Bring the Car Around: Uber vs GrabTaxi in Bangkok

Posted on by Greg in Bangkok, Transport | 5

taxiTaking a taxi in Bangkok is a crap shoot. While the current flag fall of 35 baht (about USD $1.10) is among the cheapest in the world (and long overdue for a raise IMHO – it’s been the same for years), the fleet that patrols Bangkok’s storied streets is…uneven, at best. Most guide books and travel websites have warnings about taxi scams, and the longer you live here the more likely you are to know someone who’s had an experience so bad they’ve sworn off taxis forever…but soon find themselves white-knuckled in the back seat again, because, well, what else are you going to do? But now, Bangkokians do have an alternative – several in fact: Uber and GrabTaxi. They offer a similar service, but have several important differences. I’ve used each a few times and this is how they compare. Read more…

Taking a Steam Train Out of Bangkok

Posted on by Greg in Bangkok, Thailand, Transport, Travel | Leave a comment.  

train 3A lot of time people feel the need to get out of Bangkok and catch a break from the constant buzz of traffic, the crowds, the highways, and the cement. Oh God, the cement. Some people go to great lengths to catch a break, like a friend who will gladly travel all night in a crowded minivan and half a day on a boat to spend one night on a beach. I’m a bit lazy more pragmatic, in that if I leave town, it needs to be easy, cheap, fast, and worthwhile. A few months ago I managed to do all four when I hitched a ride on a special State Railway of Thailand (SRT) tour that took passengers from Bangkok to Chachoengsao on a train pulled by a genuine, old fashioned steam locomotive. But don’t worry if you missed it – these are regularly scheduled trips, and the next one is on March 23, 2014. Read more…

The Stunning Furniture of the P. Tendercool Workshop

Posted on by Greg in Art, Asia, Bangkok, Thailand | Leave a comment.  

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A few years ago I wrote a story for CNN Travel about a cool little soi that had an antique studio, an art gallery, and a store that sold amazing tables. Were it not for the constant 30° heat, it would be easy to think you were in a lost corner of New York. I got know the owner of the table store over the years, and recently was afforded the opportunity to drop by his studio to see some of his new creations. I know what you’re saying – tables don’t seem that exciting, but the table store – actually a company called P. Tendercool – makes some stunning furniture. The art gallery has been shuttered, but the antique studio is still there, and P. Tendercool is still selling their awesome tables. Read more…

Bangkok/Thailand vs. Tokyo/Japan

Posted on by Greg in Asia, Bangkok, Travel | 3

8 fujiEvery high school kid has an idea for a dream career that probably won’t come true. My friends wanted to be singers or dancers or actors or film directors (I went to a performing arts school, obviously), but my dream was a bit odd. I wanted to move to Japan and live in a little hut and learn how to make swords. Surprisingly, sword-making isn’t easy to learn in small-town Canada, so I made up for it by taking Japanese language courses, reading Japanese history books, and studying Japanese martial arts (stop laughing, I was surprisingly good). At any rate, life happened and my obsession with all things Japan never bore fruit. Of course, I did end up moving to Asia, although for whatever reason I only made it as far as Thailand. But despite this, I’ve always remained interested in Japan, and finally – finally! – I got to go. M’Lady and I booked our tickets, planned an itinerary, and in late December, headed off. Here’s a few observations I made on visiting Japan, and how it compares to Thailand. Read more…

My Secret to Dealing With Bangkok’s Constant Protests

Posted on by Greg in Bangkok, Current Events, Politics, Thailand | 2

mehAs it does on a seemingly regular basis, Thailand’s protest season has started up again. As of today, the prime minister is in an unstable position and facing threats and calls for her to step down; boisterous, abusive mobs on both sides of the political divide are making threats to individuals and sometimes even attacking them for completely fabricated reasons; mobs have stormed several government ministries; and there’s a general air of uneasiness and behind-closed-door-edness in the air. This kind of thing has been going on for years now, and used to really upset me. I used to stress myself out and get into arguments and lose sleep wondering what the next day would hold – I spent a lot of time worrying about the future of Thailand. However, after about 10 years of this, I learned a simple way to deal with it. Very simple. Read more…

Can Thailand’s Tour Guides Save Themselves?

