Getting tuk-ked in Bangkok

On our third morning in Bangkok, we decided to test fate and try our first tuk tuk ride of the holiday. One of the guidebooks had recommended Siam Square as a bit of a bargain shopping mecca, so with the help of our concierge, we found ourselves in the back of a tuk tuk, hanging on to the bullshit bars for grim life.

Tuk tuk drivers take pretty much any opportunity they can to fill a gap in traffic, if it means moving even a mere inch closer to the final destination. All the while I'm thinking, "do we really need to be *that* close to that bus / garbage truck / car?"

We passed Wat after ornate Wat, and saw the people of Bangkok going about their frantic morning rituals of visiting their local markets, setting up stalls and getting hot pots simmering.

Retail stores here don't typically open until 10am or 11am. When we arrived at the concrete overpass metropolis that was Siam Square, and lurched out of the tuk tuk, a man with a shirt bearing a "Tourism Thailand" logo approached us and asked where we were going. He also said that all of the shops were shut today because it was "the lucky Buddha's birthday". The shops were definitely not shut - people were wandering around in them. This is one of the many scams in Bangkok - "helpful strangers" who ask where you're going and what you're looking for, so they can shuffle you off into a mate's gem or clothing store....we declined, and kept walking.

MBK is one of the larger shops in this area, and we went up to the fourth floor in search of a prepaid mobile sim for my iPad. Talk about mobile phone madness! I've never seen so many mobile phones, iPads and other tablets, plus all of the related accessories and cases. Every colour, size, shape and pattern available, with some pretty gaudy, bejewelled numbers....yeah baby!

We found some pre-paid sim cards and wandered around the massive complex until lunch time. There's never any shortage of places to eat in Bangkok, and today we opted for noodles. I tried prawn dumplings in a clear broth.

It was then time to brave another tuk tuk drive, and we hailed a jolly little Thai man, who haggled for a bit, before settling for the standard process of 100 baht to take us home.

Tuk tuk drivers often turn their vehicles off when waiting at the lights - I guess it saves fuel. Or perhaps they also get sick of what sounds like a persistent and frustrated mosquito....

We hooned through Chinatown and the red glare that hundreds of lanterns emitted. Preparations were being made for Chinese new year, and Chinatown was a frenzy of activity. Markets flanked the main streets, and people mulled about street stalls. It was vibrant, hot and loud.

Back in our hotel, a jacuzzi on the 24th floor, overlooking the city, felt like heaven. There is something very peaceful about escaping the streets of Bangkok, even if only for a few hours.

We set off again late afternoon, looking for a metered cab to take us to dinner in the Lebua area, across town.

Metered cabs are like regular cabs, air conditioned and no fumes of two-stroke. Hailing a metered cab in the afternoon peak proved difficult, so we walked a couple of blocks back into Chinatown and tried again.

Full cab after full cab zoomed by, and a tuk tuk also passed us, driver grinning like mad when we collectively realised it was the guy whonhad driven us back to the hotel earlier that day. What are the chances of running into the same driver twice in the one day??

We told him we needed to get to Lebua, and he said he could take us most of the way for free because he was going in that direction, but that he would have to drop us on the other side of the river. It was easy enough to get a barge across the river and walk to dinner from there, he told us.

The little tuk tuk spluttered its way through the traffic and over a bridge, when our mate suddenly turned off the engine. It was bubbling and gurgling away, boiling water spitting out of a pipe..."overheating", he motioned, as buses and trucks rumbled by, a tad to close for my liking. He stopped and started, and filled up with more water a couple more times before we finally reached Bangkok Pier. What a champion!

We tipped him the cost of standard tuk tuk ride, and he then ushered us right down to the pier, through more crazy markets, and showed us where to take the boat to cross the river.

Even though tuk tuk drivers are (and need to be) certified nutters, this one had a heart of gold!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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