How Bangkok dealt with its seemingly endless traffic jam
A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - August 30, 2018 - 12:00am

The Thai people call Bangkok, Krung Thep, or City of Angels. The population of Bangkok has grown nearly tenfold since World War II. Today, Bangkok Metropolitan has a population of 15.9 million outgrowing Metro Manila’s 13 million. Growth in Bangkok seems out of control, a perception that is heightened by traffic snarls that are almost impossible to avoid.

At first glance, the greater metropolitan area appears to be bewildering mélange of new and old, exotic temples and commonplace habitat, all seemingly tossed together into a gigantic urban agitation. If the city seems to lack order, it is because it never has had any, save for Rattanakosin, the royal core of the city where kings chose to build the Grand Palaces side by side with magnificent temples or wats.  


For centuries, the river and khlong or canal, served as the transportation arteries of Thailand. In a land that flooded whenever the monsoon-swollen rivers overflowed their banks, it made little sense to build roads that would be washed away. Rivers and canals also provided natural defenses as moats against invaders. The Chao Phraya, Thailand’s celebrated River of Kings, has been the lifeblood of Thailand. It snakes 365 km (225 miles) south from Nakhorn Sawan in the central plains past the ancient city of Ayutthaya down to Bangkok and finally out to Samut Prakan into the Gulf of Thailand.

 It was along this river that the Thais fled from their ancient stronghold Ayutthaya (an excellent river-cruise excursion from Bangkok) after defeat by Burmese invaders in 1767 to establish their new kingdom in the more protected Bangkok. To this day, Mae Nam Chao Phraya remains a working river as the means by which rice and a whole host of other supplies from the fertile central plains are transported to the capital.

In the central plains, master engineers diverted a river to turn Ayutthaya into a fortified island. Later, in Bangkok, they dug a canal across a neck of land between the present site of Thammasat University and Wat Arun. Erosion eventually widened the canal, which has now become the river’s main course.  When King Rama I established Bangkok, he had three concentric canals constructed, turning the royal city into an island. Other canals were dug to connect them. In the 19th century, it was estimated that more than 100,000 boats plied Bangkok’s canals.

The most extensive rural canal expansion came during the reign of King Chulalongkorn. His engineers mapped the central plains, and the monarch gave farmland to whoever would dig the section of canal passing through his property. In a few years, thousands of kilometers of canals crisscrossed central Thailand. 

The thai engineering feat

In the mid 20th century, Bangkok shifted from boats to cars. Canals were filled in to create roads, and houses were built on solid ground. The result is evident: congested and noisy streets in the hot season, flooded streets in the monsoon season.

To cope with the massive traffic jams that has resulted from the Thai’s love affair with the automobile – Thailand fancies itself as the Detroit of Asia. Numerous expressways have been constructed. Realizing that a better long-term solution to Bangkok’s traffic woes is the provision of a metropolitan elevated rail system, on Dubbed the Skytrain because of its elevated rail system, both local and visitors, realize that it’s the perfect way to deal with the city’s seemingly endless traffic jams.

Sight-seeing the numerous temples, palaces, museums, shops and markets of Bangkok requires a knowledge of the BTS Skytrain and MRT underground connections, mastered by our tour guide Ray Ong (Philippine STAR columnist) who relates to well known Thai botanists. Ray explained the amazing plan and design of the mass transit system Last year, he accompanied Nida Indiongco, our Las Pinas branch manager and I discovered this as we joined his tour of intricate Bangkok together with other plant enthusiasts. Thailand is a low lying plain and is prone to flooding. He said that all entrances are raised 1 meter above the ground level and is equipped with built-in floodgates. Lifts and ramps are provided for easy mobilization and access to all connecting transport systems, landmarks and malls as well.

This engineering design of escalators and elevators descend many floors below and ascend to the skytrain above street level. From BTS platform you have around 45 stairs down to the ticket hall concourse. You then have stairs or escalators down to the MRT station. Coming the other way you have escalators all the way up to the BTS ticket hall and an escalator up to each platform.

The bangkok transportation system group holdings

Before cars even became popular among Thais, the first rail line – the private Paknam Railway opened in 1893, linking Bangkok to Samut Prakan. The Thai National Railway network was subsequently developed in 1896, linking Bangkok to Nakhon, Ratchasima and then expanding to reach Chiang Mai, Nong Khai, Ubon Ratchathani. From 1894 to 1969 King Rama V built a tram network for Bangkok in the late 1800s and early 1900s, employing foreign engineers and technicians.  

Although proposals for the development of rapid transit in Bangkok had been made since 1975, it was only on December 5, 1999 – on followed by MRT subway in 2004 opened while the Airport Rail Link operated in 2010. Altogether these three come under Bangkok Mass Transit System Public Company Limit. From 2017 to 2018, reported 17,915 M baht in total revenues, total assets of 106,058 M baht, net income of 4,790 M baht and total equity of 46,355 M baht. As of March 31, 2018 it employed 4518 persons Its 14 –persons board of directors was remunerated 29 M baht.

Thailand – sec. Bernadette romulo puyat’s tourism model

Practically every minute announcements of arrival and departure of international flights at Suvarnabhumi International airport unload thousands of tourists from Europe, the Americas, Asia. The whole world has fallen in love with Thai food, temples, tales of the Royal Family, etc. and the gracious friendly Thais. Sec. Bernadette may I ask you to develop our own OTOP or “one town, one product“? Each of our province in the 17 regions have their wonders either in cuisine, scenic places, crafts, etc.

(Part II – “What is Amazing in Thailand?”)

(For feedback email to

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with