Exploring Bangkok

Thursday, 29-01-2015. Day 162. 

We learn a few things about Bangkok.  

Despite a relatively easy day of travel the day before, we were still pretty tired, so we slept in a little bit (some of us longer than others), then eased into the day. After the previous night's taxi misadventure, we didn't feel like trying to hail a taxi to go anywhere, so we just checked out our neighborhood, which was the wooden door manufacturing center of Bangkok.

There were something like four or five different places on the street, one after the other, that manufactured wooden doors. Or maybe they were all the same place. But there were a lot of wooden doors being made. If you need a wooden door, this was the neighborhood to visit (check out one of the places, ProudWood, online). In fact, the owner of the Golden Mountain Hostel operated one of these door manufacturing joints, and all the doors, trim work, and furniture at the hostel was really nice.

Common room at Golden Mountain. Check out that wood!

Common room at Golden Mountain. Check out that wood!

Bangkok is Hot

Seriously hot. And humid, which makes walking outside an adventure in moistness. The Thais get a chuckle out of all the westerners (farangs) who think it's hot. We visited in the wintertime, so the temperatures were only between 30° and 34°C. Some Thais we saw walked around in winter coats. It's also filled with mosquitoes, and after reading about a first-hand account of Dengue Fever, we were a little paranoid about mosquitoes.

Bangkok is only Bangkok to Farangs

Bangkok means City of the Wild Plums, but most Thais who lives in Bangkok don't call it Bangkok. Instead, they call it Krung Thep, which means City of Angels. But Krung Thep is only the beginning of the city's actual name, which is really long—it's listed in Guiness Book of World Records as the longest place name in the world. It looks like this:

กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยามหาดิลก ภพนพรัตน์ ราชธานีบุรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์ มหาสถาน อมรพิมาน อวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยะ วิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์

When spoken aloud, that sounds like this:

Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit

And that roughly translates to:

The city of angels, the great city, the residence of the Emerald Buddha, the impregnable city (of Ayutthaya) of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukarn.

Getting a Taxi in Bangkok Sucks

We didn't have any luck getting taxis in Bangkok. The drivers didn't know (or pretended not to know) where things were, even when we pointed it out on a map. And none of them wanted to use the meter. When we insisted they use the meter, they refused and drove off.

When we agreed to an inflated price, we often discovered that the picture of the taxi driver did not look like the man driving the taxi. In one case the picture was an old guy with gray hair and the driver was maybe in his late 20s and drove the taxi with his kid sitting on his lap.

We did some research and found out how to take a taxi in Bangkok and some secrets about the taxi meter in Bangkok taxis, both of which helped to understand what we were up against and made the task of hailing a taxi easier, but negotiating for a taxi was an emotionally exhausting.

Fortunately, we discovered the water taxi ... but more on this later.

The water taxi at night, right before the last run of the day.

The water taxi at night, right before the last run of the day.

Our First Thailand Scam

Once about 5:00 p.m. hits, a whole different selection of restaurants becomes available. The lunch places that had been set up on the streets around the hostel closed up and in their place the dinner restaurants opened and started cooking with propane-powered stoves, right on the sidewalks.

We walked around the block, checking out the night-time transformation and picking up a few things for dinner, mainly fried meats on sticks. We were  somewhat close to Khaosan Road, whcih is the backpacker district of Bangkok, so there was a lot of spillover from the people who were in Bangkok to party it up. We saw numerous inebriated farangs walking around with open half-liter bottles of Chang. Overall, it was pretty vibrant scene.

On the way back to the hostel, we stopped to admire a night view of the Wat Saket, the Golden Mount Temple.

Golden Mount Temple at night.

Golden Mount Temple at night.

As we admired it and snapped a few photos, a tuk tuk driver came up to us and told us it was closed. We told him we knew, we were just taking some photos. He told us he knew the temples that were open, and he'd take us around to them for 100 baht. After being hit with a minor street scam in Hanoi, we had developed something of a scam alert sense, and our scam alarms were ringing hard.

We declined his offer, saying we didn't want to start a tour at 8:00 at night. he dropped his price to 50 baht (which is like $1.50). We passed again. He said, "What price you pay?" And I said, "No price, we're going to bed." Then he was really keen on knowing where we were staying. We also declined to provide him with this information. Eventually, he sped off, a little disgruntled.

This was a variation of the honeypot scam, where a driver or a conspiracy of drivers will tape a map to a tree or a pole. When the farangs come to check it out, a driver will approach and ask what the tourists want to see.

They tell him they want to see "super popular tourist destination." Well, wouldn't you know it, that place is closed today for whatever reason (red flag), but he happens to know of another place that's really great, and he'll gladly take them there for an incredibly low price (another red flag). On the way to this place that may or may not exist, he'll stop at some other place, usually a shop of some kind that sells overpriced and poor quality baubles or clothing.

The honeypot trap is set, waiting for unsuspecting tourists to spring it.

The honeypot trap is set, waiting for unsuspecting tourists to spring it.

 

Notable Statistics:

  • Taxis taken: 0
  • Scams avoided: 1
  • Conversations with drunken tourists about directions: 2

is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. He also drinks coffee.

Read more of Tom's posts.

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Exploring Bangkok
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