Our waking was all a bit rushed on the train to Bangkok. There was time for a cup of tea as we approached the city. Life in the suburbs looked interesting. Once at the station we took stock and had a cup of coffee and psyched ourselves up and sorted ourselves out. We made a plan to head to the Banglamphu area, the tradional backpackers hangout. Our book suggested Soi Rambutri for a quieter corner which sounded like us. At the station exit there was a rush of touts asking if we wanted tuktuks or taxis – tuktuks are the three-wheel motorkike taxis. We wanted a taxi with a meter so ignored everyone else and queued up. There was some confusion about taxis not wanting to use their meters – despite the “Taximeter” sign on the roof. But eventually we sorted that and were taxied to Soi Rambutri.
We tried our first option but they said they were full. Arriving early is often a problem as they are not sure who is leaving or the leavers won’t have checked out anyway. There was a constant stream looking for rooms and being turned away. We went next door to Lamphu House which had a nice garden courtyard/foyer well back from the street. They were full as well and said to try back at 11.30am. We didn’t feel like wandering the streets so decided to camp in the foyer and wait and have a cup of tea. It proved to be a winning strategy as we were offered a room within an hour or so and we were soon settled in.
We set off in the late morning to walk to Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace. On the way we met a nice man from the “National Gallery” who offered directions and advice on it being closed until 1pm. He suggested other temples and good rates for a tuktuk to convey us around. A tuktuk came along and we were able to get the good rate. He took us to the Giant Buddha and then on to “Lucky” Buddha. Here me met a man who wondered how we knew abvout the Lucky Buddha, and how lucky we were. He went on to talk about gem stones and what a great investment they would be which seemed a strange turn in the conversation.We managed to lose him and find our waiting tuktuk driver who took us on the Wat Benchamabophit – the marble temple.
He insisted in taking us via a tailor shop for “just 5 minutes”. We must have looked like unlikely customers and we said how we were travelling light and the boss man lost interest in us fairly quickly. After the temple our tuktuk driver made an explanation about needing gasoline and that he had to take us to a gem shop/factory to get his fuel. Again we went along with it. The “5-10” minutes there cost quite a period of time but nothing else. We were guided through the factory and then into a labarynth of showrooms. It was a bit nighmarish with no obvious way out. But eventually our guide lost interest in us and left us to the souvenir section which had an exit. Exit we did.
We’d had enough by then and just wanted to go back to our guest house. But the tuktuk driver insisted in droping us at the “cheap” river canal boat place where we would get non-tourist rates. So we let him drop us there but declined the boat trip and paid our driver off. We were relieved to see him go. We walked back to our street which wasn’t a big distance away. It seemed easier than all the other hassles.
Wyn was much quicker than me at smelling a rat with the whole set up. The man from the “National Gallery” was such a nice helpful man and the tuktuk driver looked honest and kind. I mean I’d read the scam section of the guidebook – but these were nice people. Sometimes I wonder if I’m up to travel in countries where a segment of the people are set up to rip off gullible visitors. On reflection the whole thing was an elaborate and well-co-ordinated scam. It cost us only time in the end, and was a good wake-up call for me – a cheap lesson.
We had a late lunch and rested up back at our guesthouse. It rained about 6pm so we were late going out to look for tea. It is a busy wee street and most of the nice places had loud music and were more interested in drinks by that hour. We settled for some food from a vendor in the street. We’d survived our first day in Bangkok and were tuckered out.