Bangkok the city of temples and conmen
Some people will rave about Bangkok.
Like ying and yang, there are two sides of Bangkok. One a city full of locals that want to take advantage of tourists. The other side is a city of beautiful temples and architecture.
Like marmite you either love or hate Bangkok. I am of the hate category.
Bangkok was not a place for a casual traveller. Around every corner, there was a local who was waiting to take advantage of our travel innocence.
On our first day, we unpacked and then went to explore this amazing city.
As we walked outside we saw a group of taxi drivers. All these promised very competitive rates to take us into the city, this is where our trouble began. On the first trip out the driver charged a minimal fee to local areas of interest, on route he gave us a guided tour. At this point, we were offered the opportunity to go and see the floating markets. The top attraction in Thailand. We agreed with the taxi driver a cost of £20 that would ensure us a visit to the floating markets the next day.
The next morning as promised the taxi driver was waiting for us. Excited by our day seeing the real Bangkok we started our journey. This is where the nightmare in Bangkok started.
After a long drive to the floating markets, we arrived in the middle of nowhere. This we found was one of the taxi driver’s friends. We were told we needed to pay £30 per person to have a seat on a boat to see the floating markets. The money we had paid did not include the boat trip. Even though we were told it did. Our taxi driver had disappeared. With no choice, we had to pay for the boat trip. Neither of us fancied a 50-mile hike back to the hotel.
Even though the situation left us feeling foolish and angry. The floating markets were amazing. People make their living selling authentic souvenirs off the canals of Bangkok. The products were of a good quality and the people were charming. It was best to barter with all the people who offered goods as we reduced the price by two thirds. If you do not barter the first person down around the next corner is another boat selling the same products. Prices were cheaper the further we got into the water lanes of the market.
Once out of the floating markets the taxi driver reappeared. We saw him receive a large sum of commission from the boat owners. At this point, the driver asked us where we would like to go now as he was hired him for the day. Fed up with his unscrupulous ways we decided to ask him to drop us off for a river ride. Our plan to lose him for good and spend the rest of the day exploring some of the ancient temples of Bangkok.
On the way back into the centre of Bangkok the taxi driver stopped at a gold centre. We stated that we had not asked to go to any gold centre. He refused to move off until we at least went round and yes, you guessed it, more commission passed his way. We had a quick walk through the gold centre. We then needed to use aggressive behaviour to get the taxi driver to drop us off at a riverboat.
We were dropped off at the riverboat harbour. This was one of the most expensive in the area. More commission passed hands and the taxi driver at last left.
On the riverboat, we thought we could breathe a sigh of relief having escaped. We were wrong. Halfway up the river, we were asked if we wanted to see a crocodile farm. We refused, saying we wanted to see the temples. As we got closer to the crocodile farm we felt the boat slow down. A quick look, the captain said. Again, we had to get aggressive before the boat sped up again and took us to our destination.
The temples when we arrived were beautiful. Huge, magnificent works of architecture. This was the traditional picture postcards of Thailand. We discovered then that the temples closed in five minutes. No one had mentioned this before.
The tourist information department outside was helpful and took pity on us. The gentleman hailed a tuk-tuk to take us home. He negotiated the correct price for the journey. Making the driver on the way stop, whilst we looked around some oriental gardens. The kindness of this gentleman was the single thing I looked back on with affection in Bangkok.
As agreed the tuk-tuk driver took us to the gardens. Although he was showing displeasure at the cheap fare that had been agreed. The gardens were beautiful and so peaceful in the middle of this mad city. When we left the gardens the tuk-tuk driver was nowhere to be seen. Obviously, he was more displeased with the cheap fare than we recognised. He had gone to find some more sucker tourists to charge a fortune too.
So now to complete our day we were stranded in the middle of nowhere with no ride.
After an hour of walking, we got into a more populated area. Hiring another taxi who had the normal patter, ‘would you like to go to the gold centre? How about going to the floating markets?’ Exhausted, we insisted, the hotel only. Our first taxi driver was not a rogue driver, they were all money grabbing extortionists.
To say I hated Bangkok would be an understatement. Yet, as much as I hated Bangkok, I loved Phuket. Phuket was our next destination and this was what I had always imagined Thailand to be. Long stretches of pale sand. Welcoming people who could never do enough for you and wanted little in return.
Our average meals were £8 for two and for that you could expect the most amazing seafood and rice dishes. Meals are served on the beach in shacks with tarpaulin roofs. The state of the restaurant should not deter you from the amazing service and food.
Phuket is every bit as much a paradise as the books tell you. It is a complete contrast to the hell of Bangkok. I would urge anyone to go and visit Thailand. Make your overnight stay at anywhere other than Bangkok.