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Gridlock 1836
 
Bangkok residents at both ends of the 20th century grumbled about the city’s traffic jams. Here, J.T. Jones, who had already lived in the capital for two years, reveals his frustration with getting from one end of town to the other by boa It takes the modern traveler only a minor stretch of the imagination to transpose “car” for “boat”, and “street” for “canal”:

"One of the most annoying and grievous circumstances attending the accomplishment of any business in this country, is the delay incident to traveling even from one part of Bangkok to another. Whenever a person wishes to transact any business a mile distance which, at home, would easily be done in an hour, it will ordinarily require three or four here. He is altogether dependent on his boat. His boatmen are to be called, his boat unlocked (should it be left unlocked, or exposed it is almost sure to be stolen. I have had three stolen, one of them while fastened by an iron chain and padlock), baled out, his mat spread, and his boat brought to a convenient landing place (if he can find any).

By this time, more than half an hour is consumed. If the tide opposes
him, he cannot generally go more than two miles an hour; and if the tide favors one way, it must usually oppose him the other. When he reaches his destination, it is usually among a fleet of boats--and it is not till after much jostling and some danger that he can get safely landed, and then it is more probable than otherwise, during a great part of the year, that he will be landed in the mud, or water ankle deep. Tho' the expenses of this mode of traveling are heavy, and the other disadvantages numerous, the loss of time and exposure to the sun are most to be deplored."

—J.T. Jones. January 6, 1836


Terwiel, B.J. Through Travellers' Eyes: An approach to Early Nineteenth century Thai History. Editions Duang Kamol. Bangkok, 1989. p. 204. Appears in Bangkok Then and Now, Steve Van Beek Bangkok, 2000.

 
 
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