One night in Bangkok..
So we flew for 24 hours.. two flights with air Canada and one with Thai airways. We have to say that the 14 hour flight with air Canada was the best flight we had ever taken.. the staff were so friendly and helpful. But 14 hours is a bit much to handle though and I am already not looking forward to the return trip home.. but they treated us like gold .. starting with getting us very drunk by hour 3.. the mini wine bottles just kept showing up and next thing you knew it was Friday night at someone’s home getting tanked .. laughing and being loud trying our best not to break anything .. including their trust.. but good things come to pass and by hour 5 we were starting to come down and feeling like dog sh*t.. trapped at 30,000 feet in a small cabin thinking the worst of everything.. wishing we had a real bed to lie in.. wishing we could walk home and crash proper.. knowing we had another 9 hours to go.. it wasn’t till hour 7 or so when the soup and sandwich service started that we were starting to feel a bit normal again. what a party!
For the last hour they bumped us up to first class to experience the “pods”. These are electronic lazyboy seats with little compartments and gadgets ..pretty cool:) . Why were we bumped to the front of the plane ? Because our connecting flight was in Shanghai China and we didn’t have a travel visa.. we had a baggage claim slip.. meaning get your bags and good luck getting through Chinese customs. So, they felt bad for us. We had 2 hours in Shanghai to get through customs and all the foreigners around us were saying the same thing. ” hmmm. never heard of that situation before .. you will need a visa to get through customs .. they wont let you through without a visa blah blah “.. yeah we were extremely nervous.. long nerve racking story short though is that we got through and made it to our Thai connecting flight. My Mandarin ear was working well and it was all coming back to me in the form of numbers, verbs, greetings and good memories.
The Thai flight was all about keeping the consumables in.. by now we had eaten 3 full food services, snacked on a multitude of pretzels, cookies, pops, juices that are fed to you on a constant basis.. a full fledge drunk in the form of wine.. and there was yet another full meal with snacks and drinks to be served on the Thai flight.. Please god that doesn’t exist, don’t make me have to sh*t on the plane..
We finally arrived in Bangkok.. we hadn’t booked a hotel before leaving.. getting cocky and figuring we would find something ourselves.. we took a 30 minute train ride into the heart of Bangkok and aimed for a section called Banglamphu.. a backpackers haven. Wow.. what a place! people everywhere roaming around.. sitting around eating.. getting massages .. getting drunk.. bands playing.. merchants everywhere. taxis, tuk tuks.. all within 10 feet of you at all times. We had made it! We have been here for 2 days now and are getting ready to leave for Ko Tao.. a small island in the south.
So .. Thailand the land of 1000 smiles.. well we managed to meet a group of people that don’t fit this saying.. the dreaded tuk tuk / unofficial tourism network. In all my travels I have never encountered such mess of stupidity and aggression. Yeah two days in Bangkok and I managed to get us in some hot water.. so here is what happened..
We were walking to a place to take the city bus 53 that would take us to the main train terminal so we could buy a ticket south to Ko Tao.. I had read that it’s best to buy tickets directly from the source to avoid the many scams and problems.. We were across the street from bus 53 when a smiling man came and talked to us.. asking us what were doing and where we were going. He was full of helpful information and was super nice.. before you knew it he was beckoning us into his flashy green tuk tuk.. i wish Sylvie and I had just crossed the street and boarded bus 53.. we would have avoided the big mess ahead of us..
Reluctantly we got into his tuk tuk.. he was going to take us to the train terminal for 20 baht.. a very good deal.. like less than a dollar.. we get to avoid the hassle and the unknown of the city bus.. So after driving for a bit he starts the scam. His tuk tuk is government run he says and we should only trust tuk tuks with the official plaque that states so.. fair enough. He continues saying that we should book all of our travels through the government office to avoid all problems.. sounded legit to me .. government office? we cant go wrong ! I’ve seen stranger things than a government running trains and buses right ? ok take us to the government office and we will check out the prices and service.. we weren’t committing to anything at this point.
