BKK Confusion

Trip Start Sep 18, 2010
Trip End Jul 27, 2011

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Where I stayed
Four Sons House Bangkok
Read my review - 3/5 stars
Sam Sen Sam Place Bangkok
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Secret Garden Guesthouse

Flag of Thailand  ,
Friday, December 17, 2010

"Long live the King" and "Welcome to the land of smiles" are the signs we drive by on the way into Bangkok from the airport. Right from the get go, I am confused about my impressions and all pre-conceived notions are proven wrong:
- The airport is the most beautiful, well organized and impressive airport I or any of my travel mates have ever seen.
- The highway is super sleek, our leather-seat, AC-ed cab plays cheesy Western elevator music. It feels as if we are driving into Toronto, not a South East Asian metropolis. Or what I would expect of one.
 - The taxi driver UNDERcharges us by quite a bit after I am being a serious bitch in fear of getting screwed. Instead of the agreed to 450 Baht (plus 70 tolls and 50 service charge), we pay the meter price of 360 Baht, nothing else. (That equals $12 for about 40 minutes in busy traffic.)
 - Negotiating does not seem to be as welcomed and vendors frequently miss out on selling anything because they insist on their price even when we intend to buy bulk quantities (like 9 dresses) between the three of us.
- Yes, Thailand is cheap. But it is not as cheap as I expected and dreamed of either. 
- And lastly, but most lastingly, we can not seem to find the promised 'smiles' anywhere in Bangkok. People are outrageously rude and unfriendly everywhere we go. I am confused. Is it us? Is there some local etiquette we are missing, making a faux-pas we are not conscious of? We are in and out of Bangkok several times over the course of three or so weeks. By the end of it, we are amused by the rude welcomes and so used to being yelled at that we don't wonder any more. The same does not apply to any other area we visit (Chiang Mai in the north and Koh Chang island). While I am writing this note, several weeks later, my theory of correlation "friendliness to tourist spending level" so far is proving right. The experience I have now in the upscale area of Sukhumvit, were I am staying with my friend Vu from Toronto, is vastly different to that in backpackers area of Khao San. Hmmm.....I am reserving a verdict until further studies second my findings.

We re-unite with Shaista at Samsen Sam Guesthouse, where we learn our first Thai travel lesson. Watch the video to get a sense of our room. Spoiled as we are, we thought a friendly complaint would get us a good discount or better room. Not so much. So we spend the majority of our first day scouting for another affordable, acceptable place to stay. Lesson learnt: If it is not horrible, stick with it. Else, you might waste time without finding anything worth the extra effort and time.

The second lesson is that you can not have three gals walk this city, even with an aim and timeline in mind, and expect there to be no sidetracking by shopping. This is the place I had planned to some shopping, so it's not a budget issue. But the time we spent looking at street stalls, attempting to haggle, leaving to save our pride while not buying anything in the end and still manage to have few loads of shipments for ourselves and gifts, shall not be counted. The constant sound of "No have", "No can" and "No try" will ring in my ears for years to come. Our usual response is "No try, no buy!" 

And then of course, there are the massages! Is it over-indulgent to have one every day? Naaaa, we don't think so :) Your choice of foot massage, thai or oil or herbal massage can be had at intervals of 10 meters everywhere. Starting at less than $7 per hour, t's a luxury that we happily make room for in our budgets.

As for the infamous happy ending massages, I daresay that the area of Patpong is where the action is at. At least based on the look of the massage ladies outside the parlours there. We spent a few hours in that neighbourhood ourselves. Curious citizens that we are, we couldn't be in Bangkok without having seen one of the "Ping Pong Shows". So we thought. In retrospect, I think we didn't miss anything. Not minding the fact that it's a bit of a scam, I would describe it as a 'pussy circus' and frankly found it boring. You might as well pick up an anatomy book. 80% of the tricks aren't even that skilled, except that a regular person would not consider using their privates in such ways. What you see girls doing with their vaginas include: Pulling out long strings of plastic flowers or beads, shoving in and spitting out ping pong balls, bananas, candles and smoking of cigarettes. Those tricks I wouldn't recommend repeating for home entertainment include: Opening of bottles and razors on a string being pulled out.

Considering how much time we spent here between other trips, I feel we didn't cover a lot of sight seeing. Which I am perfectly fine with, knowing that I'll be back a few more time over the next couple of months. 
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