Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Tuk Tuk Tut

Bangkok is very big, very ugly,very smelly, very noisy. Weirdly though I didn't hate it. We were only there for 2 days though so I'm sure we haven't done it justice. It was an experience being there for those 2 days though. I said in my last post that I was looking forward to seeing some temples and ride in a tuk tuk. Well I got to do those things albeit not quite in the way I would have hoped.

In Bangkok the tuk tuk drivers have a scam where when you say where you want to go they inform you it is closed and take you to other 'sights' which end up being shops which sell things like gems which aren't quite as valuable as they make out. Aware of this we told him we wanted to go to The Grand Palace anyway as we were meeting friends there. ( We weren't, but knowing how persuasive they are decided to lie). He told us that in this case it would be B400 as he would be going straight there (In other words, not making any stops for commision from his friends at the gem shops). We got him down to B300 which is still a rip off as we had known people who got taken round all the temples for B50, but decided to just pay as I wanted to go on the tuk tuk. OK, I realise that conjures up images of me jumping up and down stamping my feet, and demanding in a whiny voice that "I want to go on a tuk tuk"but however posible that is it really wasn't like that.

Anyway, we got on this tuk tuk and it was fun. It was quite exhilirating, noisily weaving our way through the thick traffic. I could have quite happily stayed on it all day, but we arrived at the Grand Palace where surprise surprise it wasn't shut.

The Grand Palace is indeed grand. As I walked in I was quite taken a back by how large and intricate all the buildings and statues were. It was very beautiful. We set about taking photos although it was quite difficult to see what we were taking pictures of as the light was so bright. The Palace houses Thailands most sacred site, that of the Emerald Buddha, because of this you have to cover up. I think I began to over heat. I felt like I was wearing too many clothes (trousers, walking shoes, vest top and long sleeve top over it)I persevered and walked around admiring the buildings and ornateness of it all. We went in the temple to see the Emerald Buddha it was quite small and I had to do " the eye thing" to be able to see it from the back of the temple.( Those who don't know what the eye thing is, it is where I make my eyes slitty, so I can see better-it works honest!) After this, the heat really was getting too much so we trundled off and stood outside the palce debating where to go next.

Standing in a tourist spot looking like you are debating where to go next is probably a mistake. I wouldn't recommend it. We were approached by a man who asked us where we were going. We had thought about the Reclining Buddha and he started saying "oh yes and there is the standing Buddha too which is nice. You can go in a tuk tuk for B40 round these plus the Thai shopping centre" He said he represented Government run tuk tuks and he called a tuk tuk driver over who showed us his Government badge. As he had caught us on the hop we decided to go for it as we didn't know how long we would be in bangkok and wanted to see the sites. B40 was agreed with the driver.

We whizzed to the standing Buddha which is a massive standing (as the name would suggest) Buddha. Very nice. Then we hopped in the tuk tuk and were told we would be going to shops and then we carry on going where we want to go. We went to a jewelery shop, then a tailors where we stayed for 1 minute ( Tim really doesn't want a suit)but the Tuk Tuk driver asked us if we could stay 10 minutes in each shop as that is how he gets his petrol vouchers. As he said it quite apologetically and seemed to realise it was all a farce we agreed and inpsected everything in the following shops; An ornament shop,another jewelery shop, then another tailors.(No really he doesn't want a suit)

Shopping obligations finished, he asked us where we wanted to go next. "Reclining Buddha" we said, "Oh yes, Buddha', he cheerfully called above the noise of the traffic. We were on our way and we suddenly stopped down a road which weirdly didn't have any cars gong down it our side. He told us that Buddha was B300 today and free tomorrow so we should go tomorrow instead. He then whipped a picture of other attractions out and said we could go on a boat ride to see four temples and floating market for B900 each for 1 hour. When we said we didn't want to do this we wanted to go to Reclining Buddha he started to get all indignant. At this point alarm bells started to ring and when we kept saying we don't want to he was getting more and more insistent. At that point we said we just want to go now as we have to meet friends (this wasn't a lie this time we were due to meet Patrick and Noi, friends from home that evening). He said well you have to pay me 20 dollars. I was all confused at this point and a bit worried as we were down a quiet road with some indignant tuk tuk driver. We asked him how much that was in Baht and eventually he said,' for my tour that is B3000!" At that point me and Tim just laughed as that was absurd. You can get a return domestic flight in Thailand for that!I don't think a look at a big Buddha and 5 shops is worthy of B3000 somehow. At that point we hopped out of the tuk tuk quickly as it looked like it was going to go on forever. I shoved B50 at him and we stormed off in time for him to hurumph and sling the money on the floor of the tuk tuk!

I have to admit I was a bit worried though. We were down the quiet road and I had visions of his tuk tuk friends suddenly speeding from nowhere cornering us from all angles. We kept walking and didn't turn round as we heard his tuk tuk start off and screech away. We rounded the corner and there was a metered taxi waiting at the traffic lights. I think we startled the driver as we jumped in it, thrusting a map in his face to show him where to take us and shouting , "how much" before he pointed at the metre. Metred cabs are trustworthy but I think we were ready for another bartering match or something. We were annoyed and I was a bit shaken as you just don't know what people can do, so I was glad to get in the taxi and back to our hotel. The whole thing was just annoying as we had heard of people who did the tour for that price with no incident and I do think the initial bloke at the palce was genuine it's just that we got a driver who thought he'd try it on.

After that incident we felt deflated about Bangkok and even Thailand as a whole, as we hadn't met anyone who didn't want our money. We'd heard it ws the land of smiles, but to be honest we hadn't really seen much evidence of that.

It all changed the moment we met up with Patrick and Noi that evening.

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