Chang beer and sambuca. We’ve just eaten the first Western meal since our flight to Southeast Asia. It’s the last night in Bangkok and we’re desperately trying to get rid of our last Bahts, of which we apparently had quite a lot. The Italian restaurant conveniently situated 50 meters from our guest house offered our poor Scandinavian stomachs a well deserved break from all the Thai food we’ve tortured them with the last couple of days. However, the pizzas we ordered were almost three times more expensive than your average Thai dish, although still only about 5 euros per pizza. Eating local food is cheap in Bangkok.
One thing that is not as cheap as food is getting scammed. Coming from a country where you can trust almost anyone who dresses nicely and acts sincere, we hit a real speed bump during our first day in Asia and learned never to trust anyone. Read everything about the infamous tailor scam in another post.
After losing our faces in the scam, we quickly learned how to deal with tuk-tuk drivers, salesmen, taxi drivers and others trying to fool us into paying more than necessary. Every tuk-tuk driver apparently has his own sponsor, bringing customers for a surprise-visit to the sponsor’s shop to gain free gasoline. After understanding this, the words ”tenti baat, no stop!” quickly became the standard negotiation phrase when tuk-tuk drivers wanted to take us to our destination for ”hanled baat” (100 baht) with a ”quick stop for gasoline” on the way. Using the local lingo instead of proper English is one of the keys to a successful bargain. After a bit of negotiation, the final price would land somewhere between 20 and 50 baht, without extra stops at the sponsor. When a tuk-tuk driver didn’t want to bargain, we just hailed the next one.
Although the tailor scam and the annoying tuk-tuk drivers and salesmen really colored our view of Bangkok in dark shades, the city did show itself from a brighter side today. We met a couple of really nice people on the street, who actually weren’t out to betray us, but genuinely wanted to help us find the places we were looking for. We’ve seen astonishing temples and buildings, tried the local transportation system in form of the sightseeing-friendly Skytrain and the convenient river buses and even strayed off into a local handicraft market where hand made silk garments switched owners for around 5€/meter (yes, some of us did buy a fair amount of it). The shopping is probably great in Bangkok, if you keep in mind that a Ralph Lauren Polo Sport shirt isn’t necessarily a Ralph Lauren Polo Sport shirt, and there are loads of beautiful temples and mosques if that’s your cup of tea. What we missed about Bangkok were the open spaces, the greenery and relaxing atmosphere. We didn’t stumble upon any part of the city in which you could just stroll around undisturbed and gaze at the beautiful surroundings, since 1) there was always someone there who wanted our money, and 2) the beautiful surroundings were concentrated to temples and government buildings scattered over the whole city. Or then again, maybe we just didn’t find the right places…
Anyhow, Bangkok gave our journey a proper bittersweet kick start and taught us some healthy street-wiseness for the remaining trip.
Bangkok in five words: stress, odors, deceit, contrasts, cheap.