On Saturday I had no plans so I decided to make the trek to Bangkok’s “Green Lung.” There’s a small island surrounded by the Chao Phraya River called Bang Krachao. It’s colloquially known as the Green Lung for two reasons: 1) It’s full of lush green trees and is shaped like a lung and 2) It’s a fresh air escape from the sky-rise buildings and commercial factories clogging up Bangkok. From Bang Pa In this trip should ideally take two hours. It took a little longer than that.
I planned on taking a 9:12 a.m train from BPI that would arrive at 10:35 a.m. just four MRT subway stops from my destination. I don’t know why but I woke up at 7:30 a.m. and decided to get a head start on the day. I took a minivan from my town at 8:30, thinking this might save me some time. Like always I had to transfer minivans at Future Park in Rangsit, the mall and movie theater where I saw Star Wars and The Hateful Eight (two solid movies, one with a little more blood than the other). I waited for a few minutes and got antsy, so I hopped on a bus that said “Mochit BTS” on the side. Exactly where I needed to go! How convenient! I got on the bus and the driver laughed at me (This isn’t new, Thai people are constantly laughing at me for my accent when I try to speak Thai or simply for being a farang in Thailand. Encouraging, right?). I thought nothing of it, but after experiencing what I’m about to tell you, I think maybe he was trying to tell me something: You sure you want to take this bus, you farang? You’re not gonna be happy. He was right. This will be the last time I take a bus in the Bangkok area during peak traffic hours, or at all.
Usually it takes about half an hour to get to Mochit BTS station from Future Park. I chose the wrong day to take a bus! In addition to the heavy traffic, we were constantly making out-of-the-way stops. After an hour and a half and an episode of Serial, I decided to look on google maps on my phone. We must be close, right? We were still 15 km away and in this traffic it would take over an hour. I waited a little longer until I could no longer control my impatience and stormed off the bus. I walked around aimlessly until a group of Thai people waved me over. I said what the hell, I’m already “off track” at this point. Why not enjoy this random Bangkok suburb (I’ve started to learn and appreciate: expect your plans to not go according to plan- it’s OK if they don’t). I walked over and was immediately offered coconut ice cream with peanuts (an incredible combination), pad see ew, and lychee juice. I happily accepted. One of the ladies kept saying “hah sib baht” (50 baht), but when I tried to give her 50 baht, she wouldn’t accept it. Was she just telling me that’s how much it would cost if she were to charge me for the ice cream and noodles? Well, thanks!
Between repeated “Khob kun kaaps,” expressing my gratitude in the only way I know how in Thai, I told them where I was trying to go. They told me to take the 185 bus. I over-thanked them for their hospitality and help and pretended like I was going to take this bus, but no way was I getting on another bus today. Instead I explored the area for a while- turns out I happened upon a not-too-shabby little town.
After a little while I found my way back to the main road where I got off the bus and waited for a few minutes until a minivan with a “BTS” sign on it drove by (I still had to get to Mochit BTS!). There was still a lot of traffic but the minivan went at a much faster pace than the bus- it only took one 45-minute episode of Serial to get to Mochit! And now I’m all caught up with Serial! (Thank god for these long rides or I’d be two episodes behind!)
I then took the BRT from Mochit/Chatuchak 11 stops to Klong Toei. I was surprised by how fast and clean this subway was. I had taken the aboveground (skytrain) BTS before, but it was my first time on the BRT. I couldn’t believe how much cleaner it was than the subway in New York!
Almost there! At Klong Toei I flagged down a motorcycle taxi (a fun experience in itself). I asked him to take me to Wat Klong Toei Nok, a temple on the Chao Phraya River where I would take a boat to the Green Lung. Even though he didn’t know how to get there (which I was surprised by, as a taxi driver…), he asked a couple people and we got there within ten minutes. I asked him how much and he said 200 baht. He had to be joking. I could take a 25 minute cab from Future Park to my house for 200 baht. This ride should be 30 baht! I argued with him as much as I could, using all the Thai I know (pretty much consisting of “I’m a teacher in Bang Pa In. I’m a farang. I speak a little Thai. This is expensive!), but what more could I do? I knew he was taking advantage of me. He wouldn’t even look me in the eye. Eventually I got the price down to 150 baht and walked away. Too bad, but I won’t lose sleep over it. Four and a half hours later, I was almost at my destination!
I could see the island from the dock- I paid 10 baht and took a three-minute motor boat ride over. At 1:15 p.m. I arrived! It was a long, unexpected adventure, but I made it. And it was well worth it. I rented a bike for 80 baht and explored the narrow paths of the tropical oasis for the rest of the day.