When I first came to Bangkok the Sukhumvit line BTS use to terminate at On Nut. Back then, expats use to think that if you travelled any further than On Nut you would just fall off the side of the planet — and they had a point there was nothing there. You would raise an eyebrow more with your friends if you said, “I’m moving to On Nut” than you would do if you told them that you were planning to marry a bar girl — they just couldn’t grasp why you wanted to live in the arse end of nowhere.
Since then the Sukhumvit line has undergone two extensions. Construction started on the first phase in August 2006 on a four billion baht, 5.25 km extension from On Nut (E9) to Bearing (E14). Construction finally finished in August 2011, and Bearing was known as the eastern terminus. Construction of the second extension started in April 2012 on the 12.6 km, nine station extension from Bearing station to Kheha station, and finally opened in December 2016.
There is no questioning both the economic & social benefits the BTS has brought to the On Nut district. Fast forward to 2019, and On Nut is no longer the isolated, run down area it once was prior to the BTS arrival. The suburb is now a thriving, vibrant place to live within touching distance of downtown Bangkok. Where once lay baron swathes of land now proudly sit desirable condo buildings, shopping malls and cinemas. On Nut has changed beyond recognition from the days before the arrival of the BTS. With the opening of the new extended Sukhumvit Line, I was keen to find out if the new stations along the line bore the same characteristics as On Nut did before the arrival of the BTS. Tickets for the newly opened extension are free until April the 16th. (I never turn down a free ride). With that in mind, I grabbed my camera and notepad and headed off with great anticipation to explore what lay beyond Samrong.
Note of caution! If you are planning on taking the BTS before Samrong station, please be aware that the train terminates at Samrong. Once at Samrong you will need to alight the train exit down to the ticket area and purchase a new ticket. Visit any of the ticket machines and merely tell the machine which station you wish to visit. The ticket machine will then dispense you a card in the usual way, except the ticket will be issued as a ‘free vend’ so no cash in necessary. What if I have a rabbit card? If you possess a rabbit card, then you merely need to alight the train at Samrong then cross over the platform and board the train heading towards Kheha.
I boarded the train at On Nut and headed towards Samrong. As the train trundled along past Udom Suk and Bang Na heading towards Bearing one thing that struck me was — even this far out from central Bangkok — the pace of development was relentless. Every direction I looked from the elevated position of the sky-train developments were rising out of the ground all around the BTS line.
As I mentioned earlier a change of trains is required at Samrong, so with that in mind, I decided to head out and see if anything was happening around the Samrong area. On initial inspection, the answer would have to be no. The station opened on the 3rd of April 2017, and to be honest, there weren’t any signs of development. In fact quite the opposite. The high rise developments of earlier BTS stations had given way to traditional Thai shophouses. Samrong was deserted with an eerie feel to it. The odd straggler strolled about the streets, rooting in discarded bins looking for what scraps they could find. Rundown buildings littered Sukhumvit road in various states of disrepair; the pavements were impassable due to their distinct lack of maintenance. I passed a coffin shop, and thought to myself ‘that guy must have done alright out of Samrong all the people are already dead!’ I had seen enough it was time to head back to the BTS.
[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”3″ display=”basic_thumbnail”]The next port of call was to be Chang Erawan (E17) to visit the Erawan Museum. The museum is well known for its vast three-headed, three storey elephant sculpture that contains many antiquities and priceless collections of ancient religious objects. The impressive structure is made of bronze and weighs 250 tons, stands at 29 meters tall, 39 meters long all mounted on a 15-meter tall pedestal. The inside of the museum is modelled after the Hindu representation of the universe, which consists of the underworld (1st floor), earth (2nd floor) and Heaven (top level). The lower two floors are located inside the pedestal while the top floor is located in the belly of the elephant. Not only is there a museum situated here, but the site also contains some beautifully manicured, lush green gardens that you can amble away sometime exploring, or sit back and relax and listen to the sounds of the birds signing and the gentle flow of water over the small waterfalls. The Erawan Museum is open every day from 8:00 until 18:00. Admission to the museum is 400 Baht for adults and 200 Baht for children.
[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”4″ display=”basic_thumbnail”]It was time to head back to Chang Erwan BTS and head off again. My next intended stop was Srinagarinda (E20). The first thing that struck me as I descended the stairs was how green the place was compared to the concrete sprawl of central Bangkok. The high rises of downtown Bangkok had disappeared entirely from the landscape; even the multi-storey shophouses had given way to traditional single-storey buildings, surrounded by a lush green suburban landscape. An open waterway adorned with pretty flowers, the suns reflection dancing on the calm water hugged the route of the sky-train. It was as if I had been transported into provincial Thailand. The pace of life felt so much slower, gone were people whizzing around on motorbikes here people slowly cycled through the tree-lined streets. Laundry which had been left to dry in the afternoon sun flapped about in the calm, gentle breeze; women hurriedly tended to food stalls, children played joyfully, it felt a million miles away from the frenetic pace of Bangkok. It was time for something to eat, so I headed over to one of the food stalls grabbed some lunch and sat enjoying the relaxed, laid-back atmosphere of Srinagarinda. Unfortunately, it was time to leave and continue on my journey. My next stop was to be the end of the line at Kheha.
[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”5″ display=”basic_thumbnail”]Kheha is the end of the newly extended BTS Sukhumvit line (eastern direction), and it felt like it too. There isn’t anything of any note to see in and around the Kheha station. It feels like an old outpost, and it is the end of the line kind of place with nothing worth mentioning. The only thing worth mentioning is that the Samut Prakan Crocodile Farm & Zoo are located here. The crocodile farm is the biggest of its kind in the world and has been in operation since the 1950s. The farm also claims to house the world’s largest crocodile in captivity, named Yai, measuring 6 m (19 ft 8 in) and weighing 1,114 kg (2,456 lb). Daily crocodile shows take place where performers can be seen putting their head in a crocodiles jaws. Other animals featured at the zoo include lions, tigers and monkeys. Daily elephant shows are also on offer where you can (believe it or not) see elephants dance amongst other things. Admission for foreign adults is 300 baht & foreign children 200 baht. The Crocodile Farm is located at 555 Moo 7 Taiban Road, Taiban Sub-District, Amphur Muang, Samutprakarn, Thailand. Open daily from 8:00 AM until 6:00 PM.
Not only had the train reached the end of the line so had my day exploring it. I have read other Thailand nightlife websites saying there is ‘nothing to see or do’ along the newly extended Sukhumvit Line — this is just not true. I have given you a brief glimpse of what is on offer, so why not head on out there and see what you can find along the new route for yourselves. Remember the ride from Samrong to Kheha is free until April 16th 2019. Enjoy!