Saturday, 27 September 2008

Bangkok Rip-Off Merchants

I can sum Bangkok up in a short sentence. It stinks of shit, and everyone is trying to rip you off.

OK, so not everyone. But it DOES stink of shit. But I'm getting the hang of quickly snorting out through my nostrils and holding my breath a few seconds.

I quite like the place, it's a mass of contradictions. Shiny new towerblocks right next to decaying, decrepit concrete buildings from another era. Tree roots growing through crumbling still-inhabited buildings. Beggars kow-towing to orange-robed priests passing carrying laptop bags. It would take a long time to be visually bored of this place. But I'm already bored of being taken for a ride. Literally, at times.

We had a laugh today. The Colonel and myself set off for the MBK centre to get me some trainers, and some local SIMs. The place is massive. 1500 sq kilometres. Anyway, we got a tuk-tuk to The Golden Mount for 100 baht (quid thirty-ish) which was a great ride through the smog. Nothing to report about the attraction (not really) apart from the fact that the view was OK. The second tuk-tuk guy wanted 200 baht and to take us to see some gems. Like we were going to fall for that one? We wandered off, and met another guy who was happy to have his photo taken in his tuk-tuk and posing with The Colonel. Seemed like a nice chap. At the time. I can't remember his name now, but he will be referred to as Pigsy from here on in. I'm not being racist, I assure you that he looked like a hairier version of Toshiyuki.

So, anyway...Pigsy's English was very good. We chatted about football, etc. He was on his break, waiting for a friend. But as soon as we mentione dboat trips, his eyes lit up and we were soon on a hair-raising 50 baht (should have sussed him here) ride to the river.

On arriving, he sat us away from the counter (until some other Westerners had moved...again, should have twigged) and then took us to book a 12 quid, 1 hour ride. We were promised 1. 3 beautiful temples 2. Children swimming in the canals 3. Fish leaping from the waters 4. A floating market. We got:

1. A single temple, half built.

2. One poor little sod who, on seeing us, dropped his little fishing rod and leaped into the canal.

3. An offer to stop and take picture of the leaping fish, who were obviously having a siesta, for a further 20 baht. The cheek of it...

4. This is the best one. The boat slowed, and with the boat in front moving away from a pontoon, we were greeted by three people in Thai traditinal dress. all smiles and bows, until we politely told them we didn't fancy a 20 minute dancing and sword-fighting show for 200 baht. Cue evaporated smiles to be replaced with disdainful sneers and a look from the woman as if I'd told her she'd better get home, because Unle Gary was looking after the kids. The next time he slowed the boat, a woman came across in a small canoe, trying to sell us wooden elephants, bamboo fans and non-brand Thai cola. To say I was bemused is putting it politely, as the boatman pointed at her and said "Floating Market". The Colonel's face set me off.

"Floating Market? Where?" I asked the boatman. "There" he said. "Where?" I asked, rhetorically. "Her". Oh dear. "That's her name? What, like Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon?" To say I was mildly annoyed was an understatement, but there's no point getting annoyed. "No more markets, please" and we were gruffly deposited at Wat Pho temple, charged another 20 baht to get off...and then some arsehole tried the Gem Scam. Saw him coming a mile off, to be honest. Told us the Temple was closed, and we should see another one...he'd get us the tuk-tuk. "Do you speak Thai?" he asked as a driver approached. Got your number, mate...see you later.

This country...

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