Monkey Abroad

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Catch a bus

How to Catch a Bus the Dangerous Way in Bangkok

| 11 Comments

BANGKOK—My cross-country bus heading 700 km to Pua is scheduled to depart Bangkok in 30 minutes. I’m standing on the sidewalk, cars gridlocked on both sides of the road. No taxicabs available and I’ve got to travel 14 kilometers to Mo Chit Bus Station during Bangkok’s notorious rush hour or I’m gonna miss my bus. I’ve got no other choice, it’s time to catch this bus the dangerous way.

I try to hail another taxi. Damn, another cab already filled with passengers. It starts to rain and I don’t have an umbrella. Great, it’s raining on me and I’m about to miss the bus I’ve already paid for.

From the abyss of congested cars emerges a motorbike taxi. In any normal circumstance, it’d be ridiculous to ride a motorbike taxi 14 kilometers through Bangkok, during rush hour, in the rain. But I have no choice – I hail him to pick me up. He stops and asks where I’m going. “Mo Chit,” I tell him. He hesitates, lets out a grunt. I plop on the back of his bike. I’m saved!

One block down the road, he stops and turns his motorbike off. We’re parked at a small hub of motorbike taxi drivers. He begins to talk to his colleagues, pointing at me as he speaks to them. I hear him mention ‘Mo Chit.’ The other taxis are jabbering quickly in Thai, shaking their heads and looking at me like I’m crazy.

They’re probably saying to each other Yeah right! The foreigner wants me to take him all the way to Mo Chit in this traffic? That’s too far! All five motorbike taxis turn me down. I’m going to miss my bus for sure.

Traffic in Bangkok

Traffic in Bangkok

The rain begins to stop and a new motorbike taxi emerges. I beg him in rudimentary Thai to take me to Mo Chit Bus Station. He grunts. I point to my watch and make a desperate face at him. We come to an agreement: 300 baht for my deliverance. But I have to be at the station before 6:30 (when my bus leaves). He understands. I’m in a hurry and he’s got to haul ass if we’re gonna make it in time.

He hands me a bicycle helmet, I sit on the back of the motorbike, and he guns it. The traffic is at a dead stop but we’re accelerating, darting between cars and onto sidewalks. We’re only in 2nd gear and I’ve made the transition from fear of missing my bus to fear of losing my life.

3rd gear – Speeding recklessly through a narrow corridor of halted cars and buses. Other motorbikes share the road with us but my taxi shows no remorse. He cuts them off to shave precious seconds.

4th gear – I make peace with God. We’re in a blur of traffic lights and sounds, weaving between steady and moving cars. The expressway is a raceway, and nobody’s moving faster.

A lot goes through your mind when you’re in the back of a motorbike taxi barreling full speed through a busy Bangkok highway. Will I be alive in 5 minutes? What would face-to-pavement contact feel like at this speed? Are my students studying English like I told them to?

Bus

Motorbikes on Phra Pinklao Bridge in Bangkok

6:30pm – Decelerating now. We’re close. He slows and comes to a quick stop in front of the station. No sooner, I leap off the motorbike to pay the insane, wonderful motorbike taxi driver. I shake his hand, then run for the bus terminals.

6:31pm – I spot my bus. It hasn’t left yet! I sprint toward it and step inside, panting, but proud. The bus driver looks at my ticket and shakes his head. Wrong bus!

6:33pm – I think this is the right one. I step inside and hand the driver my ticket. He nods. I sit down in my assigned seat and let out a huge sigh. Relaxed now. An adrenaline-high dissipates quickly in the face of a 12-hour bus ride.

Author: Kevin Cook

I want to inspire you to pursue your own dream of traveling and/or living overseas!

11 Comments

  1. Jeez I got nervous just reading this! Love the picture too…surely you had this on file and didn’t take it while riding on this treacherous trip??? Suggestion, plan accordingly next time you’re in the big city!! My nerves can’t handle another close call like THAT!! Maybe your young ones can.

  2. The palms of my hands were sweating! Wonderfully written piece, Kevin

  3. Don’t do this to your mom! Please…Or I don’t want to know about it. Great story anyway since you made it out alive!

  4. Such a good story teller – you had me cracking up!!!

  5. haha! I was reading faster and faster as you were telling the story just to get you there quicker it seemed! great writing 🙂

  6. Scary story! Be careful if you can in the future. God must like you and is not ready for you yet!

  7. Loved this story, but found myself gasping for air by the time you got on the right bus! I am a friend of your Aunt Julie and know her siblings – although it has been a long time since I’ve seen any of them. Take care!

  8. Those motorbikes can certainly be dangerous in the city. I’ve seen a good number of accidents, including one that didn’t make it out alive very near Mochit.

    There’s really no need to buy the ticket ahead of time though, particularly in Bangkok. Even if you show up unbooked at the busstation, a bus should be leaving to most destinations within a couple hours.

    • Ben – Good to know for the future. But had I missed the bus from this story, I would have had to sleep another night in the city. My destination was Pua, Nan, a tiny town 700km north of BKK. Buses leave for Pua once or twice a day and 6:30pm was the last one!

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