- Posted January 1, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Travel photo of the day
Dodging scammers in Bangkok
Beautiful as Bangkok is, I came back home turned off by the feeling that I constantly had to look over my shoulders. At first I was well jazzed about this trip and the beauty of the photos I had seen but as soon as I started reading warnings in my guide book part of the excitement dissipated...yet I set out to pay an extra dose of attention and this would clear my mind of any worries. First worry: my guide book advised to not trust cab drivers, I fought off that worry by reminding myself that I had arranged a shuttle from the airport to the hotel, once in Bangkok I would use public transportation as I hate exploring places by taxis, I make a point of always taking public transportation, I consider it part of the adventure. So I would ride the sky train (by the way the Chong Nonsi station is impressive!) up to where I could hop on the ferry which serves all the beautiful temples on the riverside of the Mae Nam Chao Phraya. on my first day I visited the Wat Pho (a large area consisting of quite a few beautiful temples where you can admire the massive 46 meter long Golden Buddha and its decorated feet.
On the next day I set out to visit the awesome Grand Palace and it happened exactly what my guide book had warned me about!!! People started approaching me and telling me that the palace was closed because of a ceremony, they suggested an alternative tour (that would end up in a jewelry shop!!!). I brushed them off and walked past...after all when the ferry had stopped to let tourists get off nobody had said anything about this and many other tourists were walking ahead....but I was traveling solo and this seemed to make me the ideal victim for scammers!!! I kept on sidestepping them until I ran into a police officer who repeated the same story and called a tuk-tuk (sort of colorful fancy taxis) to take me around. I objected that I had read that they were not safe but he insisted so I reluctantly jumped in (in a place where you are always on the wrong side just because you are not Thai you don't want to argue with a policeman!!). The kid driver was the only decent fellow I met in Bangkok, he told me the place the policeman had indicated was a jewelry shop and took me back to the Grand Palace reassuring me that it was actually open and that I shouldn't believe anybody who said the opposite. I made a few other attempts being pushed back from people saying it was closed and again forward by others who told me it was open. Eventually I could visit it and it was worth the bother.
I visited a few other temples in Bangkok, if you ever go there you shouldn't miss out on the Wat Arun. Another must see place is the floating market, you have to go there by taxi as it is not served by public transportation, just have one called by staff at your hotel and do not hail one on the street.
Another day I set out to visit the orchid market, once again scammers were lurking... Billboards read "ferries" but later I realized they were water taxis when ( too late) it dawned on me I was the only one on board.... The trip was cheap but I spent all the time wondering if I had better jump off and swim my way to an unknown secluded hut which was a pity because the trip along the canals felt very much Indiana Jones style and, hadn't I been so scared, would have been very enjoyable!!
Beautiful as Bangkok was, I left with a sense of relief. I grabbed the English version of a Thai newspaper on the run before bordering the plane and was once more turned off by what I read. They talked about a Russian tourist on her honeymoon who'd drowned in Puket: in any country this would have been described as a tragedy but in Thailand it was described as if they had been bugged by this fact. They even wrote that "of course Thai people had been rescued first" !!! They live on tourism (well, actually they thrive on opium production, secondly on prostitution and then on normal tourism!!) and they just let foreigners drown?? Then I read about a tourist on whose death any investigation had been deemed unnecessary ( his broken neck was surely to be chalked up to the waves) another whose relatives had asked for the autopsy not to be performed...I felt like Thailand was like a big black hole ready to swallow you as soon as you make a little misstep