Get us to the church on time! (Bangkok edition)

A BTS train pulls into a station in Bangkok, Thailand on Jan. 5, 2013.

A BTS train pulls into a station in Bangkok, Thailand on Jan. 5, 2013. (Photos by Bjorn Karlman)

If anyone knows me in the least, they will realize the title of this post is a nigh impossibility for this fair lady (I’m not trying to be vain, just punny. And shame on you if you don’t get this reference. Wonderful costumes — wonderful!)

However, as it was our first Sabbath in Bangkok (Side note: Bjorn and I are Seventh-Day Adventists, which means, among many other things, that we go to church on Saturday), I wanted to be there on time, and hopefully, maybe, incredibly, be there early.

Besides being an opportunity to deepen and enlarge our spiritual understanding and faith through thoughtful conversation and study, going to church would provide another important opportunity: fellowship. Our plan in Bangkok is to rent an apartment, not just stay in hotels/hostels.  However, Bangkok is a vast city but our knowledge of it small, so getting to know friendly locals with whom we already have something in common was high on our priority list. Plus, I was positive there would be potluck. (Pro tip: If you find yourself in a strange city needing a meal around 1 p.m. on a Saturday, try to find an Asian SDA church. Nine times out 10, no matter how small the church, they will have a potluck meal and it will be good and vegetarian. Trust.)

Church services typically start at 11 a.m. and end around 12:15 p.m., with Sabbath School (which is like Sunday School) at 10 a.m. I wanted to make it in time for Sabbath School to ensure better mingling, as I am sure loudly whispering, “Where’s a cheap place to live in a nice neighborhood?” during the sermon would likely not be appreciated. On Friday night, I went to bed early and on Saturday woke up at 8 a.m.

We got to church at 11:40 a.m.

Yes, I did wake up early, but it was to pressure from Bjorn to eat at the hotel’s breakfast buffet. I didn’t think we would have enough time to eat (I typically like to eat 4 plates of food at a buffet) and still get to church on time, but Bjorn’s description of “it’s the best of the West meeting the East!” got to me and I caved. Before hands are raised high in holy horror, I would just like to point out that we are traveling with no access to a kitchen and that Jesus’ disciples went out to eat (albeit in a grain field) on Sabbath, too. (see Luke 6: 1-6. Now relax and breathe slowly. It’s easier to take the plank out that way. 😉 )

After eating and prepping we were finally ready to leave at 10:30 a.m. The directions from Google maps said getting to the Ekamai BTS train station would take about 30 min. We figured about a 15-minute taxi ride from there to the church. 15 minutes late, we thought, not so bad.

But first we had to take the Airport Rail Link, as the BTS system doesn’t extend out to where our hotel was. Luckily, a station was right across the street from the hotel. Unfortunately, we had to wait about 10 minutes before one arrived. Total cost of the rail link: 25 baht each.

Using the BTS is relatively cheap and easy. Even the backs of the tickets are helpful and include a map.

Using the BTS is relatively cheap and easy. Even the backs of the tickets are helpful and include a map.

From the exchange station at Phiya Thai we took a BTS train to Ekamai. Cost: 35 baht each.

We caught a taxi at a street corner. Then the language barrier kicked in. Bjorn had thoughtfully taken a picture of the map, so we showed it to the taxi driver. He stared with deep concentration at it for several minutes until it became apparent he had no clue what it was. Thinking he didn’t understand because the street names were in English, we badly pronounced them and pointed to the map. He nodded and performed a U-turn…only to pull over and ask to see the map again.

He traced the route with his finger, nodded a few times, and drove confidently off…into the opposite direction of the route on the map. Another stop and U-turn. Finally, after 5 more minutes, Bjorn had him pull over. The taxi driver dropped us off in front of a hospital. Cost of taxi ride to nowhere: 60 baht.

The people at the front desk of the hospital were super nice and helpful. A man wrote out the address in Thai and then called another cab for us. This cab driver actually knew his way around and at long last, we pulled up to the compound that housed the church. Cost of ride: 40 baht.

Later on, as we did indeed mingle with people at church (but I’m going to save the tale of Bjorn’s extraordinary talents at making friends for an upcoming post, titled, “Bjorn knows everybody” —he really does. UPDATE: Bjorn beat me to it and you can read about “Bangkok with the hookups” on culturemutt.com here), one of them asked, “Why didn’t you take a tuk-tuk? Your hotel is very close.”
“How close?” I said.
“Just down the street,” he said. Turned out we had made a large, VERY large, loop and had basically ended up where we started.
Afraid of the answer, but dying to know, I asked, “How much would the tuk-tuk have cost?”
“6 baht,” he said.

Now I know I shouldn’t quibble because in the big picture the equivalent of what we spent on transportation cost less than $10 US. But we could’ve spent 6 baht. 6 BAHT.

Sigh. Looks like “bumbling” shall be a big part of the B tour.

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6 thoughts on “Get us to the church on time! (Bangkok edition)

  1. Man I miss you Jammie!! But everything sounds amazing and your writing makes it feel like I’m there experiencing it with you… Big cyber hugs from the Gruzensky’s including Harley. Can’t wait for your next blog!! Love and miss you, XOXO

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