Well on the way there is a beautiful temple we could visit.. ok sure why not, we are tourist in a tuk tuk.. we aren’t in hurry .. take us to the temple along the way! So he waited while we walked around this strange temple area and snapped a few pictures. Inside the temple there was a man who corroborated the tuk tuk driver’s story about government tourism. We felt safe and secure haha we later figured out that the temple dude was part of this corrupt network.
We returned to our faithful tuk tuk driver and continued the trip to the government office.. 168 and the name of a street I cant remember. The temple man had quoted the same address. Sure enough we arrived at 168 and our driver said to take our time and that he would wait for us. We entered this weird office to see government style pictures on the walls .. a crew of workers at desks .. stacks of papers everywhere .. posters of tourism and beautiful places. At the time of this writing I am still not sure if this place was for real or not. We are seated with our agent who starts to quote prices and routes .. he makes a phone call for us to book the train and before you know it he wants 3000 baht for the whole trip to Ko Tao and he wants an answer right now. I ask a few questions about the trip and he starts showing his teeth.. “I don’t want to look at your face to know what you are thinking or not.. How long you want to stay there or how you want to return is not a concern of mine.. If you want to go there then we will do it now. Otherwise you are killing my time.. You want to do this with us that is fine we do it,, you want to do it on your own then go head .. You are killing my time ( we weren’t there 5 minutes total and there wasn’t anyone else in line waiting to see the other agents..).. I have lots of things to do”.. He was pressuring us big time to decide on his offer.. We said yes just to end his rant. He sent a secretary to photocopy my passport and in those 20 seconds Sylvie and I looked at each other and decided that this didn’t feel right.. When my passport returned I told the man that we had changed our minds. He had written three words on some slip of paper and asked why I told him after he had written on the slip. I politely explained that we felt a bit rushed and now that we had thought about it we had changed our minds. “I met one like you before..FUCK!!.. Its your culture to lie.. Killing my time .. Get out … NOW!!!” We were in disbelief.. Things had gone very bad very quickly.. ,His rage could be felt by the whole office.. The frustration of having failed at pressuring us into his scam.. The disappointment in himself at having chosen to be a tourism scammer as a career. That resounding FUCK said it all. Sylvie was already on her feet and we were out the door and back into the tuk tuk. Lost in the shock of the whole situation we hadn’t clued in that the tuk tuk driver was part of this whole ordeal.. So we drove away in complete confusion..
The tuk tuk driver apologized when we told him what happened and he insisted on another stop..an Armani suit shop.. He said that if we went inside to browse that the store owner would give him a fuel voucher.. He said it would really help him.. We didn’t like the idea but figured it couldn’t hurt.. So into this suit shop we go.. Really ? A couple of backpackers are going to be buying a suit.. Duh.. So after pretending I was a business man from Montreal who would be interested in ordering plenty of tailor made suits we got back into the tuk tuk.. And guess what? He didn’t get his voucher.. Because we didn’t buy anything.. So he asks if he can take us to another stop to help him again. At this point I had enough.. Sylvie and I had been more than generous with our time.. Train tickets were being sold without us as we toured around this neighbourhood .. The day was burning away.. He was killing our time. I said “no take us to the train station please or we can pay you and get out here..”.. “Oh please help me.. I take you to temple you help me now!” I said “take the money we will go..” He continued to beg “No no please help me one stop then we go to another government ticket place…” A final no from me and then for the second time today I managed to bring a Thai citizen to their snapping point.. A loud “FUCK” and a look of pain and rage on his face.. His scam was over and it had failed.. he looked as though he wanted to attack me but thought twice.. A fighter I am not but I could have taken this guy and I think he knew it. So we found ourselves on the side of road .. No clue where we were.. Deflated and bewildered.
