Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Little Time in Bangkok - Day 1: SCAMMED

Arrived Bangkok mid morning.. seeing Thailand from above it looks like the Philippines. The hot humid sweaty weather, the roads and the traffic makes me feel like I'm in Manila. The people (Thais) - we look alike. TBH, everything look the same... well, except they are having Buddha statues every corner and Temples everywhere. 

Anyway, due to bumper to bumper traffic, reached the hotel (2015 world luxury hotel winner) located in old Bangkok, in the Phra Athit road/Chao Phraya riverside almost 1 pm. Changed clothes immediately, had lunch and started the exploration.

Phra Athit pier (N13) is right next to the hotel and the terminal is in front of the hotel's restaurant. Paid 150 baht for Chao Phraya express boat service to reach Grand Palace & Emerald Buddha Temple  and Reclining Buddha Temple which are 2 piers away from where we came from.

After getting off the boat at Tha Chang pier (N9), the just off the boat thing happened... a SUPER NICE uncle-looking Thai man (let's call him UTM) approached us, introduced himself as a teacher with a wife nurse etc etc and led our way. I wasn't paying attention 'cause I was sweating like a sheep the night before Eid (LOL). UTM said she thought we're Thais, which the roomie (TR) took it as a compliment because according to her anywhere she goes they mistook her as local like she went to HK and China they also thought she was Chinese etc. Anyway, UTM goes on and on and TR listened to his story intently so I secretly kicked her foot as I have read about this scam and told her in Tagalog to cut the crap. I think UTM sensed it because he told us not to worry he won't ask for money he just want to help as he's a teacher in this so and so University blah blah. (Note to self and readers: if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck!). He said the Grand Palace is closed at the moment ('twas 2pm) for some royal event and will reopen 3pm to 5pm (sounds familiar, really), so better go to this and that place (while writing it on the paper and on our Bangkok map about some exhibition centre where "they only sell genuine ruby stones half the price to locals but since today's the last day, they open it to tourists just when buying tell them it's not for reselling but personal use like gift to your mother, you'll get a good bargain" and that we can go to those places for 200 baht by taking a Tuk-tuk but choose the blue one because it's government-owned. I was against UTM's suggestions but he talked TR (well, us) into it.

And some blue Tuk-tuks were miraculously parked nearby as if they are waiting for us. So old Bangkok, here we come in a Tuk-tuk. 

First stop, the Tuk-tuk driver (another SUPER NICE young Thai man, YTM) dropped us at the back/exit gate of some under-construction temple which later I found out it was Wat Suthat. He told us to come in 20 minutes because he'll get fined if he parks there for long.

Wat Suthat

While taking photos inside the compound a not-so-normal-looking guy scared the hell out of me as he was staring at my sling bag, tried several times to come near me and followed me wherever I go. So we hurried up and left the temple without getting inside.

When we came, YTM immediately  excused himself as he needs to pee or something I forgot.

While waiting, TR and me were taking turns taking a pic while sitting in the Tuk-tuk. Some Thai man in the waiting shed offered to take our photos. I was hesitant to give my phone (really have trust issues with strangers) and told TR that if that man runaway with my phone, she will need to buy me a new one. After some shots, he told stranger-friendly TR that he is a Project manager in that temple and some blah blah story of his life (not much of a conversationalist here esp with strangers). He inquired where we came/are going, how much we pay YTM, etc. He even advise us to pay him at the end of the "tour" (Thai men are SUPER NICE). Later I deduced that this man is in connivance with UTM and YTM.
TR and me in a tuk-tuk
YTM finally returned and apologized for taking so long (I guess it was intentional as he wanted to prolong our stay there since we came back early).

Next stop: Exhibition Centre. On our way to that "Exhibition Centre" I noticed we are just going round and round (same road over and over) but didn't say a thing (I know, I know). The Exhibition Centre is just a small jewellery shop, I was expecting a world trade centre kind of a thing. Anyway, I'm not into jewelries so they failed to sales talk me but TR is... So you know what happened next. (I now wonder if her ruby stone earrings are real...).

We told YTM to take us to money changer or bank as TR runs out of baht (she paid around 5 to 6 thousand baht for that pair of earrings).

At the bank, it took us some amount of time for our turn, too many customers that time, the security gave us glass of water to drink. TR half jokingly side commented that I should be thankful because she was with me otherwise I won't get that water and those men earlier wont approach/help us...

We didn't change our dirhams as the rate was too low at the bank, 1dh is 8.04 while in Dubai it is 9.09 baht. Left the bank and YTM drove us back to the Grand Palace area.

It was past 3 pm. YTM stopped at the opposite road of the Palace. When we told him to wait for us, he said his duty/time is finished we have to pay him. TR wanted to hire him to drive us around and took his mobile number. He was hesitant to give but gave it anyway. (Maybe he had given her wrong number, we dunno.) While walking some bystanders told us Palace is closed now. We couldn't believe it so we went inside the Tourist Information booth (TIB) across from the Palace and asked the ladies there. We were told that it's about to close now but we can still check. Then it dawned on us that we had been duped, told TR that I should have had trusted my instinct but since well you know... 

Anyway, we still crossed the road and tried but the guards at the Palace told us that they cannot let us in anymore as it is already closed. I checked my watch,  it was almost 3:30 pm. (Note to readers: The Grand Palace is open from 9am to 3:15pm, Tue to Sun)

We went back to the TIB for the Reclining Buddha Temple, they gave us the direction which is behind the Grand Palace and about 5-10 minutes walk from there.

While we were walking almost ALL of the taxi and tuk-tuk drivers including bystanders and street vendors asked us where are we going and told us to take taxi/tuk-tuk because it's far, some of them said it's closed (seriously, Bangkok is a hotbed of scammers). TR almost got persuaded (again!) by these people because she felt it's far or we're getting lost. Since I was really, really, really pretty fecking upset and annoyed at myself for not trusting my instincts, speaking up, telling what I think and for letting her drag me down with her gullibility, I told her to stop talking to these scamming scumbags and reminded her what the TIB ladies told us - it's 5-10minutes from here, just take left then straight then left, and that they are open until 6:30 pm meaning we have plenty of time even if we get lost. So finally we reached the temple (praise Buddha for that!), paid 100 baht each with free small cold bottled water. Explore the compound for an hour or two. (Note to readers: The Temple of the Reclining Buddha is open daily from 8am to 6:30 pm)

Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)

So that's how our first horrible day in Bangkok goes..