I’m currently sweating in a dingy hotel called Smile Inn. As welcoming as it sounds, the name is entirely ironic. The rooms are cramped, a little dirty, and the reception desk is exceptionally unfriendly. However, it’s fine for a day and situated in an interesting area to boot. Walking around last night was a surreal experience. Grant and I drank a few beers (priced disappointingly at a tourist rate) and walked around the area near the hotel, which takes on a New Orleans/Tijuana hellish feeling after sinking a few. I hadn’t seen that many white people since, well, I was in the US. In fact, I think the only Thai people around were the waiters/bartenders. Odd.
But let me back up to the beginning. We got a rocky start from the first taxi trip into Bangkok. After missing the first plane, getting set back about five hours, taking a six hour flight smashed between two enormous makeup bag-weilding passengers, and slowly thawing through the 70 degree weather change, I was feeling a bit dazed during the ride into Bangkok. The taxi ride was about 40 km and we were assured that the price would be set at around 350-400baht (~$15).
The moment we clamped down in the taxi, I guess dude was a little thorny. I debated with myself whether to try out some shoddy Thai phrases that I had just read from my conspicuously large and douchey lonely planet guide. After a few minutes of assessing the guy’s disgruntled expression and contrasting this with my own delirious tourist smile through the rear view mirrors, I decided to hold off on trying my luck. Turns out this was a good decision. For about 20 minutes, our man was searching frantically for something in every compartment of the taxi, while swerving and muttering what I presumed to be very naughty words. The clencher, however, happened at the toll booth. I expected to pay the toll, so I reached for my money as we pulled up.
I ask, “How much is the toll?”
While I shift through my purse, guy is already getting antsy. He turns around, looks at the first bill that I pulled out, which happens to be a stupidly large amount of money for toll fare (1000 baht). Then he starts yelling and motioning me to give the bill to him.
I start yelling back, asking exactly how much it is. I try to offer lower denominations, but he persistently denies them and continues to gesticulate and yell towards the cool 1000. This goes on for an awkward 5 minutes. At this point, we’re both screaming loudly at each other in a language neither of us understand and I’m contemplating how safe it is to get dropped off on a highway.
Finally, he rolls down the window for the toll booth officer to talk to Grant. Turns out, the fare was 30 baht – a far cry away from 1000. True, it might have been a mix-up, but my anger toward this particular fellow would like to think otherwise. We continued to have an occasional banter for the rest of the uncomfortable 25 minutes in the car with each other, convinced we could communicate hatred without language comprehension. After this awkward interlude, we were dropped off at Khao San, a backpackers’ mecca in Bangkok, and I bid this angry little man adieu. Thanks for the memories and may you never find what you were looking for in your terrible little car.
After this, we were told to go the police station to avoid being scammed. We talked to a fast-talking Thai guy with an easy smile and quick advice. If he wasn’t working for the police station, I probably would not have trusted him. However, we followed his directions and took a tuk-tuk to the nearest travel agency. There, we booked up our plans for Thailand up til the end of the month. The process itself was horribly bureaucratic and rather boring, so I’d rather not relay the details. In short, we head to southern Thailand tomorrow to spend the New Year on a gorgeous island. Rock. In two hours, we’ll be on a 14 hour all night bus ride there. I hope my legs don’t fall off.
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