It is easy for me to forget that this city isn't defined by the skytrain or subway. The alarming thing is finding that nothing has really changed for people whose lives are off the map when it comes to mass transit of the 21st-century kind; huge amounts of this sprawling city aren't served by rapid transportation. Many people in Bangkok still crowd onto small, dirty buses that lurch at glacial paces down traffic-clogged streets.
The one I took yesterday when I left the Indian district at 2 o'clock had six little fans whirring away above the heads of passengers. As the bus filled up, the fans were less delightful and by 3:30, when we reached Victory Monument, I tottered off to the skytrain, feeling tattered.
The skytrain took me across the river and after a brief walk, I was back at a bus stop with several other women. We waited and waited and finally along came another tiny, dirty, basic bus. We crowded onto it and every time it stopped more people crammed inside.
A man gave me his seat and I gratefully took it. Even so, the trip had the quality of a fever dream and when at last I saw familiar landmarks, I got off the bus. A long, sweaty mile later, I was home, drinking an entire large bottle of very cold water at 6:00 in the evening.
I'll do this again, but not today. This morning I woke up after a fitful night's sleep, knowing in every muscle that I'm 66, not 46. Today I'll stick to the skytrain, go to Dasa, buy some books, and come back home to read. But tomorrow I'll be ready to look at the real world from an open bus window, reminding myself that most of Bangkok's population lives back in the 20th century, far from luxurious shopping malls and clean, cool transportation.