Over the past few years I’ve become quite interested in what lies behind the scenes in Bangkok, most especially the plans for the city’s transit system. The existing train routes are embarrassingly inadequate for a city the size of Bangkok, but there are big plans in place. For years now I’ve been trying off and on to find a good map that lays it all out in a realistic fashion, but it’s been difficult. So, I decided to make my own damn map on Google Maps based on a combination of maps, diagrams, and websites across the web.
The most frustrating thing for me is that any map you’re likely to see online is a colorful candyfloss expanse of straight lines and right angles. There are very rarely any roads mentioned, the map is not to scale, and the lines it displays don’t follow the actual routes they’ll take, more like the rough direction they’ll go. Here’s an example:
See, it looks nice and gives you a rough idea of what to expect, but it doesn’t follow any real roads or natural lines and doesn’t tell me anything about exactly which roads will be serviced by what new routes. The more I searched, the more I found – even an art project by artist Wit Pimkanchanapong called “If There Is No Corruption” which imagined what the city’s rail network would look like if scheming bureaucrats didn’t dip their fingers into the pie at every turn (thanks to my buddy James at Nomadic Notes for that one).
So, I decided to make my own map.
First, I looked at a ton of maps online and took note of all the similarities. Then, a buddy of mine who works at the Department of Transportation directed me to the websites of each of the routes. In true Thai fashion, each proposed line has its own management, its own strategy and its own website. And, again in true Thai fashion, the websites are almost all pretty awful, with broken links, outdated information, and even the odd spinning gif straight out of 1992. In case you were wondering, they are: Orange Line, Blue Line, Purple Line, Dark Red Line, the Grey Line, and Light Red Line, for which the domain has expired. Actually, a few of the websites were not bad, but it still took me a long time to navigate to the maps section, figure out what was where, and match it up with a Google Map. Of course, as I don’t read Thai that well, it’s entirely possible I was missing the one high-res, newly-updated map page, but I’m not holding out hope.
So by looking at random images from the web and comparing that to the maps I found on each line’s website, I was able to plot a map on Google Maps. Then it was just a matter of zooming in and adjusting the fine details. Of course, it may well be that some of the routes I included are cancelled, out of date or inaccurate, but I think that, considering all the maps I looked at, it should be a pretty good overview of what Bangkok will look like in 10 or 15 years. Assuming rampant corruption doesn’t sink the whole thing (coughHopewellcough).
And of course, as soon as I finished writing this post, my friends at BK Magazine scooped me with their own story on the upcoming transit lines and had their own map. It’s well worth a read, and they have some routes on their map that I’ve never seen before, but again, it’s all straight lines and right-angles, so it’s hard to tell where exactly they’ll go.
Anyway, I’ve embedded the map below, where you can zoom in and drag it around and see exactly where things will (probably) end up going. I was going to go in and include all the stations, but even I don’t have that much spare time.
Also, I’m still not entirely sure which parts will be above-ground, on the ground, or underground, or a mix of all three. Well, that’s not entirely true – one of my favorite sections can actually be zoomed in on – the tunnel where the blue line will emerge from underground after going under the river near Pak Klong Talad (the flower market):
It also happens to be right on one of the bike routes I ride, so I’ve been able to follow the progression over the past few years.
Anyway, that’s the likely rough plan for Bangkok’s train lines over the next decade or so. Did you notice anything I got wrong or additions that can be made? Let me know!