Posted on by Greg in Bangkok, Thailand, Travel | 9

tatAfter living in Bangkok for so long I sometimes forget how lost I was when I first got here. As I wrote in 2001 when I first arrived: “Walking down streets I can’t remember past landmarks I don’t recognize to order food I can’t pronounce.” But now that I’m comfortable here all of that is forgotten – except when I travel out of Thailand. If you relish the raw unfamiliarity of making it on your own in a strange land, more power to you, but I got that out of my system a long time ago. Now when I travel, I often invest in a guide – the human kind. It’s just easer; more comfortable; less distracting. And let me tell you, there’s a huge difference between an okay guide and a great guide. Guides in Thailand are often a crap-shoot, but it appears they’re about to get much worse. Or are they? Read more…

Meanwhile, in Bangkok: Sports Shirts for Perverts

Posted on by Greg in Meanwhile in Bangkok... | 3

If you’ve been following the recent spate of Nazi-themed controversies in Thailand, you’ll understand when I say that the Land of Smiles often has a less-than-firm grip on the concept of political correctness. Not that that’s always a bad thing – sometimes it’s downright hilarious. Often, the best canvas for this horrifying/brilliant mashup of ideas is t-shirts, such as the one I covered in a previous post about “wiping love on her face”. My friend today spotted another classic one while wandering through Central Rama 9. Read more…

Learning Thai from a White Guy

Posted on by Greg in Education, Language, Thailand | 12

Screen Shot 2013-09-08 at 10.30.26 PMIt’s no secret that my Thai is embarrassingly bad. I mean, I can get through the day without using English and can usually get my idea across in broken Thai, but after 12 years it should be much better. To put it in perspective, if I met a guy in Canada who had lived there for 12 years and spoke English at the same level I speak Thai, I’d think he was retarded. I could blame it on the fact that every job I’ve had has used English as its operational language, or that every Thai friend I have speaks near-native English, but that would be disingenuous. Fact is, I’ve always been too lazy and/or too busy to really attack it; I have no one to blame but myself. However, recently I’ve decided to get back on the horse and start improving things, and turned to my friend Brett to help me out. Online, he’s better known as the guy behind Learn Thai from a White Guy. Read more…

Bangkok’s Biggest Graffiti

Posted on by Greg in Art, Bangkok, Biking, Transport | 1

map 1Another week, another bike ride. Following on my previous post where I mapped (probably) all of the future rail routes in Bangkok, I decided to have a bit of fun and get creative with my next ride. Well…more creative than normal. Making routes around Bangkok in Google Maps is something that I really like doing – it’s a matter of using the map view to find a rough route from A to B, and then zooming in to refine the route using satellite view and street view to find short-cuts and obstacles you can’t see on the map view. Anyway, after I had some work done to my bike I wanted to test it out on a short ride before I set off on an epic journey and broke down halfway, so I decided to follow a route right in the heart of Rattanakosin that I traced myself. But what route to follow? I thought a bit and then decided to trace something simple – myself. Read more…

Visiting a Thai Hospital for a Quick Stitch-Up

Posted on by Greg in Bangkok, Biking, Health, Thailand | 7

hand 2So as I often do, I headed out for a bike ride with some friends today. I was going to meet them at Wong Wian Yai BTS station and take a new route down to the Gulf of Thailand for a bit of exploring and hopefully un-rained-on riding. However, as luck would have it the trip ended up being cancelled before it even started and I ended up laying on a gurney in a hospital getting stitches in one of the most cringe-worthy places you can imagine that’s not on your torso. I’ve been in Thailand so long that I almost forget what a hospital visit entailed back home, but my friends tell me it would have been much worse than this, especially in the USA. So what happened and what’s a visit to the hospital like? Read more…