Bangkok Bound: My dangerous decision

Join me as I travel in style to Bangkok and back.

By the time I realized I had made the wrong decision, it was too late.  All I could then do was pray for my life, and if I lived, pray that my wife didn’t kill me when I returned home…

File:Bangkok traffic by g-hat.jpg
Photo courtesy of wikimedia commons


The evening began simply enough.  My mom, who is also in Bangkok right now but not at my hotel, emailed to tell me where we were meeting for dinner.  I plugged the name of the restaurant into Google Maps and identified the closest SkyTrain stop.  About half an hour before the scheduled meet up, I headed out. 

I made it to the SkyTrain stop without any trouble, and walked the rest of the way.  The walk seemed longer than I had expected, but I still made it in time.  I told the restaurant host that I was there to meet others.  “Thai?” He asked.  “American,” I said.  He nodded definitively and led me through the restaurant.

He took me to an American family that I didn’t recognize.  I’m sure they were perfectly nice, and probably would have made excellent dining companions, but I told the host that they were the wrong group.  That was, arguably, my first bad decision.

It turned out that there were multiple restaurants with this same name in Bangkok.  I was at the wrong one.  I asked the host what was the best way to get to the right one.  The SkyTrain would work, but it would require a lot of walking, backtracking, and a train change.  He told me that a taxi would take about an hour because of Bangkok’s impenetrable traffic.   He suggested that a motorbike would be the fastest option.

I walked out of the restaurant undecided about what to do.  I started in the general direction of the SkyTrain, but directly across the street was a line of motorbikes looking for passengers.  I decided to give it a shot.

Moments later, I was on the back of a motorbike, flying towards the intended restaurant.  The reason motorbikes go faster than taxis or tuk-tuks in traffic is that they can ride with ease between the cars, trucks, and tuk-tuks.  I knew that, of course.  What I didn’t know was how fast these motorbikes could go.  We flew down one road after another, between cars and trucks at what seemed to me to be highway speeds.  I was terrified!  Here is roughly what went through my mind:

-What the f#&%!!! was I thinking?!!!!

-The driver has survived many rides through the city so far (I assume), so I should be OK, right?  No!  He’s wearing a helmet!  I’m not!  Crap!

-Should I ask him to stop?  I can get a taxi.  Do I dare distract him at all?  No!!!

-I wonder what Thai hospitals are like.  I hope I don’t find out…

-My wife’s going to kill me.  Please God, get me through this so that my wife can kill me at home!

-What the f#&%!!! was I thinking?!!!!

In what seemed like hours, but was probably more like 10 minutes, we made it to the intended restaurant.  I was pale, shaking like a leaf, but unharmed.  I entered the restaurant and told the host I was there to meet others.  He showed me to a table full of people I didn’t recognize…

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. Stop the drama! Either your being over dramatic about everything with his trip or your trying too hard. You’ve read too many of Lucky’s TR and you are trying too hard.

    Obviously, your good at what you do with points but trip reports are not your thing. Keep it basic and STOP THE DRAMA! Your starting I piss me off (and I’m sure I’m not the only one!!!)

  2. I loved it !!! This is becomming the best trip report ever ! …although I thought it would be hard to top your lost passport/seat disassembly story.
    Looking forward to next episode…
    Oh please, let it be the gem scam !

    …to be continued…

    • PatMike: Thanks! Um, no, no gem scam please!
      leftpinky: “We need pictures and proof”. OK, next time, I’ll go one handed so that I can pull out my iPhone and snap some photos mid-hysteria
      Tom // Sit in first: Thanks!
      Delta Points: Because I can

  3. Ha, yeah, it’s a fine balance between too much and too little. Lucky was pretty good until he started going over the deep end like his 100k point bet or whatever, but refused to devulge details. We need pictures and proof, otherwise it didn’t happen (although, I gotta say, Frequent Miler has a lot of credibility in my book).

    • Talon, mech: The Thai massage is tomorrow’s fun
      Yo: Thanks 🙂
      David: Yikes. You’re clearly a better decision maker than I!
      Paul: Ha ha. I can’t believe you had the same experience 🙂

  4. Having traveled and lived abroad, this is totally legit and damn scary. It was an entertaining story. TPA: get a life. Really, especially at 6am. Go get some coffee.

  5. I have lived in Bangkok for 10 years but never have taken a motorcycle. I’ve seen too many chalk outlines of bodies on the pavement.

  6. I laughed until tears came. Hilarious. I experienced the same feelings in Douala, Cameroon on my first/last moto taxi ride, as we weaved through traffic at high speeds. You’re shaking when you get off and while you’re on there you’re trying to decide if you should scream at the driver to stop or that it might be more dangerous to distract him so you end up holding on tight as your life flashes before your (closed) eyes.

    • The Weekly Flyer: Thanks 🙂
      goodguy: It sounds like I’ve had a better trip than you did. I have stuck with the SkyTrain as much as possible.
      Bobby@Award Booking Service: Thanks!
      MileageUpdate: Thanks!

  7. i traveled to thailand, first 6 days in BKK from jan 9th till 23rd of this month. biggest problem was most people there not knowing even a very basic english, we got lost couple of times and we had no cell phones. the BTS is the best option for travel there. very crowded always but it gets you to so many places. since we don’t eat any sea food , that was a big problem cos even in non sea food meal, they would put fish sauce. the best thing i liked in BKK was KHAOSAN ROAD, CHATU CHAK MARKET and MBK shopping mall. don’t go to siam mall cos it is a rip off.

  8. Live and learn haha. After seeing motorbike accidents in Bali with drivers down on the ground and no ambulance or hospital in sight, won’t catch me dead on one of those. The drivers seriously have no regard for the value of their own lives much less the passenger. Don’t bother renting one either or they’ll run right over you :).

