After multiple warnings and our first encounter with a taxi in Bangkok, I should have been more prepared, but I didn’t know what to expect. I was so overwhelmed by the city, I was willing to ask and receive help from anyone who would give it. We had managed to make our way onto the sky train and found ourselves in the middle of the city.
Armed with our guidebook, map, and a list of places to see, we walked along the street taking in the sights. Despite being in such a big city, I found myself shocked anytime I saw another foreigner. I’ve become so used to being one of very few foreigners in the area, I often caught myself staring. The Thai people, however, weren’t giving us a second glance. This was incredibly different from people staring me down in Uttaradit and eagerly practicing saying ‘Hello’ in English. This is not to say that we were completely ignored.
Far from it. By walking around the city we had marked ourselves as tourists. Tuk tuks would slow to a crawl beside my friend and I, calling out that it was only 10 Baht for an hour tour. Our guidebooks had warned us to avoid these tuk tuks, and even a stranger warned us as well. The Thai man who told us this also asked where we were going and then bombarded us with advice. He then went above and beyond the call of duty of being a random stranger met on the street and hailed us a tuk tuk – He gave the driver very specific instructions in Thai to take us to all the places we wanted to see and set the price for us.
So we happily enjoyed a tuk tuk ride, experienced just how terrifying Thai traffic was, and saw a few famous locations in Bangkok. After seeing the giant standing Buddha, we asked the driver to drop us off at Wat Pho, the temple that houses the giant reclining Buddha. The driver asked us if we minded stopping at a shop first, explaining in broken English that they would give him a coupon for free gas if he brought tourists to the shop. I wanted to help him out, so we agreed. He took us to a very fancy tailor shop, where we awkwardly walked around for 5 minutes. The owners were on us as soon as we entered, so we were forced to make small talk before retreating without buying anything. When we got back to the driver, he said he was going to take us to another shop! I was more hesitant, but he didn’t give us much of a choice. So a few minutes later we found ourselves in an office with a travel agent, trying to think of a graceful way to leave.
When we got back to the driver I was feeling very frustrated. He again said he was taking us to another place. This time I said no, we wanted to go to Wat Pho. – What I have learned from my time in Thailand is that Thai people do NOT like the word ‘No’. If you don’t like something or don’t want to do something, you’d better find a nice way to put it, because ‘No’ is simply not accepted! This particular tuk tuk driver went so far as to pull his car over and stop.
He turned to me and took out his wallet, showing me a picture of his 3 children, pointing out his new baby. I immediately busted out laughing, just because the situation was so ridiculous. The driver took this for consent, said how much we were helping us out, and drove us to another tailor shop. Resigned to our fate, we endured another tailor shop and finally made it to Wat Pho. We paid the driver and left, confident we’d be better off with another driver when we were ready to go.
As we walked towards the temple, another tuk tuk driver called out to us. I stopped to talk to him, and told him we were going to Wat Pho. He informed us that the temple was closed for a Buddhist holiday, but offered to take us on an hour tour for only 10 Baht. Sad to hear the temple was closed, we told him no and decided to walk towards the river to start back home.
As we walked down a side road by Wat Pho, we noticed a group of tourists pouring from a doorway. Curious, we went closer for a better look and saw that the temple grounds were full of visitors! I couldn’t believe that the driver had blatantly lied to us! We strolled right in and got to explore the beautiful Wat Pho, which would have been lost to us if we’d gone with the tuk tuk. For the rest of the day we opted to avoid the tuk tuks. Most memorable lesson from this trip to Bangkok:
Don’t trust tuk tuk drivers!