Daily Archives: September 8, 2006

Bangkok Boogers and Jewelry Stores

Me on Khao San road with a Tuk tuk driver behind me

This is my very first blog about Thailand. I hope you find my life somewhat interesting! :0) Currently, I reside in the states, as a student who is almost done with her undergraduate studies. I had the amazing experience of studying abroad through my University (Webster University) in Thailand. I liked it so much that after my first 5 months, I decided to return. Then I stayed for a year and 3 months.

What do I like about Thailand? How much can I write? As I guess, an intro first blog, I won’t go into specifics just yet. However, when arriving in Thailand, you will find yourself in the middle of chaos and color. Welcome to Bangkok. The International hub of Thailand and the City of Angels. The shiny red and gold temples everywhere along with the green tropical trees scattered in-between the massive buildings and skyscrapers. Personally, I prefer the country-side, so Bangkok and I definitely had our ups and downs with each other. But it is amazing, never knowing where the city ends, or for that matter where the endless lines of taxis, tuk tuks and motorbikes want to go, because they rarely leave the same street in the same hour. Everytime I leave Bangkok to go home, which for me is a town called Hua Hin, about 3 hours south by van, my nose is a little stuffier and I blow out the last remains of Bangkok: my black boogers. I call them Bangkok boogers because everyone has them who go to Bangkok. It’s a bustling, rapidly developing town filled with people, food vendors and traffic and yes, obviously pollution. But, like the rest of Thailand, it’s also hospitable. While tuk tuk drivers are trying to tote you around places, usually for a rip off price, they also know how to have fun. One such experience with a tuk tuk driver in Bangkok allowed me to have fun in the middle of an unusually frustrating situation.

I had spent the weekend with a couple other students in Bangkok for fun and I was trying to get to Victory Monument, to grab my van heading for the Southern province of Petburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan (where Hua Hin and Cha-am are and where I live). I was on Khao San road, the street of cheap accomodation, questionable substances, and many tuk tuk drivers. One such driver offered me a ride. Sure, why not. I bargained a price. At this point I knew enough thai to play the bargain game as well as have a decent conversation so we agreed that the ride would be absolutely free. Yay for me. I just had to stop at a couple jewelry stores and travel agencies along the way. Now, this is the infamous Bangkok Tuk tuk scam that the Lonely Planets warn you about. So, I don’t recommend this route. However, I had enough time to kill and the ride was virtually free. Yes, I am quite stingy with my money, and if it saved me money then I would almost anything.

I have to make one distinction though–I was a student in Thailand, not a tourist. And I could speak Thai. So I had instructions from the tuk tuk driver. We started talking about this scam the tuk tuk drivers are in. He makes money just by bringing me to these places (that’s why he agreed to give me a free ride). Then, the travel agency or jewerly store tries to sell you a package or jewels, respectively. But, he told me: act like a tourist, don’t speak thai with them and pretend to be interested in something. Simple enough. The travel agency, I think saw right through me and my so-not-tourist-looking clothes. They started actually ignoring me and I walked out. Next! The jewelry store–after they gave me a quick tour through a room where they make the jewelry, they started selling the stuff to me. I told them I wasn’t looking to buy anything real expensive, and they didn’t believe I didn’t have enough money, which was true. Surely, I would after all in their eyes, I’m white and in Thailand. Well, before I knew it I was lying to their faces, trying to save my own face, telling them that ACTUALLY I am orphaned and now living in Thailand because I had nowhere on the planet to go to. They felt sorry for me and let me leave, finally. I know, it was probably bad karma and I did feel a little guilty doing that, when in fact I do have great parents back home. After that little interesting escapade through Bangkok’s scam system, I was relieved to find my van and start heading home, my Bangkok boogers and the memories of that trip still with me.