Day 20: Bangkok Temples

“There’s no time to be bored in a world as beautiful as this”

Soooo much to write about today.

We went to see some of the big temples in Bangkok. This involved taking the public transit boats on the Chao Phraya river. The boat we took was very crowded, with all the seats filled and all of the space in the middle filled with standing passengers. There are so many boats on this waterway I was a bit worried about our safety, but Derek pointed out that there were handrails all up the inside of the boat, and clearly it was used for transporting many people so, that was fine.

When we arrived at pier 9, a man wearing a white collared shirt that said “tourist police volunteer” asked where we were heading and we told him. He suggested that we get the next tuktuk in a row of them, and that we pay 200 Bhat at the end of the trip. The driver would take us to 4 stops on our map. Derek had planned out the places he wanted to go, but the tourist police guy told us they were closed, and suggested other temples instead.

So off we went in the tuktuk to the temples that had been suggested. They were interesting but not what Derek had wanted. Then at one of them, when we came back to our tuktuk, the driver said he needed to use the washroom, so he’d be right back.

While we were waiting, a man sitting nearby struck up a conversation with us, asking where we were from, and we chatted with him. He said he was a lawyer, had a brother who was a doctor in a Toronto hospital, and told us how we were getting a good deal today with this driver because it was a special tourist day in Bangkok. That the government wanted tourists to know about their fashion district, and given that it was the off season, the government would give our driver a special gas voucher for bringing us to the fashion district.

Our driver came back, and we were on our way again to the next temple. Then to the fashion district.

Our tuktuk driver told us that he wouldn’t get the voucher from the government if we didn’t buy anything, but still just buy it if we like and don’t buy it if we don’t.

The “fashion district” turned out to be 1 tailor shop.

When we got out of the tuktuk we were greatly encouraged into this tailor’s shop. Once inside, we both forcefully said we didn’t want anything and left as our spidey senses were tingling.

I looked online and read about a few scams that are common in this area, and this is a variant of one that seems very common, where nothing illegal happens per se, but where you are encouraged to spend money at specific stores (travel agencies seem to be the most common), and overpay for items, while getting an inexpensive tuktuk ride around.

Anyway, we made our next stop the museum, which was where our ride was going to end, and we were off on our own again, rid of our tuktuk driver and whatever weird scam that was.

Here’s what the tuktuk driver looked like (if you see him, take a different tuktuk!) 

The museum was really interesting.

Then we had some lunch which was delicious. And took another boat over to another area:

It was 46 degrees out there today, so when I say stinking hot, you know I mean stinking hot.

Lastly we went to see Wat Arun, which was really amazing. We wandered around in some really small alleyways off the beaten path, which made it really special.

Now we are back at our hotel.

Ok, there are other things I wanted to write about too.

On Food: 

Lychee: I can’t believe I forgot to write about lychee fruits yesterday. This is my new favourite food and scent. I think everything should be made of them. They are just soooo delicious.

Yesterday our tour guide told us about warm fruits and cold fruits – a concept I was unfamiliar with. According to her, durian is a warm fruit, meaning that if you eat too much of it, your digestive system revolts and warms up and produces gas(!), so you should eat cooling fruits like mango after just a reasonable amount of durian.

Also yesterday, we saw salt flats which I had never seen before. I thought they were rice patties, but they weren’t. Basically they let up some water from the ground, and then let it dry in the sun, and then what is left is salt. If it’s white it goes for eating. If it’s grey, it goes for fertiliizer – at least according to our guide 🙂

On Bargaining in the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market: 

I also meant to write yesterday about bargaining in the markets. Before we went out in the markets, our guide told us to pay 60% maximum of whatever the first offer on anything was.

We had given the kids a bit of money to spend while we are here. Clara had 500 Bhat – the equivalent of about 20$.

Clara noticed a purse that she wanted, and asked how much it would be. The  merchant said 850 Bhat. Clara and I said no thank you and walked away – not intending to go back because that seemed a lot for a little canvas bag. The merchant followed us and said 500 Bhat. Now Clara was interested because she had that much money, but I reminded her that would be everything she had for 1 purse, so she said no thank you and we moved along. The price quickly dropped to 400 Bhat, we kept walking politely saying no thank you. Then the price dropped to 300 Bhat.

And we caved.

The weird thing was we weren’t trying to negotiate, we just didn’t want to pay the initial amount – legitimately. But at 300 Bhat, Clara was very happy. So was the seller who gave us a free fan, which made me think we definitely overpaid in one sense in the end, but oh well, what can you do. In reality, we are finding it a bit hard to bargain when we can afford the initial prices. It feels wrong. But our tour guide said we should anyway.

Ok, that was a really long blog post, so I’m going to call it. Hopefully if you read this far that you’re out there having a great day wherever you are 🙂