First Day in Bangkok

Trip Start Jul 28, 2009
Trip End Jul 27, 2010

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Tuc Tuc’s here are amazing, they’re so much better than China. Forgive me if you don’t know what a Tuc Tuc is; it is a 3 wheeled motorised vehicle which are extremely dangerous, but very fun. In China they were electric and fairly bodged together, whereas in Bangkok they’re decent.
After leaving the airport I had no idea where I was going, at this point I was mildly panicking because I didn’t have much of a plan for Bangkok. I was told to go to a place called MBK, which is a large shopping centre in the middle of town. I was assured that there were lots of foreigners there, so I was planning on asking randomers where to stay.
Instead when I got there I found no foreigners, so i had to trust the fellow Tuc Tuc drivers. After bartering him down from 100 baht to 40 I was ready to go.
He actually took me to a very nice place, right next to the railway station. Its called the Train Inn. 400 Baht a night, which is about 7 pounds. I worked out that if I stayed here for 60 days (which is how long I plan to spend in Thailand) it will cost me 320. I get a double bed (room for one more) air conditioning, English TV but no en-suite. I love Thailand.
The first thing i did, which is very surprising is I wrote down all the phrases i needed to know in Thai. 
For example:

Hello: Sawat dii khrap
Thank you: Khawp khun khrap
Water: Nam
I don’t understand: Mai Khao jai
Vegetarian (very important): Phom kin ahaan jeh

Plus more, but I thought those might have been interesting to you. And to be honest, I’ve actually learnt half those phrases in just a day. Plus, I keep talking Chinese to people, thinking they’ll understand.. but they don’t.

I started reading a rough guide to Bangkok, so I had some idea of what there was to do around the place. There were some shocking statistics in the book too about the sex industry; which I’ve been desperate to share with someone. There are an estimated 700,000 prostitutes in the Bangkok, a city of 9 million. 10% of these are estimated underage (15 or below), which really upset me. You can buy a virgin for 6000 Baht, which is less than 200. Some have been known to be the age of 9. Technically prostitution is illegal here in Thailand, however the industry is worth around 4 billion so I think the government must turn a blind eye. 1 in 60 prostitutes are HIV positive.
After reading a rough guide to Bangkok I was ready to go, armed with several condoms and pepper spray.

I got a nice cheap street meal where I chatted with the locals. I was practising my new phrases in Thai. I said I was a vegetarian, but they must not have understood because when i started eating my dish i realised there were very small pieces of prawn in there. I gave this dish away to a group of Thai men who were very appreciative. I got another dish, which was very nice, i found it very interesting because of the sweet and sour tastes; especially when you pour the lime on the side of the dish too. 

I made friends with a motorcycle driver, but I made clear that i wasn’t interested in getting a motorcycle taxi because it’s dangerous! He hooked me up with his friend who was a Tuc Tuc driver. This was a very interesting part of my day. He  was wielding a coupon for 5 litres of free gasoline. He wanted me to go into a shop an pretend that I was interested in a suit, I didn’t have to buy, but just have a look.
I agreed, because he said that he would take me to where I wanted to go for 10 Bhat. I agreed, plus i thought it would be quite exciting.

The first shop i entered I wasn’t too sure. I felt like i was walking into a scam, so i kept my wits about me and my pepper spray in my hand. As I entered the nicely air conditioned room I was greeted by a man. As usual in Asia, they are extremely interested in selling you stuff, so he was very enthusiastic about showing off the stuff to me. 
I learnt that there was 3 types of quality; low (polyester), medium (cotton) and high (Kashmir 80% and cotton 20%).
I was pretending to be interested and was asking all sorts of questions and talking about what colour would suit me etc.
In the end I said that I was going to comparison shop around, but I assured him that I’d be back, even though I definitely wasn’t.

As the Tuc Tuc driver had promised he got 5 litres of free petrol, just because i entered the shop. I felt happy to help a fellow man, especially one under privileged like me. He asked me to do it again, but i said no. I thought about it again, and saw an opportunity. 
“If I do it once more, would you take me around the city for free?”
He agreed. As I’m trying to spend as little money as possible, this was working out quite nicely. 
As i entered another shop I was an experienced scammer. I knew exactly what to say, and was busting out all the technical language that i had learnt from my previous experience. I even started bartering with him, even though i had no intention of buying the suit. 
I noticed that the asked the same questions;
“where are you from?”
“Is that near London?”

Assuring him that I was going to come back i left with no intention of going back. I felt a little bad, because he offered me a damn good price of 6000 Bhat for a complete suit in the top quality. But I have no need for suits, apart from corduroy.

After taking about 15 minutes out of my time, I now had my own Tuc Tuc driver for the day. Ideal.
He took me around many places, all the touristy ones that I wanted to see. I didn’t stop and look, I just wanted to get a mini tour. 

I also needed a haircut, so that was the first thing I went and did. The driver took me to the crappiest place ever, which was full of smoke because there was lots of Buddhist rituals going on outside. It wasn’t great, and the worst thing is i was waiting there for ages. In even let someone go before me, because they had to catch a train. I sat there for a while, and spoke to someone that was there. To my surprise he has studied at Leeds university so his English was very good, he was telling me about his family (which was 80% of the people in the room) and what his work was. This is what I love about travelling, talking to locals and finding out about other peoples way of life. 

In finally got in the chair, and to my surprise the barber couldn’t talk English (which really did surprise me because most people i spoke to actually could), so it was very fun trying to explain what i wanted without English. The only word we both understood was “OK”. He made a mess with my hair, and successfully turned me looking like a boy. This put me in a bad mood, and to make things worse, my Tuc Tuc driver had pulled a runner, even though he said he’d wait for me.

This put me in a bad mood.
I visited a Buddhist temple - it was Ok. 

As i tried to work out how to get back to my hostel an English couple stopped and asked if I was lost. As i obviously was I got chatting to them. They had to go to the train station, which was co-incidentally the same place as where my hotel was. I found out hat we lived pretty close lives. Alex was from Cornwall and Rob was from Sussex. They knew where Braunton was, knew where squires was and had stayed in Lobb fields. Even spoke to Alex about university and Plymouth. She said that at one point she managed the nursing unit there and claimed that my mothers name rang a bell. Madness!

I went to sleep at 6 that day, and did wake up till 5 this morning. Its Chinese new year today, so that’s my plan for tonight! 
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