Entry Info

13th (Wed)
Jan 2010

[day3] Shopping in Bangkok

Shopping in BangkokAlthough I made a big blunder on the first day, I must not be depressed for long because of such a stupid fraud. I should enjoy this dream trip. However, I in fact have no plans about what to do at each destination although I fixed the route of the whole trip already.

I asked the owner of the accommodation which places I should go in Bangkok and he told me the weekend market can be one. Besides, many local people would use the market as well as some foreigners and it should be different from Khao San where only backpackers come. Therefore, I decided to go to Chatuchak Weekend Market which is one of the biggest markets in Bangkok.

Concentrated Market

Shopping in BangkokI was a bit afraid of the location because I heard it would be 10 minutes walking from the station to the market but once I arrived at the station, there were so many people around the area and they were walking to the same direction. I couldn’t possibly lose my way if I just followed the crowd. The market that finally appeared in front of me was absolutely gigantic. From furniture to foods, lingerie to pets, there are literally all kinds of consumer goods available on the market which consisted of a bunch of narrow alleys and those alleys made the market like a huge maze. Although there were the ceilings overhead, I found beads of sweat forming on my back and forehead.

Price tags meant nothing at the market. Although they were already much cheaper compared to the ones in Japan and the other advanced countries, getting discounts from this stage is the real game. Negotiations were held in every place. I saw some foreigners who looked like buyers or similar sort of people were purchasing a lot of accessories from the stores. I also bought a pair of sandals which I'd forgotten to get in Japan. I think it would be a nice idea to get a complete set of items for the round the world trip in Bangkok unless you are particular about brands and quality.

Well Polished City

Shopping in BangkokAs I had enough walking around the market, I changed my way to the Bangkok central area which is indeed a big city. There are a lot of huge shopping malls. The ads of luxury hotels and brands indicated a certain number of wealthy people in the area. It was actually comfortable at the air conditioned shopping mall and totally different from the suffocating market where I'd been before. Looking at beautiful products displayed in spotlessly polished show windows, only Thai language letters proved that I was in the country at the moment.

And of course, there are many local people enjoying their shopping. Though a 100,000 baht Cartier watch didn't seem to be popular, a lot of home electrical appliances, which were actually more expensive than the ones in Japan due to the currency rate, sold well there.

While some people are trying to sell tiny 10 baht ornaments at crude hats, some others are purchasing 10,000 baht products at shining buildings. Although I don't believe in human rights of complete equality, I was forced to consider what the richness for people is during the way to the accommodation, after I actually saw the disparity.

Entry Info

8th (Fri)
Jan 2010

[day1] Trapped!

continued from the previous entry.

Well, he was ripping me off as suspected. The price was not super high for me but I was very disappointed as I hadn't been able to figure out this trick. I almost lost my words with the shock but firstly I have to protect myself from this stupid game. I'm somehow very getting used to reducing damages from any sort of accidents though this means I'm always involved with trouble.

Anyhow, 150,000baht for 3 hours drinking was too expensive for the service. By my own estimation, I would have paid 6000baht for the maximum but how did I get a discount in these circumstances?

First of all, I had told Shcad that I hadn’t had enough cash before the entrance. However, he must have seen a credit card in my wallet and reckoned that I have ability to pay. It was possible to withdraw money from ATMs.

Incidentally, I tried to pay by credit card at the first and get 15,000baht cash from him, he rejected very strongly. According to him, the credit card company would charge more fees for my Japanese credit card but I suspect there was a gap to the real payment to the bar. Besides, he might not have wanted to make an official record for this. Although I judged him as guilty in my head, I kept acting as if I was still trusting him because he also talked to me in a friendly manner.

An important point is, I had some credit cards at the moment but only one card was enabled for the international cashing. The other cards were left in the hostel's locker. I secretly took the card from my wallet and slipped into jeans' pocket.

