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December 2nd, 2000 · No Comments

Everything I have ever heard about Bangkok was about how dirty and crowded it was. Shelli and I arrived there in the afternoon, yes it was crowded, but it didn’t seem that dirty. But then of course after some of the places we have been, nothing seems to affect me that way. In China I wore a bandana to save my lungs, but here in Bangkok it didn’t seem that bad. Guess everything is relative.

Our mission in Bangkok was to locate a place that sold really usual but nice clothing, like which we had seen in the airport. ONLY we didn’t want to pay airport prices! Shelli and I asked around but everywhere we were told to go, wasn’t quite right. As a matter of fact we have never been given such a huge run around as we were given in Bangkok.

Bangkok is a tad corrupt. Let me explain.

Our first experience was with a tuk tuk driver who meet us outside of the Jim XXX house. JIm XXX is the guy who put Thailand and silk on the world trade map. Some years ago, after making himself a huge fortune, he disappeared into thin air. Today they have turned his name and former home into a tourist trap. It’s where you go if you want to spend a fortune on really nice silk goods.

We wanted really nice, but we didn’t want the fortune part. So we left. On the way out we met this tuk tuk driver who struck up a conversation with us. He said he knew where to take us and the place we were headed for wasn’t the right place, as a matter of fact it was a parking lot for the police station or something like that.

So we accepted his help and jumped in his little tuk tuk vehicle. Along the way he pulled out a picture of his sister who lives in Nebraska or was it Iowa, I forget. These guys do have the “let’s build report down.” We fell for it.

After a fair distance he pulled up to a tailor shop, but insisted that we go up to the third floor of the building across the street first. He said you need not buy anything, but just go look at the jewelry. By doing this you will help me out, because they give me a free gas coupon.

Needless to say, we were annoyed. Actually pissed! We tried to reason with this guy, but I didn’t like fighting in the street and finally we agreed to go up, walk around and then leave. Which is exactly what we did. While up there we turned the tables on him and asked the sales lady about a silk place. She told us where to go. She also said not to tell the driver, the one we had or any other driver, because when they bring you the price goes up.

No kidding!

We left and went back outside and across the street to the fabulous silk shop he had told us about. It wasn’t fabulous, it was just another custom shop. We wanted ready to wear.

We left, and went back to our driver and basically told him to get lost. We didn’t care for the way he did business.

Now we were in the middle of “I-don’t-know-where-Bangkok” without a ride or a map. We flagged down a cab and asked him to take us to a restaurant. We had no idea where, we just needed to eat. I was getting very grouchy, with low blood sugar and all.

So how many mistakes do you think we can make in a day?

The cab driver took us to a restaurant, sort of. Well there were people eating but there were no walls. They were all sitting about in a parking lot or something. Shelli was ready to be pissed again, I was thinking we need to ditch this cabbie too.

We got out, paid him and I strolled over to look at the menu. As it turned out the restaurant was still a dream of an architect’s rendering, but they were actually serving food. It was a seafood restaurant where you choose you dinner by pointing at the fish you wanted. It was not a bad looking place, sort of up scale even if it didn’t have a roof, walls, doors or anything but plans.

We decided to stay. Our next problem was figuring out how much this affair was going to cost us. I love shrimp but I detest having to clean it myself at the table. The shrimp here was absolutely huge, but they still had the heads on. Gross. I did a quite calculation and determined that the shrimp would cost a small fortune. Apparently they have New York City prices in Bangkok.

Shelli and decided to split a fish and call it a night. It was a good thing, the fish was good, but it was rather expensive. It was in fact a tourist place and of course they probably had to pay our cab driver!

We finished dinner and took off for a mall. The mall was in the International Trade Center. It was a huge multi-storied place with hundreds of stores, but shopping was not our destiny tonight. We didn’t find anything that came even close to what we were looking for.

Shelli had to leave for Bali in the morning and I was tired. We decided to go home to our hotel.

I didn’t climb into my bed until after Shelli had fallen asleep. When I got between the covers I discovered that my bed was dirty. It had bits of grit and sand on the sheets. It was awful. (It felt like something a kid would do to a bed, get in and out without cleaning his feet.) This was supposed to be a new room and the bed had not been changed. I rustled with the decision to go complain or just live with it. I didn’t feel like getting dressed and waking Shelli, so I just stayed there. I figured a little more dirt won’t kill me. It was a very uncomfortable night.

In the morning Shelli left for Bali, leaving me sound asleep in my gross bed. Bye Shelli!

When I woke I decided to pack my bag and go find a decent hotel. It was my last night in a foreign country, I had one more day before I headed home. I wanted it to be spent in a clean bed. Is that too much to ask?

I packed my backpack. All my other massive bags were left at the airport, which was the smartest thing I did on this leg in Thailand. I was free to roam with only one backpack, filled with computer on my back. I was traveling light.

Outside and down the street was a lovely looking hotel. I went in and asked to see the room. In SE Asia as in Japan and China they spend a ton of money on the lobby. You can never tell what a room is going to look like, but looking at the lobby. This hotel was the same. The lobby was very impressive but the room was not.

I knew I was going to have to up my price. The bed with dirty sheets cost us the equivalent of $10 so if I doubled the fee I would still not be paying too much (by American standard) and I would probably get a decent room. That was my plan and that’s how it worked.

I called a hotel in the Lonely Planet, secured a room, then walked there. Actually it was a ways away so I took the “sky train” to a closer point then walked the rest of the way. It got me out of the neighborhood and into a very different area, much closer to the cheap shopping district. Success!

My new hotel was very nice. I checked in and left immediately in search of a tailor. I needed some more clothes, my pack was too light!

Around the block I found an interesting tailor shop run by Indians. That’s India Indians! They had a huge assortment of material and wanted to make me yet another wardrobe. I told them, “oh no! I only need something to wear for a special occasion, like a New Year’s Eve party.” They took my measurements and showed me some wonderful Thai silk, the next thing I know I’m ordering an outfit.

Of course we had to negotiate on the price. I was not in a mood to pay much than what I had set in my mind. At one point I told the guy thanks, but no thanks and started to leave. That worked. I ended up getting it all my way. My suit would be ready that evening, he would have it delivered to my hotel.

I told him, “no way!” I will come try it on to be sure it fits. I wasn’t going to make any mistakes today. He accepted.

Then all day I walked around shopping and looking at all the “bargains”. There is a mall that has vendors that will sell goods to you at wholesale or retail prices. The difference is the quantity. Of course I didn’t need to buy a dozen of anything, but it was fun to see.

I did end up buying a really nice purse made out of stingray. I paid a mere fraction of the price they wanted in the airport!

All the while I was shopping I kept worrying about my new custom suite. If it didn’t fit right I wouldn’t have time to get it fixed. I was leaving on a very early plane. What would I do?

When the time came I went to pick up my suit, first trying it on. All my worrying was for naught, the suit fit like a glove. I was delighted. The store manager wanted to date me! Such salesmen they are!

I left with yet another bag in tow.

I had been in Bangkok 36 hours, I was ready to go home. America is calling me.

Tags: SE Asia · Thailand