Friday, February 24, 2006

Moving Around Bangkok

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Day 12 in Bangkok

Ever since we arrived in Bangkok, the only ride we have been using to get around the town is taxi (metered taxi). We also walked a lot and sometimes beyond our expectation (ok, not our but my expectation). Gosh, I think I have not walked that far for a very long time. Anyway, the taxis here are safe and comfortable. Most taxis here are brand new, well maintained Toyota Altis - so if you say that is not comfortable, I give up. Even when the communication between the taxi driver and us can be a bit "sticky", we have managed to manage it well till now (we have a good record so far - we only got lost once!).
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* You can only find it in Bangkok – bright orange, brand new Toyota Altis metered Taxi. The rate is reasonable – the only downside is the problem of explaining where you want to go to the driver. You will have tough time explaining.

Being the "aliens” in Bangkok, we stick to the comfort zone of having the taxi picking us up and dropping us down. That is until, we had to use the BTS for the trip to the flea market and immediately it hit us. It was even easier and cheaper to ride in BTS (at some places like our hotel, it is far away from the BTS station, we had no choice but to use the taxis).

There was one time when we had to walk to a foreign currency exchange counter on a Sunday and when we arrived there, we found the counter was closed (it is a Sunday and we ignorantly thought it will be opened). Out of local currencies and desperate to exchange for them for shopping, we walked a few steps to the nearby tourist police booth. The tourist police booth is located by the main road and was handled by at least one policeman who can speak English well. We asked for the direction for nearest exchange counter and the policeman was very helpful in giving us the direction.

All the time when we were at the police booth, we noticed at the corner of our eyes, a Tuk-Tuk (see the photo to see what a Tuk-Tuk would look like) was waiting nearby. The driver kept looking at us and was pressing the accelerators several times, so that we would be aware of his presence (yes, we were aware – I mean it was loud and smoky but we pretended as if we were not aware).
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* In case you are wondering what is a Tuk-Tuk is, this is it. It is similar to the “Auto” in India but is more colorful. The drivers’ attitudes somehow seemed to be the same.

When we were trying to clarify the direction with the policeman, we were surprised to see the Tuk-Tuk driver who was a minute ago sitting in his Tuk-Tuk, was standing beside us. That gave us a short fright! He said that he knows where the place is and offered to take us to the place. We declined at first, as we wanted to walk instead spending money on the Tuk-Tuk. Further the Tuk-Tuk driver looked rather suspicious. We kept declining the offer but in the end, we agreed when the driver offered to take us and bring us back for only 20 Baht, which was about RM2! Damn cheap indeed. Besides, we took the Tuk-Tuk in front of the police, so if we were kidnapped, we had a very reliable witness.

Halfway the journey to the currency exchange, the driver was giving us other offers – a city tour in his Tuk-Tuk for “cheap-cheap” rate of 20 Baht per hour. It was a good offer but we declined, as we only wanted to exchange money and be on our way to the shopping mall. Besides, we are not sure where the driver will be taking us – the last thing we want is to be brought to a “cut-throat” souvenir shop. As we keep declining his offers, we noticed that his voice tone and facial expression began to change – from happy, goody-goody face to sour, unhappy face. He began to speed and was pressing the horn at every vehicle that crossed his path. Man, we were in a “runaway” Tuk-Tuk!
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* The ride – the driver was happy, kept offering his services but we were too afraid and out of time to agree. I did not dare to take his sour, unhappy face on camera. Why take the risk?

We were afraid but being the “macho guy” that I am (ahem), I was not that afraid though – I mean there were 3 of us against him. I ignored one fact though. His hands were on steering wheel, which meant, at the breaking point he could easily swerve the fragile Tuk-Tuk towards a big truck or bus. Luckily it did not happen. He continuously offered his ride and we continuously declined his offer. We were getting tired and we were doing it before we realized that we have arrived at our drop off point. We quickly got down, thanked him (for bringing us in one piece) and gave him the agreed 20 Baht (no more, no less).

While we walked towards the BTS station, we heard a Tuk-Tuk behind. Damn, we feared the worst – the driver being unhappy with us, was following us? We slowly turned around and saw that it was another Tuk-Tuk and it was being driven to another road. False alarm. We took a deep and relieved breath – the worst is over. We took the BTS and had a great time shopping

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* Bangkok has another mode of public transport – motorcycle taxi. It is cheap and thus far, the fastest way to get out in the traffic jams. There is only one problem though – look at the picture and tell me. Come on, you know what is the problem right? Ok, I will give you a clue. The clue: The guy in the white shirt is the customer and he is missing something on his head.

Whenever I see a Tuk-Tuk these days, I recall the little incident where we were taken in a short terror ride (ya, I spicing up the experience but does it sound good to read?). For now, we shall stick to safe and comfortable taxi.
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(Filed under Del.icio.us Tag: Other Trips)
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