We roamed around for about 15 minutes before surrendering to a cab.. We hopped in and said Bamlamphu with meter (meaning run the meter) and yet another scam attempt situation ! he wants to charge us 200 baht for the ride.. now I am ready to snap! Run the meter like a proper business man! We have to leave this cab and get another.. And just like a scene from a bad movie.. I look up as I crawl out of the back seat of the Toyota Corolla to see the numbers 168 !! Omfg.. We were right back at the scammer’s tourist office.. And asshole who had so much work to do was sitting outside smoking cigarettes.. ahhhhh!!
So we eventually got to the station and bought our tickets.. How much money we saved I don’t know but we learned lots from the experience.
We have seen lots during our stay here.. In 2 days only.. The street we stayed on is one block away from Khao San road which is the street featured in the opening scenes of The Beach.. What a party street that is.. People from everywhere.. Young drunks and party animals.. Parents with children.. middle of the road folks like Sylvie and I .. Lady boys left and right.. Loud music layered over loud music from the various bars.. People dancing in the streets. Vendors everywhere and of course those frikken tuk tuks. We completely ignore then now and so should you !
As we were leaving our hotel room this Friday morning we witnessed a very disturbing scene. Our hotel has an outdoor restaurant as it’s patio out front.. And this young guy wearing shorts, sneakers and a t shirt was being escorted out of the restaurant.. Everyone in the restaurant was glued to this situation.. We stopped and watched.. The young guy looked out of it.. Super drunk perhaps or drugged.. Sedated almost because he wasn’t loud or rowdy at all but he was completely f*cked. He had a fresh swollen eye. Red, gross and shut.. And he wasn’t alone.. He was leaving the restaurant being led by his partner.. A lady boy.. About the same size as him.. Obvious to us onlookers but perhaps not so to the drunk guy.. He stumble out to the roadway and we could hear people talking about the fact that he had no money.. Maybe the reason he was asked to leave.. But it was clear that he had been with this lady boy for a few hours or possibly all night because they had a rapport together and he seemed to trust her/him.. I can’t stress enough how messed up this guy was.. Sylvie and I followed them down the road and every single person that passed had a look of shock on their face when they saw these 2.. They then turned and headed away from the backpacker neighbourhood.. Away from the safety zone and into the unknown .. She was leading him somewhere as he stumbled and knocked umbrellas and stools over.. We managed to overtake them and stop ahead to film them walking by.. You gotta see them together and wonder what happened. Did she give him the black eye ?.. Did she save him from some bad situation that he got robbed of his things…? Did he discover she was not what he thought ?.. Did he have friends that wondered where he was right now? Where was she now taking him?.. I got the very sad sense that this guy was in big trouble and no one, including Sylvie and I, helped him out.. We all just watched him walk away into the chaos of the city. We couldn’t get it out of our heads for the rest of the day.. One of the strangest things I have witnessed.. Poor guy made some bad decisions.
Weirdness and pissed off tourist scammers aside we had an awesome time .. We wandered our way to see some awesome temples. We crossed the Mae Nam Chao Phraya river on a ferry.. we roamed some pretty dense markets and alleyway vendor dens.. And of course we ate some amazing food!! Thai food is incredible and dirt cheap. We had supper for 3 dollars yesterday.. Total haha..
So Sylvie is currently sleeping beside me on this night train as we head over to Ko Tao.. An island close to where the Malaysian flight disappeared. We plan to stay there for a few days and island hop a few.. This train sucks very badly .. a constant ( and I mean CONSTANT ) beeping sound coming from behind us .. Like microwave beeps from behind a closed door.. Not too bad like that but mind burning after 7 hours. This train car is packed with women wearing burkas and we can’t help but wonder why.. Seems so out of place in this part of the world.. My working theory is that perhaps they are headed to Muslim majority Malaysia by train because of the trouble with flights in recent times?
Sylvie tells me that the bathroom is a hole in the ground with foot mounts and a railing.. I’m holding it all in.. I don’t even want to see it. Its freezing in here and they gave everyone towels as blankets. The seats recline but it doesn’t do anything for my long legs.. Horrible train ride.. We just need it to derail now.. Salt to the wound considering the trouble we went through to get on it..