Ok, it’s a hackneyed saying but it’s quite appropriate for how I feel about Bangkok, “if you can’t find anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Perhaps I’m being a little too harsh and yes, I admit, we got off to a bad start.
But seriously as the gateway to South East Asia I’m afraid Bangkok doesn’t do itself any favours.
Firstly, is it too much to ask to find a taxi or tuk tuk who will take you to your destination without it involving at least one stop at a tailors or gem store?
While I’m on the matter of transport, why is it that Bangkok taxi drivers refuse to use their meters even though their taxis are called taxi-meter? And why are they the only taxi, tuk tuk and motorbike drivers in South East Asia who conveniently never seem to have any change?
Because the first month of my travels involved an organised tour I decided to be lazy and not read too much into the places we were going. In fact, the only page I read from my Lonely Planet was the scam page. Hands down the most valuable page of literature in my life.
My favourite scam was when, on the first day of travelling with my two girlfriends fresh off the plane from New Zealand, an official looking man in a pink shirt outside the Grand Palace told us it was closed for worship. Luckily, he told us he had a tuk tuk close by to take us to other attractions while we waited for it to re-open. The two girls seemed convinced, me not so much. Firstly, there’s a loud speaker outside the Grand Palace hailing something along the lines of: “welcome to the Grand Palace, open daily from 10 til 4. Do not accept any offer of tuk tuk rides to other attractions.” Secondly, there’s a sign reading, “don’t accept help from wirily strangers.” Thirdly, I can see westerners just down the road clearly entering the Grand Palace.
I hate to say it but when a friendly local approaches you asking, “where you from, how long you here,” it’s not because they’re genuinely interested in you, it’s because they’re trying to work out if you’re fresh enough off the plane to fall for it.
I could go on but as a former journalist I think this blog post needs some balance.
I must admit if you do actually manage to make it to the Grand Palace, it’s beautiful. Just down the road, Wat Po, the giant reclining Buddha is worth a look.
The canals of Bangkok are also worth a tailboard ride, if you can manage to get on boat with a few others. If not, you’ll be conned, like us, into having an entire longboat to yourself, making it one expensive cruise.
Khoasan Road, at the heart of the backpacker quarter does possibly the best and cheapest Pad Thai in Thailand, served straight off the street cart. Just don’t expect to bag a bargain on Khoasan. The vendors are seasoned pros, their knock off sunglasses and ubiquitous t-shirts are overpriced in comparison with the rest of South East Asia. And, as I learnt, trying to engage in some friendly bargaining can quickly deteriorate, in my case to the point the vendor is yelling at me in Thai and shooing me from his shop.
But perhaps the number one reason I don’t like Bangkok is because I got mistaken for being pregnant by a local. But that’s a whole nother blog post…