CEO and co-founder of Khiri Travel, Willem Niemeijer, files a plea to the newly re-elected Bangkok governor for six changes he would like to see in the Thai capital
1. Create well-organised street markets
There are many areas where tourists and locals mix. By using the ‘walking street’ concept, both groups benefit. A good job was done with the Tha Chang area near the Grand Palace in Bangkok. Let’s have more attractive landscaping like that.
The ‘walking street’ events in Chiang Mai are a huge hit with both locals and tourists. Create more events and zones like these in Bangkok. Block traffic from certain streets, and allow small trade permanently or temporarily, for example, on Sundays or public holidays.
2. Use the airport rail link for quick jaunts
The fast Airport Rail Link between Suvarnabhumi Airport and Bangkok should facilitate more stopovers in the city centre. Have plenty of lockers at the Makasan train terminal in Pratunam in the city centre for travellers to leave their luggage while they explore downtown for a few hours. For travellers with a few hours to spend between flights and those leaving on very late departures, this would be a very handy option to enable more short forays into the city. The splendid Suan Pakkad Palace, for instance, is within walking distance of the Makasan airport link station.
3. Make lower Sukhumvit and Silom liveable
Every day thousands of tourists flock to Sukhumvit Road between Sois 1 and 21 and Silom Road around the Saladaeng/Patpong area. Yet they appear to be the least organised areas of the city, both on the sidewalks and on the streets. Both areas are where the BTS Skytrain and MRT underground converge. So let’s get organised.
Only allow cars with stickers into these areas. Have taxi queues outside these areas (e.g. in the unused space under the expressway beside Sukhumvit Soi 2). And create dedicated space for street hawkers. Think Chinatown in Singapore. And add more escalators to BTS stations in these areas please.
4. Market special events better
Bangkok has some wonderful initiatives, such as the Street Art Festival and Fashion Week. However, the world outside Thailand knows very little about them. With the rise of Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam, the Bangkok Governor’s office and the Tourism Authority of Thailand need to promote them better and create more of such occasions and activities.
5. Leverage the MRT and BTS networks to unlock new areas
Bangkok authorities should distribute information about things to see and do near BTS and MRT stations. They should make off-peak tourist travel cards available. The ever-extending two mass transit networks should be used to unlock new areas that very few tourists go to, but yet have a wealth of things to see and do – and taste. All it needs is promotion. Local businesses in districts such as Thonburi and Nonthaburi will be thrilled to chip in to get tourists to their doors.
6. Reclaim the sidewalks, curb pollution
The sight of pedestrians abandoning the sidewalks and endangering themselves walking on the street because the sidewalk is taken up with vendors represents a triumph of civic rental greed over common sense. Smoke-belching buses, tuk-tuks, pick-up trucks and lorries have no right to be on the road, let alone in the heart of the metropolis.
This is 2013, not 1973. Please fix it Mr Governor.
By Willem Niemeijer, CEO and co-founder, Khiri Travel