Bangkok urban sketching: Saphan Taksin

March 15, 2013

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A5 Laloran 1890g sketchbook, graphite pencil and watercolor

The Mass Rapid Transit system in Bangkok is relatively new and this is a quick sketch from the end of the skytrain platform, high above street level, of the Saphan Taksin stop, looking west over the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok’s main river.

While the western side of the river is relatively undeveloped, high rise commercial and residential buildings are being built next to the public transport line. At 9.30 in the morning and the peak hour over, I had the end of the platform to myself.

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The huge expanse of a concrete bridge is Saphan Taksin and at the riverfront below is a major ferry wharf. Here I managed to include fragments of boats coming and going.

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I never got to sketch while actually on board a Bangkok ferry; far too hectic, too bouncy and at times too wet. One is, half the time, hanging on to prevent falling overboard and drowning among the lotus lilies. All Chao Phraya ferries (identifiable by the color of the flag they sport) feature a ferryman who is constantly using a whistle, the loudest imaginable. He uses this to communicate with the driver who’s a very long way away: back in, back out, reverse, go forward – it’s all in whistle-language. For me, it was the most distinctive of Bangkok ‘soundtracks’.

The tickets are for the all-stops ferry up the river to the main Bangkok landmarks; one ride is 15-baht (50 cents). One must hang on to one’s ticket at all times, even though it’s presented to you torn and scrunched up. All Westerners look alike so as you move around inside the ferry, depending on the hectic alighting/disembarking crowds, it’s easy to pocket the ticket and then not find it again when the ticket collector comes around again. The ticket collector then moves on in disgust at yet another hopeless farang!

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