And we went to the nearest ATM. "I will pay for you because I enjoyed a lot. It was more expensive than I anticipated though." Pretending gently, I inserted the credit card, which were actually not enabled for international cash, to the ATM and entered my PIN number. If I had entered the wrong number, an error message would have appeared immediately; however I passed this step. Nonetheless, eventually an error message popped up when I decided the amount of money for the withdrawal. I started panicking "Oh, why? I could get money from ATM. This is way I have money at this moment." And Schad replied doubtfully, "Don't you have another card?" Even if I tried another one, the result was of course failure. We tried with other ATMs too as Schad suspected the error was due to the bank’s problem but nothing was given.

This was a huge trouble for me, superficially though. How could I manage to get money for about a week in Thailand? I acted slightly panicking and sat down a bench nearby. Phew, I now could hide the real agitation and consider about the next step. Schad walked to me with a worried face. "Well, we should go to the airport." Oh, he was levying very earnestly. But even if we had gone there, the result would have been the same because of the card I used. The airport runs 24 hours but it would be a waste of the taxi fee.

Saying the airport was too far, I was pretending being bewildered and Schad suggested an interesting point. "Don't you have Japanese yen now?" Oh yeah, I had a 10,000 yen note in my wallet for emergencies. "I have only this but isn't it enough?" I showed the note to him. "Not enough." said Schad. But the speed of fetching the note from my hand was incredibly fast. Well, what was the next option?

I supposed that this must have been dangerous if we had remained there longer and I really wanted to go back to the hostel and sleep peacefully but this old guy would not let me go. So I proposed to him, "I might have 20,000yen at the accommodation. And could you let me go with it?" "Well, O.K. You are my friend Satoshi. I give you a discount" I didn't totally agree with myself though, we got a tuk-tuk again and moved to the accommodation. Left him at the front, I entered the room and opened my locker. Yes, I found some Japanese yen notes. However, it was absurd to give him 20,000yen. I made up my mind to submit him 2 sheets of 5000 yen notes instead of the same number of 10,000 yen notes.

When I backed to the front, he somehow moved to the outside of the building. "Why? It's cool inside isn't it?", bluffed a little but very sincerely I showed him a decorated small bag. "I'm sorry I thought I had 2 Japanese notes but both of them are actually 5000 yen". "Not enough." said he but picked the cash extremely fast again. Well, that was problematic. It was going to far exceed my budget.

The final word was uttered, "Uh, I gonna ask the people at the accommodation to borrow some". No sooner had I mumbled the phrase than he changed his attitude completely. "Well, it's enough. I'm sleepy and I'll go back to my hotel." "Oh, thank you. Is it really OK for you?" I thankfully posed to Schad who was drawing his feet back. I assume it must have been more than enough even though it eventually became half price of the initial demand.

At the night, I fell asleep wearily as I was just disappointed myself who made such a blunder on the first day of the trip. The shock remained the next day too and I didn't feel like going out. After all, I rationalised myself as the total cost includes an extra fee for a personal guided tour and a travel lesson as well as drinking at the bar. I reasoned to myself and so I was able to tour around Bangkok on the next day.

After all, I should make use of this experience for the future. What I learnt from this incident is "Be very careful with someone who tries to talk on the street" and "Go to the bar which has cash-on system or clear fee table if it's really necessary". I know they are common sense of travellers but maybe I was affected by a fever in Bangkok which was indeed the first destination of this trip. Well, the price I lost was actually not too bad and anyway physically I’m unharmed. I'll take this lesson for this trip afterwards. I guess 20,000 yen is still a big deal though.

Entry Info

The first night in BangkokThe taxi arrived at the hostel after one hour safe driving although the driver had a problem finding the place as the hostel is really tiny. I got a spacious bed and locker in a 4 bed dorm room. The hostel has a bunch of good reviews on and it seems real as it was spotlessly clean unlike other cheap hostels. It made me sure the 8 days in Bangkok will be fantastic with this hostel. Maybe I should write a detailed review later.

