the train and lots of people on the platform waiting, the process of emptying and filling the train gets pretty messy
The train into Bangkok was pretty full and it looked like it was mainly locals without luggage taking the train so I assume people are just using it as a regular transportation method as it is so cheap (15 Baht). A few people got of at Makkasan but it seemed like most continued to Phaya Thai. In my last report I wrote about the troubles of getting of at Makkasan – this time we continued to Phaya Thai as we wanted to connect to the BTS (skytrain). Getting of a Phaya Thai took some time as there were lots of people waiting on the narrow platform and hence people exiting had to squeeze by people waiting on the outside. The link from the airport train platform and Phaya Thai BTS station is excellent – there is an elevated walkway leading directly to the BTS.
Going back to the airport was more or less the same deal – the platform was very crowded and the train was delayed due to technical problem. But we got to squeeze in eventually and we had to stand almost to the airport when most locals had gone of the train.
Conclusion this time: the link between the airport train and the Phaya Thai BTS station is a lot better than at Makkasan. But due to a very crowded train and plattform(s) it would have been a challenge if I was dragging along a huge Samsonite suitcase. The value is still great (only 15 Baht per way at the moment) but if you have a suitcase and want to go to a hotel I think a taxi is still the best option.
I have stopped by Bangkok many times over the last few years (you can check out this trip report) and we have normally used taxi to get to and from town. A taxi from Bangkok airport Suvarnabhumi to town (e.g. Sukhumvit road) does not cost that much – maybe like 400 Baht with the toll stations on the express road into the city. This is still only like 13 US Dollars so the transportation has been quite affordable if you compare it with other big cities around the world. But with skytrain, subway and a new airport added to Bangkok, I guess it was only natural to also add a airport train. On the last trips we have seen the train track (looking a lot like the skytrain I guess) reaching further and further out towards the airport and on the last trips the train has been in a test mode. But when we got to Bangkok in the end of September 2010 the airport train was finally open and it was time to test it out.
After immigration and customs we followed the train signs to get to the lower levels and there we found a new connection to the train station itself. There are two options that you can take: the express train into town or a local train stopping on each of the stations. The express train leaves the airport every 30 minutes if I’m not mistaken but we went for the local train that cost us 15 Baht…only 50 US Cents in other words! The station at the airport is all new and shiny but it did not seem like everything was working yet (e.g. the entrance gates). After taking the escalator down, we had to wait a few minutes for the train. The train itself looks like the regular skytrain (BTS) with air-con and with hard, plastic seating. The train ride was comfortable and there was only about 5 stops until we reached Makkasan after about 20 minutes. And I guess this is where the problem started! The Makkasan station seems to be a copy of the airport (at least seen inside) but only in a smaller version. When we got out it was pretty empty and naked as it was just opened and I don’t even think the escalators were working (or were there escalators at all?) – this is a bit of a let down when you are carrying a huge, 20 kg Samsonite suitcase.
When we got out of the station there were taxi available but we decided to be environmental friendly and go for the subway (MRT) instead as the information said that Makkasan was connected to the Phetchaburi MRT station. We followed the temporary signs into the darkness, humidity and heat of the Bangkok night but soon there were no more signs and a lady that saw the confusion in out eyes, pointed us in the right direction. If you have been to Bangkok you know that the city is not really made for walking with roads, pavements that are high above the street…we even had to cross a railroad track to get to the MRT station. I think the walk took 5-10 minutes but with a big suitcase and in the heat it was not really a great way to meet Bangkok. When we got into the MRT station we faced another “problem”: the security staff. They have started a some sort of security control when entering the MRT stations but it seems more of a superficial check than anything else. But still…the security guard insisted that we had to open the suitcase so that he could take a milli-second look in there. The MRT fare was only 15 Baht as we only had one stop to Sukhumvit station (at Asok) to get to our hotel. To top it of we had to carry the suitcase over Sukhumvit road and I arrived soaking wet from the exercise of carrying the suitcase up and down stairs. To be fair, I think work is underway to connect the Makkasan station with the Phetchaburi MRT station. You are also supposed to connect to the BTS (skytrain) by taking the train to the end station Phaya Thai station.
Conclusion: This only cost us 30 Baht per person (1 USD) so if you are on a budget and live near a station (and remember to put on you workout clothes) this is a great alternative. If you carry a big suitcase it might be a better idea to take the train to Makkasan and take a taxi from there but be aware that the Bangkok traffic can be pretty bad and you might get stuck for some time. If you just want to sit back and relax, take a taxi straight from the airport to your hotel. Just make sure that the driver uses the meters and get him to take the express road. Also is is useful to have 45+25 Baht available for the toll stations
I had the pleasure of testing the new Dubai Metro recently and I took it from the airport to Dubai Mall and it was only like 4,5 AED (about 1 USD). The station at the airport was modern and clean and with guards walking around and a large photo of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum – the ruler of Dubai. But what I thought was quite funny was the little booklet that can be found on the station explaining all the different things that will result in a fine. How about “Carrying of alcoholic drinks” that will result in a 200 AED fine. Does this mean that you can’t bring your duty free goods in your suitcase when taking the metro or do they mean that you are not allowed to drink on the metro? How about “Using the lifts or escalators in an inappropriate manner” – how do you use an escalator in an inappropriate manner? So naturally, when I took the metro I was a bit nervous – maybe I was breaking some of the rules. All of a sudden a woman in an Abaya (the traditional Islamic dress) walked over to me and I thought “Oh no, maybe I’m sitting on a seat designated for women”. So I jumped up and offered her my seat – she just looked at me and said “Your ticket please”. Turns out that she was a part of a team checking that the people on the metro had valid tickets. I was able to show my ticket and hence I avoided getting a fine You can find a list of all the fines on this page.
There are many ways to get around Bangkok. You can take the skytrain, the subway, use a taxi, live on the wild side and use a motorcycle taxi, get ripped off when taking a tuk-tuk etc. But there are also a few canals around Bangkok where you can find a regular “bus service”. The canals (known as klongs) are quite dirty so it is best to avoid splashes. But the view from the boat is quite nice and it takes you quickly from e.g. Golden Mount (Wat Saket) to the Siam area. Here is a video showing a bit of the experience.
Are you claustrophobic? Need a lot of personal space? I guess this means that the Tokyo Metro is one place that you should stay away from Well, honestly it was not that bad when we went to Tokyo a few years back (see our trip report on http://gardkarlsen.com/japan_tokyo.htm ) but there have been lots of reports of women being felt up on the subway and hence some of the cities in Japan have introduces female only cars on the subway systems. But as this video on YouTube shows it can get crowded on the subway in Japan.