Friday, February 22, 2008

Ode To The #48 Bus in Bangkok


One of my favorite memories of Bangkok is of riding the #48 city bus and risking life and limb as the bus careened violently along its route. The drivers, who always seemed to be complete nutcases who enjoyed bouncing their passengers into a semi-concussed mental state, often slammed into potholes without even the faintest kiss of the brakes.

The 48's route begins at the market in Minburi, which in the early 1990s was on the outskirts of Bangkok, but today is much less remote. From there, the 48 would wind its way down Sukapiban 3 Road, a fairly straight two lane thoroughfare that crossed several small canals, and into central Bangkok. At these crossings, there would be small, slightly elevated bridges, which the drivers would use as a sort of ramp.

If you were sitting all the way in the back of the bus, as I often did, you'd be catapulted into the roof, which was all great fun. The noise, the heat, and the air rushing in from the cracked or broken windows all contributed mightily to my apprecation of the bus, which was especially fitting for my most nihilistic moods.

The bus itself, from a mechanical standpoint, was in shambles, with the engine being the only component that seemed healthy enough to make the trip. The effect of sitting in these hulking boxes of rusted metal as they zoomed around the city was that of being trapped in a cargo container as it bobbed its way along the waves of the Pacific Ocean. During a typhoon.

But in retrospect, riding the #48 was a lot of fun, and even educational, in the sense that it taught me how to dance with danger without peeing my pants.

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