Trouble in Bangkok

Looking at @vaitor's timeline on Twitter and reading his blog took me back to the brief visit to Bangkok in early 2007. The country had just come off a coup d'├ętat a few months and the military were still showing off their might with tanks in the main area near the Palace and armed guards. I thought of making this post to quickly write about the few things that I saw and experienced. From the rides on the long-tails to the incessant badgering of the tuk-tuks to the trips to the pearl and emarald 'museums', it was in all, quite fascinating

The Grand Palace by night

Getting into the city was pretty boring, if you ignored the bumper to bumper traffic and the driver asking if I wanted 'bam-bam' ( No, I won't explain it). I checked in to the serviced apartment which was pretty reasonable and centrally located near Sukhumvit and close to the monorail which made it pretty easy to move around town.

The main places to go in Bangkok as any travel guide would tell you would be the Grand Palace (really expensive but totally worth it),

Not having enough time caused me to rush through most of the palace, but the richness of the architecture and gold leaf lined roof and the vast expanses of the interiors, made you feel like you were part of the splendor and went to a different time altogether.

Bangkok is a city that seems to have grown out of the banks of the Chao Phraya and spending time along the river is a must do for all visitors. Take the light rail to XXXX and  get off at piers to jump on to a longtail boat to take you up and down the river. Get off at Wat Arun and walk around the alleys around to see a quieter side of Bangkok. Once you enter Wat Arun, you can see that the steps and the sides have been made by plastering porcelain shards.

The Pagoda of Wat Arun

Wat Arun at twilight

Pier on the Chao Phraya
Also, don't miss out Wat Pho, which has this humongous reclining Buddha

Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

Make sure that you hit Lumphini Park in the evening, where they usually have a Thai concert or music program which is free to all, but the catch is, if you want to sit down at a table, order food at one of the restaurants. Make sure that you walk all around to find all sort of touristy nick-knacks. Try the ice creams and ice golas here.. they have all sorts of flavours ranging from fresh mango to lycheee to the strong smelling durians. When I visited, there was a giant wheel called 'La Roue de Paris' which apparently was on a world tour.

La Roue de Paris

There are plenty of scams in the city too... the most common one was a taxi driver or a tuk-tuk guy will offer to drop you off at a temple/museum or palace for a price that is at a fraction of what others would be charging. But what he does NOT tell you is that he would make an unscheduled shop at a world famous gem 'museum'. Here's how the conversation usually goes -

Me : Wat Pho - how much ?
Tuk-tuk: For you sir, special price, I take only 75 Baht
Me: (referring to Lonely planet/ Wikitravel printouts) No..only 30 Baht.
TT : ok.. 50 baht.
Me: How about mid-way.. 40 Baht.. neither for you nor for me.
TT: Ok Ok.... 50 Baht to go to Wat Pho and then go to Palace ( or whatever)
Me: ( That doesn't sound like a bad deal) Ok. Lets go.

On the way, he start talking about a good friend of his who has an pearl museum and how they have the largest pearl in the world and that he could get me exclusive access to the craft smiths who make the jewelery and a tour of the facilities. Having a lot of time on my hand, I decide to go along and see what happens. The museum turned out to be a shop, where the salesman tries to hard-sell jewelery to other tourists like me. While this is happening, the tuk-tuk driver goes to the reception and picks up a coupon that he can redeem at a nearby petrol pump. So basically, the jewelery/antique/porcelain shop owners give the taxi/tuk-tuk/tour operators an incentive to bring unsuspecting tourists and then gouge them by charging atrocious rates. It turns out that its a fairly well established scam and is a global best practice that is conducted right from Thailand to China to Turkey and Egypt

A tuk-tuk is noting but a regular auto rikshaw that farangs have a fascination for i

Fresco at the Palace

Palace Roof

Quiet back streets

An array of Buddhas.. everywhere !

Other notes about Bangkok
  • Touts are everywhere. They try to sell anything. and I mean ANYTHING
  • Bangkok is hot. Even in January
  • Expect to be taken for a ride. And you will be.
  • Spend a whole day at the Palace.. if that's your kind of thing. It also makes it worth the entry fee
  • Travel up and down the river early in the morning. Nice views, and no smog.
  • Food - be adventurous even if you are veggie. Even streetfood has veggie options
  • There are a lot of 7-Elevens in the city.. at one corner, I spotted 3
  • Don't pack too many clothes.. you can buy clothes by the kilo
  • That lovely lady may not be one.. a lady, I mean
  • Most of the trouble makers are drunk, white farangs 
  • Don't by DVDs on the street. What you see wont be what you get
  • Drink a lot of water. Hydrate. and then drink some more water
  • Use the tourist spot/gem museum scam to your advantage. Once inside, see if you can escape. I did this once, and I did not pay the tuk-tuk guy. I figured that he got his gas money back
  • And don't go at this time ( May 2010) there are riots in BKK. People get killed.

Trampled byY Trip at Friday, May 21, 2010


vijay said... May 31, 2010 at 11:32 PM  

Wow love the images...would love to visit these places atleast once in my lifetime..

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