Day 68, Pt.1: "Beware Wily Strangers"
Trip Start May 20, 2008
77Trip End Aug 19, 2008
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On with Monday. We woke up at a respectable hour and made our way to the local hawker center for breakfast, where I picked some random Thai language item and found myself struggling through a meal of unbearable spiciness. It wasn't just "very hot," it was "I didn't know it was even possible for food to be this hot." I managed to get through the noodles and some prawns, but left a good third of the plate over and snatched some banana cakes from the local 7-Eleven to compensate. Jeff struggled as well, but was luckier in his random menu item pickings. Following breakfast we made our way over to the Chao Phraya River (or something like that) for a ferry ride up to the old city & royal palace. The guide on the ferry spoke some hysterical indecipherable English, at one point telling the boat that the riverboats go "up and down up and down up and down up and down up and down up and down up and down up and down da wiver, up and down..." The royal palace and surrounding temples were cool... I guess... Gorgeous from afar but borderline tacky up close, complete with brightly colored glass sequins in their walls. It took about two hours and ten bucks to cover the whole mildly disappointing but worth the effort sight, whilst walking around in these goofy nylon clown pants they lent to immodestly dressed tourists to cover up our shorts. We looked silly.
We've developed a love-hate relationship with the locals. They are magically happy, per their reputation, but as the book warned are also fully aware of their reputation as the friendliest people on Earth and many of them have used this to take advantage of tourists. The book had a long list of alarming keywords and scams to watch out for, and we ran in to almost all of them. Thanks to reading the book backwards and forwards we were able to plow through most without a scratch and snicker at the other tourists who were clearly being taken for a ride, but it didn't take long for both our patience to exhaust. Jeff in particular was all "I'm never going to trust anyone ever again! You put up with three weeks of this?" Not only do the touts here know how to lure you in and lie about this and that good deal, they know how to embellish the lie with jokes, chuckles, half-truths, and charm to make it seem flawless too. Like I said, I was able to spot them all and after nearly falling for the first one, Jeff caught on fast and could do the same, but if we'd read the book only forwards instead of backwards and forwards, we'd have had a miserable time. There were even signs posted around the Royal Palace warning "BEWARE WILY STRANGERS", "Don't trust locals who offer boat ride, Lucky Buddha, or tailor shop", or the good old "Do not trust strangers." It was surreal. We dodged about four of them total, the most cunning of whom was a college student who chatted with us about college stuff for ten whole minutes before suggesting we take a tuk-tuk to a "Lucky Buddha statue" and warning us not to ride the yellow license plate tuk-tuks, only the white plated ones because those are government run. A white plated tuk-tuk conveniently drove up to offer a ride like a well oiled machine, we rejected, and it didn't take long for us to realize that it was in fact the yellow plates that were regulated, not vice versa. The student wrote down his mobile number saying "okay if it turn out to be bad, you call me and say "F### you, Ben! Haha." We did not call him up.
The day took a turn for the better after leaving the more tourist-frequented areas. We wandered through the old town and some market place before heading to Lumphini Park in hopes of catching a Thai Boxing match. Turns out there were none at that sight today, but we'll be passing back through in a week-ish and will catch one then. The market was enjoyable, as markets always are, and thought it took two hours to find because we were misdirected thrice, the park was pleasant. If I may continue to poke fun at the locals 'cause it's fun, these people are the absolute silliest with directions. Some sillinesses include:
- "Okay you go stwaight, den turn weft at twaffic jam."
- "Left at the traffic jam?"
- "Got it."
- "Which way is the bus station?" (both in English, Thai, and hand signal charades)
- (hand motion for diagonal-left)
- (we walk for fifteen minutes diagonal-left, then stop another local)
- "Down and then right."
- (we make a u-turn and walk for fifteen minutes back the same way we came, then stop another local)
- "Left. Just left."
- (we go left for a bit, give up, and hire a tuk-tuk, who drives off in a completely new 4th direction)
All that said, scattered bad apples and silly quirks aside these are a friendly folk who have an inspiring ability to find humor in the littlest of things. I wuv them dearly.
I gotta go now, so this entry will have to be cut short. The next will finish this day and continue on with the next. We're in Siem Reap, Cambodia now, home of Angkor Wat, an ancient temple regarded as one of the true wonders of the world. It is wonderful.