Contributing Editor Daisann McLane sends us a dispatch from Bangkok…
I’m in Bangkok now, on the first leg of a “low-carb” (as in carbon) trip around Southeast Asia. Tomorrow I’ve booked a sleeping berth on Thailand’s state railway for an overnight trip down the Thai isthmus, then across by ferry (or taxi) to Penang, Malaysia.
I’ve been coming to Bangkok for more than ten years, and while I love the city, it has always ranked low on my environmental list. The city sprawls like Houston or L.A., and even though in the last 9 years they’ve introduced the metro, the traffic jams are still as bad as ever.
The worst offenders by far are the motorbikes. Bangkok’s city geography is a strange amalgam of metropolis and village. Cars move (slowly) down wide boulevards, but people and small businesses exist, for the most part, along the sois, the little side streets that branch off from the main avenues. Each soi is like a small town, and if you live far down the soi from the boulevard, you face a long walk.
And so a mini-industry of motorbike taxis has sprung up here. These guys wait at the top of every soi, ready to ferry people, for a small fee, down the lane. They are noisy, and they create an enormous amount of air pollution.
Imagine my surprise then, after settling into my little guesthouse on Sukhumvit Soi 8, to find that there are NO motorcycle taxis on this soi. The hotels and guesthouses at the far end of the soi have purchased these environmentally friendly, electric powered golf-cart taxis. So when I finish my breakfast on the wood patio of the lovely Hotel Salil, I just jump in the golf cart. What a great way to start my green travel day in Bangkok!
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Photo: Daisann McLane