back in Bangkok i decide to stay in the tourist ghetto. mainly because it's close to the temples i want to see and it's just exhausting running around Bangkok's transit systems. the tourist ghetto is based around Khao San Road and has basically everything a traveler needs and the signs are in english. every large or gateway city has one of these. in Nepal it is the thamel. it always feels like penance for some sin i haven't yet committed. let's just call it a right of passage for travelers entering the country.
there are three levels of transport around Thailand. the first, and least expensive, is shared taxis and the buses/trains. the shared taxis are the songthaews which are pickup trucks with benches in the back along each side. you flag these down, then tell the driver where you want to go. if it's the direction he's going, he gives you a price and if you agree you hop in the back. typically the cost is less than $1US.
the second level of travel is via a network of minivans that allow a traveler to skip the bus/train stations and cater directly to the tourist crowd on a budget. the cost is usually 2X or 3X the cost of the public transport options but are air conditioned. i remember from the last time i was in Thailand that once you get into the network of minivans/hotels it's hard to get out.
the third level of travel is reserved for those travelers who have booked a managed tour. the travel buses are very nice. i've been advised when using a private taxi it's better to flag down the old taxis because the newer taxis are on rental to drivers newly arrived from outside the city. the idea is that the older taxi drivers know the city better and can get you where you are going more easily.