Thailand and Philippines are South China Sea apart but these two nations have plenty of similarities. In fact, the Thais and Filipinos are difficult distinguish from one another. Many Thais mistook me as their kababayan during my 6 months stay in their country.
The capital cities of these two countries, Bangkok and Manila, also have plenty of similarities. Both cities have street vendors. Both cities have three-wheeled public vehicles. And both cities are peppered with malls. The main difference that I noticed is that Bangkok do things better and more orderly than Manila. Here are the reasons why:
1. Bangkok’s River Transport System is Well Managed
What I admired the most with Bangkok is that it maximize the use of Chao Phraya River in transporting goods and people. Unlike the Pasig River of Manila, the Chao Phraya River is alive with boats that ferry tourists and locals. The river front is also alive with hotels, restaurants, and tourist spots like the Wat Arun and the Grand Palace.
Pasig River, on the other hand, is dead. The ferry boats operated by MMDA has few passengers. Its river front is occupied by factories and slums. The river is so polluted that it symbolized our failure in urban planning and city management.
2. Public Vans are More Spacious and Comfortable
I avoid riding UV Express vans as much as possible because I consider it the most uncomfortable public vehicle in the Philippines. More often than not, I get squished whenever I ride these things as the drivers cram as many passengers as possible.
It was a different experience when I rode the public vans in Bangkok. It is more comfortable since the van is more spacious and I never experienced being crushed by fellow passengers.
3. Orderly Train System
Citizens of Bangkok enter their trains in an orderly manner. They follow the markings that were placed on the platform. They don’t push one another when boarding and alighting the trains.
In Manila, people ignore the platform markings. Everybody wants to go ahead. Thus, the people boarding the train block those who are alighting the train. The result is a lot of pushing and angry heads. Good thing that the MRT now strictly implements order in its stations. I noticed, during the last time that I rode the MRT, that passengers now follow the platform markings.
4. Tuktuk > Kuliglig
The kuliglig is the new king of the Manila’s roads. These improvised trikes block the streets, do counterflows wherever they want, and they don’t care about other vehicles. They also look dirty and not advisable for tourists.
Bangkok’s tuktuk has the same reputation as Manila’s kuliglig. The former’s advantage over the latter is that it looks cleaner and more presentable to tourists.
5. Well Managed Tourist Spots
Wat Arun and the Grand Palace are few of the heritage sites that Bangkok are proud of. Manila, on the other hand, have Intramuros, Luneta Park, Paco Cemetery and various churches that are older than the Thai capital.
I believe that Manila have grander and older heritage sites than Bangkok. The sad fact is that our heritage sites were ignored by the government, and even by the Filipino people. Intramuros was allowed to lose its glory. Luneta Park’s skyline was now destroyed by a towering eyesore. Old churches were wrecknovated by parish priests who have no respect to tradition and history.
Bangkok invested in their heritage sites. They made sure that the Grand Palace and other temples are well-maintained. The Thais honored their history and are proud of their culture. Now they are reaping their rewards, which is equal to thousands of dollars brought by foreign tourists.
This post is never meant to demean Manila. I love Manila and I’m proud of its history. The truth must be exposed, however, and the truth is that other cities in Southeast Asia were so much ahead of us. I do hope that one day Manila will become great again and return to its place as the queen of East Asian cities.