The first time I came to Thailand, I was given a number of warnings from former Thai-travelers. Among them, and most adament of all:
When you get into a Taxi, make sure the meter is on, and running.
Well, of course. And for the three weeks last year, and five weeks this year, I never once took a taxi without first checking the meter.
Ah. Hah. Sunday rolled around and I had the day free, as did my new American friend, Evette. I suggested visiting the Grand Palace and the temple of the Emerald Buddha. Incredible and exotic and it was the perfect weather, so off we set. I should have seen the day’s disaster coming, though. It was clearly not going to be my day, but I ignored the signs.
What signs you ask? Well, by the time I met Evette at the Skytrain transfer station, my phone had run out of money to text (so I thought I’d never find her), there was oddly no 7/11 within sight to top-up and I had already spilled water down my front. Twice. The first time was (yet again!) the water bottle in my bag coming open. I felt the water dripping through my purse, onto my skirt and down the seat to the floor. Did I move my bag? Did I close the bottle? No. Instead I thought, “Wow. I had no idea I was sweating so much. There’s ACTUALLY sweat dripping off my legs to the floor. Awful.”
And that was that. As the water continued to flow, and I nearly drowned my phone and my kindle, soaking the front of my skirt. “I’m a sweaty mess.”
Evette and I arrived at the last BTS stop outside the historic city center, and made our way to a friendly-looking taxi driver. He told us, right away, “The Grand Palace is closed until 2 pm. You can’t go yet, it’s only 12. I will take you somewhere else. Look, I have a map – these beautiful sights. You can go here and here and here – and I take you to Thai Center, too. Sound good? Okay, we go now!”
We settled on a price. Laughed at our good fortune to find such a helpful taxi driver and off we went. F0r $1.30, he’d take us to a river boat to see the sights. I wasn’t sure how much the boat would cost, but it couldn’t be so much.
Turns out that, “Thai Center” is not the “cultural center” I had it mind, but a TAILOR! And if we bought something, he would get free gas. We did’t buy anything, he was thoroughly disappointed in us. And finally, we got to the boat. The boat. The boat was 1 hour, beautiful. And THIRTY DOLLARS!!!
No. No. No. We didn’t want this. We had never said we wanted that tour and NO we are not going.
This is when the driver began rubbing his hands through his hair in anxiety. No tailor, no suits bought by the rich farangs, and now – no cut from the over-priced river tour. What was he going to do?!
We told him to take us to the Grand Palace, like we wanted. Suddenly, that was another price. Far too much. And. Oh. Flip. The meter.
I finally realized, was off. Off! OFF! We’d been with this guy for 30 minutes, and he never turned his meter on. Aside from slapping myself in the face, and getting frustrated, there wasn’t much we could do.
My friend thought it was a weird situation, but I felt even worse knowing I SHOULD have avoided it. I considered, and threatened, rolling out of the cab as he suggested spot after spot and I said his prices were too much. Suddenly, that 40 baht we already paid him wasn’t going to get us where we wanted to go. Instead, $5 more. No. I’m getting out.
NO! Do not get out. Someone else might be more.
I doubt it.
Yes, maybe, mabe they charge you more. You want to see jewelry!?
No jewelry. Grand Palace. 100 baht. No more.
100. Okay, I go now.
Okay, okay, okay – 120 baht. Very very cheap, just for you. OOOOH! Americans. Why you go to Grand Palace? It’s not open.
Take us. Now.
We went, we found a beautiful park, and began to feel like it wasn’t so ridiculous. oops, Accidents happen – but we’re tough. Wouldn’t happen again. We’d figure this day out, and only had 1 more hour to kill.
Ahhh, beautiful naivete.
End Part 1