  9. I’ve managed to avoid motorbike taxis and tuk-tuks on my many trips to Bangkok. So, congrats on doing it on your first trip! At rush hour BTS or MRT are the only safe, quick ways to get around. Other times of the day I take taxis.

  10. I rented a motorbike and drove it around Koh Samui yesterday. I couldn’t wait to give it back to the rental agent as driving was crazy. I passed clinics where they had signs in English “Wound Dressing”. I think it was for foreigners who rented motorbikes 🙂

    • MarkJ: Wow, that’s terrifying.
      wolfgang: Thanks! I’m kinda hoping there won’t be an exciting sequel 🙂
      Andrew: Yep!
      Joe: LOL. I can’t imagine why I didn’t think of that…

  11. You should have been like:

    “I’ll give you all my churning secrets, although Home Depot ain’t what it used to be there are still a lot of options but don’t tell your friends becuase I don’t want to kill any deals” “Pretty sure Sears is gearing up for another crazy points bonus, I could show you how to leverage the sh**t out of that puppy if you, for gods sake, slow down.

    • Maddman: I hope not to have as much excitement for the rest of the trip, but we’ll see!
      newbie008: Yes, my mom gave me the cross streets, it just never occurred to me to check that they were right. Yes, I’m an idiot.

  12. Nice Story FM! Is’nt there anything like address in BKK?You could have asked for the address of the restaurant from your MOm instead of stopping with the name of the restaurant?!

  13. I like your post, it’s interesting! And please ignore all other comments like “you are too dramatic”. A points guy and big traveler SHOULD write travel stories. Keep up the good work!

  14. Now this is some proper entertainment and in a trip report that is well put out. I can almost feel the palatable discomfort when you were introduced to another wrong family. Remember, these are the things you are going to tell your grandchildren!

  15. Interesting story!!! I really enjoy reading it. I am not freightened at all. I grew up in a similiar environment from a developing country. Your story helped me better prepared for my future trip to Bangkok.

  16. A truly dedicated blogger would have snapped pictures of himself mid-scream while on the back!

    I love it. Will definately be a memory that lasts much longer than other travel memories.

    Having done some really fast riding while in control of the motorcycle, I can only imagine the terror if I was a passenger.

    Great write up.

  17. haha totally gasped aloud when I read the last line of your post. I’m headed to Bangkok and will heed this advice 🙂

  18. Riding a moto in that part of the world is a must! It’s part of the experience. Just be sure to ask the driver to wear HIS helmet if he doesn’t have an extra for you….

  19. Love your sense of humor! Translates well into trip reports.

    I did the same thing once in Sukhothai, a great temple complex in Thailand. I was in a rush to get to the train station, but there were no taxis anywhere. Finally, I approached a girl with a motorbike and paid her. She had a second helmet, thank God. But I had a travel backpack on, so when she tilted to swerve around cars, I was worried the weight in my backpack would make us fall over. Made it to the train station alive.

    As for getting lost when meeting up with someone, I know how that goes. An Australian friend and I once spent 45 minutes trying to find each other in Tokyo. We’d agreed to meet at the Shibuya train station, forgetting it’s one of the biggest in Tokyo. Luckily, we both had cell phones and finally found each other.

  20. Was in Bangkok over the summer and wound up taking a tuk-tuk with my family from Sumkumvit to KSR during a traffic-y time of day. At one point we were driving perpendicular to the direction of traffic as the driver maneuvered across a five lane road. My daughter asked me what he was doing and I replied “I think he’s heading for the side streets”. But he wasn’t. He was heading for the sideWALK.

  21. This trip report was entertaining as were the subsequent comments. It’s too bad you found your experience so harrowing, but then again I may be jaded since my first “motorbike speeding through a busy metro area” happened in Manila when I was 5 and has repeated every time I visit my mom’s family. I guess it’s all in what we’re used to! 😉

  22. “I wonder what Thai hospitals are like. I hope I don’t find out…”

    Thai hospitals are supposedly excellent and the country is the world capital for a number of procedures on western tourists, including sex change of course.

    I was thinking of starting a medical tourism business some years ago, but never went through with it. This one is supposed to be super:

  23. Hahah! Classic man! Honestly, every man who reads this blog will be jealous of you because THAT is what most men are looking for EVERY day is ADVENTURE! They look for it by watching football. They look for it in gambling. They look for it in other women. They look for it in buying sports cars. Etc. Men need adventure, and in most of the “safe” world and countries with a list of rules a hundred miles long (like the USA) men just don’t get it! Men don’t even get close to getting it. Dude, YOU got some!!! That’s what I call GETTING SOME and not sex!

  24. @FM: I agree with others, you should have at least taken one pic of your motorcycle riding, would have been a great memory for the family!

  25. First the passport, now a ride from hell in the Streets of Bangkok. Let’s face it FM…you are not cut out for this travel stuff alone. Either take the family or do your gc experiments and we can all be happier and you alive:-)

  26. Exaggeration would be an understatement. I live in BKK and use the motorbike dudes all the time. It’s not nerve wracking, it’s not a near death experience, but it is faster than a cab during traffic and cheap.

  27. Yes Chino, you live in Bangkok and do it all the time.

    BUT for us from afar that like our knees it is nerve wracking. I must admit though it’s cheaper and faster.

  28. Okay, it is a very good post, and I’ve read it several times… once when it was new and a couple of times since then…but I can’t let go of the unresolved cliff hanger. Was your mom actually at the second restaurant?! Was the first table the host brought you to just another table of random americans? 🙂

    • Sorry about that! Yes the second restaurant was the right one. After the host took me to the wrong table, he brought me to another section of the restaurant where my mom was.

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