Bangkok: Making Mistakes

A successful trip to the National Museum
One tip of the many I was given by close friends who have traveled in the area was“prepare to be ripped off. Just accept the fact that you will be. The sooner that you can accept this, the sooner you’ll get over it when it happens and the more you’ll enjoy everything else about your adventures.”

This piece of advice paints a picture of the traveler as a fairly innocent bystander being taken advantage of by the big, bad scammer who promises cheap seats on a riverboat to the best local eateries in town... until the wide-eyed traveller is left with nothing but overpriced tickets and, at best, decent food made by a chef who collects money and makes sandwiches with the same unwashed hands.

In reality, being a savvy traveler is not as easy as saying "no" to the non-uniformed ticket salesman. You'll exhaust yourself being weary of every tourist-hustlin' hustler on the street. Accept the fact that as a first timer in a country, youwill make mistakes and those mistakes will cost you money. Slightly bigger mistakes will cost you time. Accept it. Learn from those mistakes and get exponentially smarter as you navigate about new cities.
Learning to use the City Line sky train
On our first day in Thailand, Brian and I set off on our adventures in “Bangkok” after paying $12 for lunch for two and $17 for a private driver service to take us to a small shopping center 10 minutes away from our hotel. We learned later that the destination was not at all Bangkok; in fact, it was actually quite far from the edge of the capital city. Thereafter, each of our meals cost $3-$6 for two and taxi rides quadruple the distance of that first ride cost us $3. I was upset when I saw how quickly we blew through what could have been an entire day’s worth of expenses on lunch and a ride to the mall, but we promised never to make that mistake again. And we didn’t, exactly. We only used the overpriced driver service one more time to take us into actual Bangkok. Once we were comfortable with the general location of the city and the location of our hotel with respect to it, and once saw that not every other person on the street seemed to be a pickpocket or murderer, we became more confident to explore on our own(together).

Wandering around Taling Chan because the floating market was closed.
We learned to look up the visiting hours of tourist attraction after trekking across all of Bangkok to the town over only to find that the river market we wanted to visit was only operational on weekends.

(The trip wasn’t a total loss though: We somehow ended up at the police station after wandering the town looking for a map. The chief of police was summoned outside to personally help the confused, non-Thai-speaking travelers. He ducked inside the police station for a few minutes to dig up some old maps for us (I guess small towns outside of frequently traveled cities don't bother to update their town maps and guidebooks). When he reappeared, he invited us into the station, where he made a big show of having everyone in the station stand and applaud as he theatrically handed Brian and I each a map and a brochure (in Thai) about their city. We shook hands with him and posed while another policeman took our picture. “Welcome to our city!” the chief of police said, smiling broadly. Brian and I did our best Thai “thank you” bow and slipped out of the station slightly embarrassed by all the pomp and circumstance. We just wanted a map.

Finally visiting the floating market the next day.

The floating market does not disappoint!
We learned that scammers hang out in front of expensive tourist hotspots. You’ll notice that these lessons that we learned sound like things we shouldn’t have to experience to learn, but there you have it. When we visited the Grand Palace,our taxi driver told us to go into the main entrance where we could borrow long skirts and sleeved shirts in order to be appropriately dressed for the palace. As we proceeded to the entrance, a jolly, English-speaking Thai man greeted usand told us to get our appropriate clothing at the “other” entrance down theway, so we turned around and headed in the direction he pointed. As we were walking, another man told us that the palace was closed from 2pm-3pm for aspecial occasion (it was 1:45 at the time) so we should take a tour on his tuk tuk around the area to look at thesleeping buddha and other photo opp sites. We thanked him for his helpfulinformation but turned down his tour offer. We decided to walk over to theKing’s royal palace when we heard an automated message over the loudspeakers ofthe Grand Palace: “Skirts and shirts are available to borrow free of charge atthe main entrance. The Grand Palace is open to day until 5pm. Do not letstrangers divert or otherwise delay your visit to the palace.” We were had. Andwe were mad. It was a good thing that the Grand Palace was one of the most awesome scenes I’d ever seen in my life. When another scammer tried to divert Brian and my visit to the National Museum a couple of days later, we were savvy, and were able to get away from him after only 20 full minutes of him holding us up and talking to us. Some lessons are learned slowly.

Inside the Grand Palace, after having successfully entered and borrowed appropriate clothing for free.