Wednesday, 14 March 2012

On the Buses Again Bangkok March 14th 2012

Thai Air Force Museum, Don Muang

"Third time lucky", isn't that saying reserved for those people who generally rely on luck to win through? That's me then, because getting around on the public bus system in Bangkok not only requires patience, strategic planning but also a degree of luck! The luck part being that the information used in the strategic planning is actually correct.

This time I have every reason to be optimistic at reaching the Thai Air Force Museum. It's bus 503 this time, and armed with a map that even has the museum clearly marked, surely there can be no confusion. Bus go's from the main 4 lane boulevard just outside the Khao San road area, quite convenient being just a 10 minute walk from Thamasat canteen. Lunch is pumpkin with some other vegetables in a yellow sauce flavoured with aniseed. Pumpkin, a first for me, quite nice but this recipe could use a bit more flavour, a little sweet chili sauce maybe.

Bus 503 rolls up at 1pm after a 20 minute wait, and at the expected bus stop too! It's one of the yellow, air-con buses which costs more, twice as much actually. 30 p and it should be the same bus all the way, no changing, no getting off at fuel stops or unexpected stops at depots I hope, and pray! An Israeli tourist sits next to me, just arrived yesterday and is somewhat confused about where this bus is going. Phaya Thai station, I know it, been there 3 times, just get off by the Sky Train station. The bus pulls up at Victory Monument, a rather large gathering of buses on the edge of an ornate roundabout. Most passengers are getting off here.The money collector looks at me, puzzled, and asks a local why I'm not getting off also. The next few moments reveals that the money collector does not speak any English, can not read a map nor have a basic understanding of the difficulties tourists might have in navigating Bangkok buses. I'm staying on the bus, they'll have to drag me off! I'm convinced this bus is going to stop by the Museum. Bus driver is getting impatient, sits on the horn then pulls away. Transpires that any mention of airport automatically assumes passenger terminals, irrespective of anything else like a museum, which is indeed a change of bus. Once again I show the map, this time covering up the airport symbol and leaving just the museum symbol exposed - now they understand and I need to pay another 50p. This is surely a case of if you don't laugh then your going to cry!

Slow progress, much slower than getting to the actual passenger part of the airport. This is the locals road despite being a 4 lane highway. Tescos popping up again, supermarkets and in garages, much the same as in Britain although I don't know if the love affair is the same. An army base on the right with a few helicopters parked in front of some rather big hangars. Most unusual that they are in public view, right beside the highway.

1 hour 30 minutes and the bus stops right outside the museum. A sarcastic smile as I get off and make a bee line for the gate - here at last. No one around, no guard on the gate. It's free to get in, I knew that from research earlier. A host of exhibits in the compound outside,  some jets, smaller light planes and a splattering of historic war time machines. A few drops of rain, a crack of thunder then a downpour. Sprint to the main building for cover, slightly damp, and optimistic it's going to be a short lived storm.

Next... The museum

Next...The return journey.

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