The Mecca of Backpackers

As a first step, I put my luggage to the locker and it was time for dinner. Actually, it takes only 15 minutes on foot to reach Khao San Rd which is well known as the Mecca of backpackers and I had a go for there. Being fascinated with temples around the area and tuk-tuk which is a local bike taxi, it was Khao San Rd before I noticed.

The first night in BangkokIt was a very very classic backpacker town. Vivid colour neon lights, strange meals cooked at open-air stands, loud dance music from everywhere, I thought it was similar to Hong Kong and Taipei, but Khao San is somehow much denser than them. Thai, English, German, French, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, every conceivable language was spoken around the area. What is more, just like the Mecca of backpackers, the meals are extremely cheap! You can eat a decent dish with 50 baht from stands and 100 baht even inside of restaurant.

However, I actually didn’t feel easy with the town which is totally made for foreigners and after finishing a light supper, I decided to go back to the accommodation. I was maybe bit too tired due to the flight and wanted to send a couple of emails.

A strange Encounter

On the way to the hostel from Khao San, when I waited for a signal change, an old Thai guy said something to me. "Sorry, I'm not Thai ", I answered him in English. "Oh, well, I thought you are actually from Thailand!", surprisingly the guy answered in quite fluent English. I wondered why I looked Thai as I had a huge camera on my neck at Khao San but anyway we had a little chat as he was walking the same direction to me. His name was Schad and he came to Bangkok for the New Year vacation from another region in Thailand.

The first night in BangkokAccording to him, he came to see festivals and ceremonies as there are many at the New Year Eve in Bangkok. And he suggested I walk around with him when I told that I'd thought going back to the accommodation. At the very first I was sceptical with his offer as I'd known there were a lot of rip offs in Bangkok. But there were actually many temples around the area and I chose to go with him for a while. After 5 minutes walking, we reached a big temple and once we entered, the view of hundreds of people praying to Buddha came to my sight. Unlike Khao San which was busy with only foreigners and locals having their business with foreigners, there are indeed the real lives of local people. Many people were praying earnestly and it touched my heartstrings. I prayed to Buddha for my safety during the trip. Meantime, the trust towards Schad grew more and we started heading to Grand Palace where a big festival was held riding with tuk-tuk.

Bangkok Like Locals

The first night in BangkokIt was my first experience of tuk-tuk and it was sailing briskly in the humid Bangkok night. In fact tuk-tuk has a notorious reputation for ripping foreigners off but I felt safe as a local person was with me. The breeze was absolutely beautiful and captivated with the shining traffic view, I almost lost myself into an imagination as though I was a protagonist of a novel. It was only about 5 minutes but the vehicle which just had chairs and ceilings on a small bike was much more intriguing than the first class seat I'd sat on some hours ago. When I started worrying about the distance, we reached the destination.

The first night in BangkokSchad paid the tuk-tuk and I told him I would pay for the next time. There was a huge carnival with colourful illuminations, pedlars and floats on a park. I heard many sellers shouting something. Besides, there were no foreigners in my sight. Perhaps, I was only the one, I thought. Nearby a stage where Thai pop singers were performing, a big group of Thai people were dancing to thunderous music emitted from gigantic speakers. If this strange guy hadn't talked to me on the way from Khao San, I wouldn't have seen such a fascinating view and may have meaninglessly stayed at the accommodation. I was thankful for this odd fate.

In a dodgy bar

After the festival, Schad wanted me to visit a local bar where he goes every year’s end. He suggested sharing the bill for the bar and I accepted it. 5 minutes tuk-tuk again and the place we arrived was really a dodgy bar and looked vulgar. When we entered the bar, girls, who are not transsexuals incidentally, came to our table for services. I felt a bit of danger but many local customers in the bar assured me this place wouldn't be too bad. After checking the estimated cost, we started drinking. I hadn't had the faintest idea that I was attending such a festive party at a local bar in Bangkok.

3 hours passed and it was time for checking. The bill for two people was about 30,000 baht in total. Well, I knew it wasn't going to be that cheap but wasn't it bit too expensive?

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