story and photos by Jamie Rector
When you’ve got the kids and want to give them an overview of the city, some of the various modes of transportation can double as an outing.
The most fun option would be one of the boat ferries. You can ferry all day for 75 Baht. As the ferry meanders from port to port throughout town, you can sit back and watch the sites glide past you without all the work of toting the kids all over. Besides being able to spot the royal palace and many of the temples, you’ll get to see more of the rustic side. The neighborhoods line up along the waterfront. Though it’s a touristy event for you, it’s just another day for the Thais. You’ll see people relaxing on their porch, or hanging up clothes to dry. Children bathe and play in the water. I wouldn’t let this encourage your kids to do the same the water doesn’t appear to be very clean. People dangle their feet over the edge of a wall or dock and toss their fishing lines out into the water below.
Covered Boat Tours
If you want a more organized approach, you can take a covered boat tour and as you pass by all these places, you will have a guide to help you understand what you are seeing. This tour runs 500 Baht. Quite a bit of difference, but you’ll gain the insight of your guide and protection from the sun or rain.
For a change of pace, you can take a ride on a Tuk, Tuk. It’s an experience! There’s only room for about 4 and you’ll want to make sure the kids hang on. The Tuk Tuk is similar to a golf cart in shape. It is a motorized tricycle rickshaw. The drivers tend to be pretty aggressive so everyone should hang on, but a ride in one of these unique vehicles should be part of the experience.
The sky train is Bangkok’s answer to the metro system, only this one hangs high above the city. You’ll enjoy seeing the sights from the sky train as much as the kids. Not only is it a good place to people watch, but also the views of the city are amazing. You’ll see the rooftops of vast neighborhoods during part of your trip and then you’ll move into a more business and commercial area. You can hop on and off the sky train as you check out some of your destinations along the way.
Regular trains can be a fun adventure for the kids as well. This might be good if you are planning to check out neighboring cities. The seating is spacious and can fit all the family together. The windows open and as you move out of town, you’ll see the change of landscape go from city center, out to the more rural, and then into the countryside. It’s a great way to see the variety in the land.
If you’re going far, there are sleeper cars available. Make sure to bring some warm clothing as your ride might be warm and stuffy, or they may have the air conditioning cranked up to bring icicles to your room. Keep in mind too, that there are different toilets. There’s the standard western toilet and then there are the squatters. It’s basically a hole in the ground. Not as bad as it sounds, except it can be a challenge on a moving train.
Vendors move through the cabin with snacks and drinks, but it may be just as easy to bring your own as you leave Bangkok.
Travel Methods to Avoid with Kids
There are some modes of transportation that I would also NOT recommend, especially with kids. I would avoid motorcycle taxis. First of all, they are extremely aggressive drivers and it’s merely a motorcycle. It’s one of the cheapest ways to get around and makes sense when you’re solo and the traffic is stopped in every direction. These guys can weave through anything. Though it is tremendously scary and there are indeed horrible accidents, there are not nearly as many as you would expect when you see hundreds of these cycles weaving through each other and in a seemingly random manner.
I also would not recommend the buses, especially for trips to other cities. They can get very hot and crowded. Some are decently cared for, but others are dirtier and can even smell putrid. For the cheap backpacker, it can be an economic way to go, but be prepared for anything. Sometimes the lights are broken, so have a flashlight. Bring a book because even though they offer to show a movie, the TV may or may not work. And bring a cloth to cover your face if necessary. I’m not kidding about the smell. Not all of them are like this, some are pleasant, but it’s a roll of the dice. If possible, ask for a newer bus. On the bright side, it’s a great way to see the countryside. You’ll get to stop in local places for rest stops. There is food offered at these places, but it might be a good idea to have food with you as well. Just in case nothing looks appetizing.
Cabs will get you around, but there’s nothing unique about it, other than the horrendous traffic. The clock keeps ticking, even if you don’t move. So go with an alternative, such as the sky train, if possible. If you take a cab, make sure they use their meter, because some like to raise the prices for tourists, especially around big events, such as the Thai boxing matches or other tourist drawing places.
In the end, some of the modes of transportation can not only be fun, but also provide an educational experience in being able to see the less touristy side of Bangkok. Some places you’ll see, you wouldn’t want to be walking around with the kids in tow, but you’ll still get a glimpse while being safely inside some transport.