Why does it happen to me? Perhaps because “gullible smiling tourist” is pinned to my forehead.
Read on so this scam never happens to you!
It all started so well. En route via Koh Samui airport – which is more like entering Disneyland’s main boulevard – we savoured the lushness of the island’s greenery: the pineapples, papayas, and these enormous banana flowers.
A couple of hours later in Bangkok, we quickly realised that our lazy island pace needed some acceleration. Just the thought made us crave an energising plate of noodles. Where could we get the best Pad Thai noodles and fast?
No big deal: just take the ferry boat across the river and in 10 minutes you’re there, said the Concierge. The Chao Phraya river is awash with bobbing, bustling boats bombing up its main diluted hot chocolate-looking artery; and with its canals going through the city, you can see why it’s called the Venice of the East.
At Mazzaro restaurant (just off New Road between the Shangri-La Hotel), we couldn’t fault they were one of the best pad thai in the city. What a beautiful presentation, served in a banana flower boat. It was spicy but by now, the children were into the heat.
They were also into,”We don’t want the kids’ menu!” No wonder when you tasted this mango and sticky coconut rice dessert. We parted with Antoine, who had to work but us girls carried on walking around to soak in the atmosphere.
Stalls of fruits and vegetables were jam-packed at the sides of the street and on each corner you could take in the bewildering aromas of seafood, satays, pickles, pastes, and all kinds of Thai dishes being prepared on the spot for passers-by.
Durian fruit were also being prepared at many stalls. Despite its popularity it does have a particular smell. Suddenly we turned the corner and we focused on the tuk-tuks. They were everywhere, zooming in and out of taxis and buses with their familiar tuk-tuk motor.
Was this driver sleeping or was he just recovering after smelling that durian?
After crashing out ourselves, next day it was time to visit some of Bangkok’s sights. We were ready for an adventure. Luckily the concierge warned us of the riverboat cost, otherwise we would have ended up paying three times the tarif if we didn’t buy the ticket directly on the boat. Goody. That one was cracked.
Leaving the high-rise modern buildings behind us, we chugged past the famous Temple of Dawn and Chinatown, aware we shouldn’t miss our stop with all these sights so close.
We were heading for the Grand Palace, dodging sellers touting their wares before the entrance. Then, halt!
A perfectly normal, kind-looking gentleman in a suit came up to warn us that our sleeves or my trousers weren’t long enough. Did you know that only one part of the palace was open to the public this morning since the monks were using the rest? Come back later at 2pm and in the meantime you have to see a remarkable sight. Today is a special day in Thailand: we give rubies to our wives for good luck. The government is hosting a once-in-a-lifetime event at the actual factory and there are great bargains. Bargain? Don’t forget I said I was gullible.
And before you could say, “My boss will take you there and wherever you want for 100 baht” we were in that tuk-tuk, knocking knees wondering what on earth had happened. Mum?
This had to be worth shortening our lives by a week, inhaling the exhaust fumes from the bus right in front of us. My youngest had a ball – we’re on a tuk-tuk! My eldest should have done the talking at the palace, on reflection.
Taken briefly around the tiny room of craftsmen at the Royal Lapidary factory, we were led in to the labyrinth of cases displaying their rubies and sapphires. It’s surprising how the special government initiative wasn’t known. TaDa! We were shown this beauty.
After feeling in long denial, I opted for a pricey little souvenir of Thailand: a miniscule version of this one. Why not? Well you try and get out of there without buying anything. Do you have any tricks on squirming your way out of that one? I’d love to know your tactics.
Back in the tuk-tuk, we were on to their game. We wanted dropped off at Siam Centre but somehow he talked about stopping for gasoline. Aha. A tailor’s shop. You buy a suit and I get free gasoline. OK. That’s it. Just take us to Siam square.
Suddenly the tuk-tuk accelerated. We were in a James Bond movie with Jaws at the wheel. This thing careered down hills, over bridges, screeching past taxis, as we tried to see the sights. While he was wailing, “I didn’t get gasoline”, I was wailing at the kids to keep their fingers and arms inside as they pointed out buildings. Look Mum! A palace.
He literally dropped us in Siam square, the shopping mall paradise where the girls and I celebrated our new souvenir investment and tuk-tuk experience with the sweetest, synthetic ice creams. Back at the hotel I needed something a little stronger since I couldn’t stop kicking myself. That was it: a long island ice tea. That can surely pack a punch. You must be kidding. My forehead stamp must not have rubbed off yet. Amongst the ice was some ice tea without the punchy long island bit.
I learned my lesson: I should have been dressed like our friend here, with LONG sleeves and trousers that cover the ankles. I need to return to Bangkok and feast on the delights of the temples. After all, with around 450 Buddhist temples, it surely can’t be that difficult to visit one. The next time, I won’t have “easy target” stamped on me and I’ll pretend to speak Norwegian.
Believe me. I shall never look at sapphires in the same light again. And next time I bite into a blueberry sapphire macaron, I’ll consider it an adventure. Tuk-tuk!
Note: This was not a sponsored trip. It was our private family holiday but I just wanted to share this touristic experience, so you can be wiser to the situation!