UBER Differences Bangkok

Inexpensive UBER

My mom arrived in Bangkok. Her flight was delayed. Even with a long wait at the wrong exit, we eventually found one another. It was late, but everyone arrived safely, which was the important part. I had already checked into the hotel after taking the 25-minute ride from the airport to the hotel downtown and back. UBER in Thailand is very inexpensive. I hadn’t really put the math to it until now, but I recognized quickly that most of their fare is likely made in tips rather than the fare to the driver. If you are taking an UBER in Thailand, that should be your default. Even for a small ride, tip 100 Baht or so, especially if they are assisting you with a bag or two. A 24 mile/39-minute ride from the Airport to the hotel cost 419.74 Baht, or $13.16. Now I’ve taken roughly the same trip from O’Hare to Skokie for about $50.00. This was a deal if I ever saw one.

UBER wasn’t available everywhere in Thailand, though. We had a tough time getting good UBER service in Chiang Mai and Phuket, and had a much easier time with Grabtaxi. While it is difficult to say why, I think that the adoption rate just isn’t as high outside of a large city.

The next day we had coffee and walked around some of the shops and markets across the river form the hotel at River City Bangkok. The fabrics and art were remarkable. While I am sure that one could barter the prices down in the shopping center, I found them to be very expensive compared to the other shops and markets. This was prime tourist location. We stopped at a pub and had lunch, which amounted to a meat and cheese tray, a couple of Hoegaarden—which just might be my favorite beer for this trip, since it is everywhere—and returned via UBER to the hotel to freshen up before the dinner cruise.

Loy Nava Dinner Cruise

We had a 6:00 p.m. reservation for a dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya river from the Millennium Hotel. The dinner cruise was easy enough to book. I located the website and filled out the form in English and sent a text message to the number provided. I was contacted via phone for confirmation. The Loy Nava Dinner Cruise is a river cruise on an antique rice barge. The cruise boasts Thai traditional music and classical dance. It was lovely and very well done. The performers danced and played the Khim, a stringed musical instrument similar to the hammered dulcimer. That seemed an appropriate way to spend our last night in Bangkok. The Khim was first introduced in Thailand from China via Cambodia and Laos. It was just a week ago that I was introduced to Thailand, from China, myself.

The meal was traditional Thai with a slight emphasis on seafood. We had a choice on the form to do a half/half seafood/Thai, or even vegetarian, should one need to do so. With the stay at the hotel, we were able to walk down to the pier from the hotel lobby, just about 50 meters. We waited the typical amount of time for the boat to show. I don’t know if Thai late is a thing, but it sure seems that way when roaming the river in Bangkok. Of course, the pace of the river is slow and methodical, so when on vacation, I paid it no mind. The boat made several stops to pick up passengers prior to picking us up. After a few moments, a host greeted us on the pier and ushered us to our seats. It was a mere moment or two before a Mai Tai arrived.

I don’t think that either one of us had ever had a Mai Tai.

 

The Baby on the Motorcycle

We were so anxious to explore the city of Bangkok upon arrival, we hired an Uber—after finding the building in which we were staying—in an attempt to get early exposure to the city. I suppose that we could have rented a motorcycle, but that seemed a bit extreme.

I understand that most people don’t like to be out of their element. It was in the moment we stepped out of the UBER, I realized that I was no exception. I never really gave that much consideration back in the States. I always thought that I was a very flexible person. Perhaps I am flexible, but as I sat there looking out the window I couldn’t help but notice the differences. We entered a different world. I may as well have been on Mars. The shock made my heart wrench for home. We had no currency and no idea if anyone near us took anything but the Thai Baht, Thailand’s currency. We walked to an ATM and withdrew funds. Ahh. There was a connection to home. We saw a little restaurant across the street that announced, in English, as plain as day, “Noodles”.

Noodles sounded ok to me.

We walked around the corner, took a peek at the outdoor kitchen. This was probably as good as it was going to get, I thought. Angela motioned around the corner to the entrance and I followed. The hostess pointed to a table and we sat. I never really considered how important it is that restaurants have picture menus. Before long we ordered, finished our meal, and then sat there and talked for what must have been a while.

The Size and Speed of Thailand

There are many people. A city the size of Bangkok, at nearly 9 million, it is very large. It isn’t like China or Hong Kong, either. People are crammed together, but not vertically, or at least not as much as I had assumed. Unlike Hong Kong, they are there in person. They are all on the same level. They are a very tightly knit people who are right there next to you. I became very comfortable with that.

I felt very safe riding in a car in Thailand. The drivers here are amazing. I suspect that years of conditioning their reflexes have honed skill like that of NASCAR. Moreover, I don’t yet understand it. I’m not sure that I want to. Perhaps the cars in Thailand are more maneuverable. Maybe there is an unspoken gesture or two when merging, or some subtle clue that I am missing when it comes to sharing a lane with a motorbike on either side. I’m not sure. But the speed and grace of the auto here in Thailand was visible. Not once did we see evidence of an accident, and at the speed at which we traveled there was sure to have been at least one. I never became comfortable with the motorcycles weaving in and out of, and around traffic. From what I could tell, they move at roughly twice the speed of cars. We saw multiple people on motorcycles and scooters.

Speaking of speed, there are basically two speeds when riding in a car in Thailand. There is the speed at which your driver will ease into fast-approaching traffic. That speed is just a little slower than a turtle nesting along a peaceful stream. Then there is the other speed. The one they don’t tell you about because time passes at a different rate once you travel at that speed. It is like the moment when Superman reverses the rotation of the earth to turn back time. The only way to upright the temporal rift is to return the way you came. At any rate, we found capable drivers, and they all seemed relatively young, but again, I can only attribute that apparent youth to their rate of speed.

What Shook Me to the Core

Nothing prepares you for seeing a baby on a motorcycle. I experienced an absolute shock moment when I glanced over and saw a baby nestled snug between front and back rider traveling along the streets of Thailand. No helmet, as if that would have mattered. I’ve never had a moment where I was both that surprised and that accepting at the same time. So absolute was my reaction that I felt a sort of slumping resignation. It was like when I was told as a kid that swallowed gum would just stay in your stomach forever. It is like that moment that someone at work tells you, “This is just the way we do things around here, there is no sense in trying to change it.” The moment kept haunting me throughout the week, and it would return a couple more times since.