Of klongs and losing shoes

Bangkok is well known for its infuriating traffic, which frustrates most expats greatly. If you’re willing to explore alternative forms of transportation (alternative to the expat experience of travelling mainly by taxis and the Skytrain), the extensive bus routes, pervasive motorcycle taxis and the speedy klong (canal) boats are excellent ways of getting to your destination, especially if it’s off the beaten track.

Unfortunately, little is available on the internet (English internet, anyways) about the Klong Saen Saep taxi/boat. I do know that the Pratunam stop is the transfer point between the western terminus at Pan Fah Pier, which is near the UN, Democracy Monument and Khao San Road, and eastern (ending somewhere in Bang Kapi) section of Klong Saen Saep.

I’m taking the klong taxi because I’m mixing-and-matching my transportation to and from work. Travelling to work with the BTS, I must first take a “Subaru” down to the BTS stop, take the BTS to Phaya Thai station and then take either a bus or taxi for the last part to work – returning the same way, unless I’m lucky enough to get a ride near home. I think I’m brave enough to try transporation of the Thai masses, but also careful enough not to take unwarranted risks (that’s why I generally avoid the motorcycle taxis, especially when the drivers seem to have been drinking). The klong taxi is generally quite safe, although I have heard incidents of people slipping and falling into the very nasty water.

This day – some two weeks ago – in particular began with me waking up late. On top of waking up late, I didn’t realize that these boats should be flagged down (similar to taxis and buses), so I ended up walking out to the street and over to the next pier (which thankfully, was quite close). Then In the boat, I managed to catch a splash off a wall straight on my face. I make a mental point to keep my mouth shut because of the occasional water splashing into the boat; one of my colleagues seems to get wet every time without fail.

At Pratunam, as everyone prepared to get off the boat (usually a tricky 5 second jump-in or jump-out maneouver at other piers), someone behind me managed to brush against my heel as I was bringing my feet up on the platform. With that motion, my shoe came off my feet and disappeared. I peered back into the boat and the water, hoping on the off chance that my shoe fell back into the boat. That was not the case, as one of the attendants muttered in Thai.

I was later surprised by my own reaction. The usual reaction in North America would be near-hysteria, I think. I was very calm, not even dejected, as I collected myself and hobbled down the platform, taking it all in stride. I’m not even sure who brushed against my foot as we were getting off, although there was a man who saw it, and on reflection, he looked a bit guilty or sheepish.

Fortunately at the platform, there was a vendor selling knick-knacks and… flip-flops. Off to work I go in black, under-sized flip-flops. Walking around work in flip-flops felt very wierd indeed (although I’ve seen several of my Thai colleagues wear flip-flops at work), as I tried to prevent them from making their characteristic flip-flop sound.

So, I’m minus a Hush Puppies shoe and plus a good story. I hope that this story will remain my only klong story.

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