On the way from the airport to the hotel in Bangkok Thailand, our tour company, Gate1 travel, gave us some tips and tricks for getting around in Bangkok as well as a few warnings about certain things to avoid.
One of the warnings was, never get into a taxi or a TukTuk without negotiating and agreeing upon the price first.
We had been walking from our hotel to the riverfront which only 1.7 km away, according to the GPS. We walked more than half of the distance to the riverfront when we decided it should be ok to take a short TukTuk ride just to have the experience.
Although we (the lovely Ms Laura and I) were warned about the TukTuk and taxi drivers, we felt confident that we were in the know about what to do, so we dutifully established the price ahead of time as instructed by our tour company. Feeling good, we got in the TukTuk and headed to our destination.
After about 5 minutes driving in what I thought was the wrong direction, the driver stops in front of a business and explains that he gets a coupon good for 5 liters of gas for bringing people to the establishment. I was mildly irritated, but we figured what harm can it do to walk around the shop. We made one circuit around the shop and bolted out of there.
After insisting that we be brought to our requested destination, our driver assured us that he will take us to the Riverfront. He drives us another 10 minutes away to a pretty seedy looking neighborhood where we were ushered to another business. This business does cruises down the River.
We get a spiel about the cruise packages they offer and neither Laura or I were really planning on doing a cruise today and we are kind of sitting there looking at each other funny wondering why we are there. The lady giving us the spiel stops and asks us which option we’d Like to buy. Neither Laura or I respond to her inquiry and she says ‘Why you come here?!’ and Laura and I look at each other and said ‘We don’t know why, we were hijacked by our TukTuk driver!’
Resigned, we ended up taking the river boat tour around the river and canals, as the thought of the alternative choice of wandering around the seedy neighborhood was not really an option for us at this point and there was no where to walk along this particular part of the river front so we had little choice.
At the end of the cruise, we were dropped off at the ‘Flower garden’ area which incidentally had no flowers but was a nice mall located along the river.
After wandering around the mall for a bit, we decided to leave, we ended up in a really really dark market that was a labyrinth of sorts where people sold fruit and vegetables. All of the vendors at this market stared at us with that, What are these people doing here? look. I’m pretty sure I heard the theme song to the movie Deliverance. Laura told me later, that she was praying to God that I would not pull out the camera and look like a tourist. What had I done while in the creepy labyrinth maket? I totally pulled that camera out and took a bunch of pictures of all the different fruits and vegetables they had there and totally looked like a tourist. Of course the reality is that there is no way that either one of us would pass as Thai anyway, especially in that market.
We vowed to not take a TukTuk and take a taxi instead to get back to the hotel. We figured out where the road was from the market to take a taxi. After making a few attempts to get a taxi and failing miserably, we decided maybe a TukTuk would be ok afterall.
This time, we established a price then said no stops!!!! We started on our way and then the driver started whinning and crying that he really needed to make just one stop to his ‘sponsor’, after several objections, we let him take us to just one stop. Low and behold, he brought to the exact same location as the previous TukTuk driver took us, the upscale custom tailor your clothes for you shop.
We walked around the shop again and the people at the store recognized us from earlier in the day so he couldn’t get his coupon. He whined and he cried some more that he needs to stop to another place to make up for not getting his coupon at the first stop.
We reluctantly agreed. Our second stop was a shop with a gem/jewelry store on the first floor and a souvenir shop on the second floor. We dutifully wandered about the store and Laura did buy something there. I am pretty sure that we will be back there to get souvenirs at the end of the week. When we left this shop we insisted to be taken back to our hotel by our TukTuk driver and surprisingly he complied.
As another good TukTuk PSA I feel compelled to report that as a passenger on the TukTuk, you have to make a rather large step up into the TukTuk. I recommend wearing long pants or a long skirt because a short skirt will result in displaying your lady bits around Thailand while attempting to get into the TukTuk.
If you see these guys and they offer to give you a ride, just say NO!