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Buying a Train Ticket in Bangkok

bangkok train station

with F.Zuiko 38mm f1.8

Greetings.

Have you ever wondered how easy or hard buying a train ticket in Bangkok is?

I once walked from Bangkok’s Khao San Road to the Hua Lamphong train station.

I needed to buy a ticket to Chiang Mai, for that night.

If you know where you’re going, it’s not too bad a walk.

It shouldn’t take more than an hour.

If you set off with no other information than the need to head south east while just following the sun though, it might take a bit longer.

It did me, but I was soon walking back to Khao San Road with these photographs, and a successfully bought train ticket, to show for it.

bangkok street shrine

Because I was just snapping what I found along the way, there isn’t really a coherent theme running through the shots here, but I did get the only monochrome one out of the way up at the top of the page.

The only thing that possibly links the remaining four colour shots is the light; it was a lovely Bangkok afternoon as far as a nice light for photography goes.

That light was really the only thing that caught my eye and made me take a photo of this shrine. Without the way it was lit up at that particular time of day, I would have walked straight past and not given it a second glance.

When you’re looking for things to shoot though, it’s good advice to keep an eye on what is sitting in good light as much as things that you think would make a good subject just because of what they are.

yellow buddhist flowers

Walking in the general direction of the train station, I came across a small temple with people worshipping and making offerings to a small display outside. Walking around it, I decided not to shoot the people themselves and went instead for the garlands that were being placed on the wall.

With a couple of compositional ideas in mind, I tried to get a shot that incorporates a feeling of depth.

The line of the wall in the foreground, coming out of the bottom right corner before sweeping round and up towards the top right of the shot helps with this, as does the shallow depth of field achieved by shooting at what would probably have been f2.8.

The light contributes too, as I was able to drop the colour of the background when editing the shot later, separating and emphasising the yellow flowers more.

Writing this up now, I have noticed the continuity from the yellow and orange flowers of the previous shot too, which is an unexpected bonus.

It won’t carry on into the next shot, though.

giant swing bangkok

Told you.

The Giant Swing in Bangkok is one of the city’s regularly visited tourist attractions, and has a long and storied history. Once used in a Hindu ceremony where the aim was to swing down and try to grab a bag of coins, it has sat idle as the subject of a million photographs since 1932 when the ceremony was mothballed due to injuries.

And fatalities.

The question for me on the day I took these photographs was, how to get a good and original looking shot of it, and with a 38mm focal length too.

In truth, the restricted focal length forced me to look for a shot beyond the common full length portrait, and so I stalked around the base of the swing, looking up and pondering, until I came across the pigeon sitting on the street lamp.

Not knowing when he might decide to take off, I quickly focussed on him and his perch, aimed for the leg of the swing to go into the corner of the image while keeping the far right lampshade completely in the frame too, and shot.

Looking at it now, I think the straight lines and angles of the swing contrast well against the ornate curves and circles of the light.

bangkok bus

Hmm. I guess I spoke too soon when I said there was no real continuity between the photos in this set. The first thing I notice in this one now is the red and blue.

This was nothing more than a quick snapshot taken while waiting to cross the road, really.

I’d seen one bus pass a minute before this one and had noticed the light shining on the faces of the passengers sitting on this side.

Making sure my aperture was set right and the shutter speed was quick enough, which is never going to be a problem in the Bangkok sunshine, I pre-focussed for distance on a couple of passing cars and waited for the next bus to come along.

When it did, I fired off as many shots as I could while it passed. This was the pick of them, and gives a glimpse of everyday Bangkok life away from the tourists and tuk-tuks.

Buying a train ticket in Bangkok

As a bonus for sticking with my post this far, thank you, I’ll share with you now my step-by-step guide to buying a train ticket in Bangkok.

Ready? Here we go:

  • take your passport and some money to the train station
  • go to the ticket window
  • buy a ticket

You’re welcome.

You don’t need to go to an agency and pay their fees or commission.

You don’t need help buying a ticket.

And you don’t need to worry about doing it by yourself.

You should be aware though that seemingly trustworthy people will try to tell you otherwise.

I came across such a fellow as I was checking out a map at the side of the road (I told you earlier, I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going).

The man, an apparently helpful tourist board rep, asked me where I was going. After telling him I was off to buy a train ticket, he told me I wouldn’t be able to without his help.

His moderately novel shtick on that particular day, January 2nd, was that I definitely wouldn’t be able to buy a train ticket until around the 5th, as everyone would be going home after New Year.

However, if I were to go with him to the tourist office, they would definitely be able to help me buy one for that very night, no problem.

With a commission on top, naturally.

I asked if he was sure.

He assured me he was sure.

I told him I’d go to the train station and see for myself.

Half an hour later, ticket in hand, I took the monochrome shot that opened this article before beginning the steady walk back to Khao San Road.

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If you're at Khao San Road and you want to buy train tickets, you have maybe three options; go to a travel agent and pay their commission, pay for a taxi or tuk-tuk to the station and back, or take the hour long walk in the Bangkok sun. Me? I slung my camera over my shoulder and chose the third option. These are the pictures I came back with, along with an important piece of advice for buying your own train tickets in Bangkok.

 

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