Dress code? What dress code?

Trip Start Sep 08, 2011
Trip End Jan 08, 2012

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Where I stayed
Roof View Place Bangkok
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Thailand  ,
Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It was my last full day in Bangkok and there were still things I had to see. I had wanted to visit The Grand Palace and Wat Arun before this, but the weather, being laid up for a day and other circumstances conspired to keep me away from them until now.

This morning was a bright sunny day with not a cloud in sight. So, armed with my 2 litres of water, my iPod blaring a Prodigy mix and with my sunglasses on, I strode purposefully to the pier to catch the river express. Never stride purposefully anywhere in Bangkok – I was a sweaty mess by the time I arrived.

After a week here, I feel like an old hand. I'm suspicious of everyone and everything. Therefore, when I was buying my ticket for the boat and the woman there was trying to sell me the tourist ticket instead, I was having none of it. Now, the river express is half the price of the tourist ticket, although in real terms to a 'rich’ westerner it makes little difference (37 cents instead of 75 cents - euros), but it was the principal of the matter, I wouldn’t have been the first foreigner to have been sold one ticket and then shoved onto the cheaper boat. I told her I didn’t want that ticket and she said, "But tourist boat come in 5 minutes." However, I stuck to my guns and insisted on the river express, even though she said it was 20 minutes away – eventually she gave in, sold me the ticket I wanted and lo and behold the first boat to show up was the river express – chalk one up to me!

Observation 1: the Thais are into their religion big time, but they absolutely love their monarchy. How do I know? When you go to a temple all that is required to show respect is to take off your shoes before entering the temple. Entering the Grand Palace is another matter entirely. It came as rather a rude shock to me to find out that unless you were covered from shoulder to ankle, there was no way you were getting into the palace. Guess who was wearing shorts?

“Not to worry,” said the kind woman at the information desk, “we have long pants you can borrow.” Seriously? I mean, Seeeeriously? Buddha may be a big guy, but there’s nobody else my size here. I draw looks of incredulity everywhere I go. People surreptitiously take photos of me, when they think I’m not looking. Do you really think, I’m going to make myself look stupid by trying to get into the long pants for hire?

That’s right, I didn’t see the Grand Palace. Oh, well. There was still Wat Arun. Naturally, there was no such dress code there, but it’s just another temple – an unusual one, granted, but just a temple nevertheless. It has an unusual design and is to Bangkok what the Sagrada Familia is to Barcelona, but it’s probably best seen from afar. I have to admit, there wasn’t much new there – more Buddhas.

So, I’d done as much sightseeing as I was going to do, it was time to head back to Khao San and a late lunch. There was a small hiccup; on arriving at the pier to get the boat back up the river I found that the river was now closed to traffic. I couldn’t work out why, but every tourist had the same dumb look on their face as me, which roughly translated as, “How the hell do I get back now?” I didn’t want to get a taxi or place my life in the hands of a mad tuk-tuk driver, but I couldn’t see any way out of it. So, for the first time in days, I paid attention to the tuk-tuk drivers (I’d gotten really good at ignoring them). One came up to me and went through the whole rigmarole, “Hey, man! Where you go?” – “Khao San”. I was shocked to see disappointment on his face. Clearly it wasn’t far enough away and he was looking for a higher fare (after all, the place was packed with wealthier tourists looking for a ride home), so he told me a bus number and told me to catch that. I couldn’t believe it! A tuk-tuk driver who was helpful!

Observation 2: bus drivers are mad. They don’t pull up to the kerb at the bus stop, they stop in the middle of the road. They stop for no more than 5 seconds so all passengers have to make like Usain Bolt and sprint out and jump on/off before it shoots off again. Survival of the fittest – the slow are left behind.

I did manage to get on a bus...eventually – my sprint starts gradually improved with each bus that went by. 

Tomorrow evening, it's off to Melbourne I go!
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Joe on

One of the very few reasons one could justify buying trousers with zip-on/off legs!
Look forward to reading about the next phase in your epic travels. Take care.

georgegoode on

I knew I should have listened to your advice

Paul on

Did you realise it is Grand Final Weekend in Melbourne? Should be a great place to be. Find a nice warm pub because there will be F*** all else going on. It will be a great sporting experience and a cultural baptism by fire. Enjoy!

georgegoode on

Yeah, Paul - I'm with a whole load of Aussies with tickets to the final and now worried that they're not going to make it back in time.

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