10 April 2003 - Bangkok
Crossing the road

One of the best kept secrets of Thai tourism industry are the adventures you experience trying to get from one end of Bangkok to another. I believe its a well-crafted tourist attraction to engage the unsuspecting visitor in thrill ride after thrill ride.

I've already written about the tuk-tuks, but surprises lurk around every corner even when you travel by foot.

And I'm sure it's all deliberate. For example, take the route to Bangkok's biggest "must see" attraction - the Grand Palace.

Most tourists on packages will be dropped off at the front door by their bus, but those who avoid walking there miss out on the joys of crossing two four-lane highways one after another.

Crossing the road seems to be a cultural heritage for each country. In some countries, you wait for a traffic light to give the signal for a pedestrian to walk across. In other countries, there are no indicators, and its every man for himself. In Bangkok, the traffic lights are a trap for the unsuspecting tourist.

How else can you explain the following: (1) There is no button for pedestrians to press at traffic lights. (2) Traffic lights take an eternity to change for pedestrians and what it does, it lasts for all of five seconds. (3) When the light does eventually turn green, there is actually a signal for cars to swerve onto the road that you are about to step on and catch people unaware.

I even saw a zebra crossing across a four-lane street that had no traffic lights attached to it. That's like painting drivers a bullseye that says "fresh pedestrian meat here".

The real way to cross a road takes cunning and guile. You can to lean over the kerb, ready to take a chance when it comes, but yet keep all those drivers guessing as to when exactly you'll run across.

When you do step out, don't think for a second that cars will automatically slow for you. They are the enemy, expect the unexpected. Your best bet is to linger in one lane until a car pulls into it, lining up on you, and then sprinting to the other side to catch them unaware.

I'm not a local and haven't mastered all these techniques. What I do is to wait until a local tries to cross the road (even if she is a six-year old) and then keep them traffic-side of me. The hope is that Bangkok drivers are less likely to run over one of their own.


posted on Monday, April 14, 2003 - permalink
Comments: Post a Comment