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Travel Journal

moneyhuntersAdventure in Bangkok
by Tiffany; January 22, 2012

    The customs officer hurried us, “Go, go!” 

I wondered, “Doesn’t he check anything, nor ask a common question? ”

“Hurry up, don’t go behind them!” he added.

I finally understood that he assumed we were the members of the group tour before us in the waiting line. This was the first time my husband and I had taken my two kids to Bangkok, in the winter of 2006.

I’d heard many horrible stories about Thai customs officers or the airport police extorting money from tourists; and even, some rumors on the Internet said that drugs might be planted in travelers’ bags. Those really scared me. Anyway, my husband and I still decided to make this trip by buying a package (flight tickets plus three nights hotels and airport-hotel pickup service) because of the Thai food, their culture, improving design and movies. So, we felt so lucky that we were going to leave this crowded but grand new building without trouble. I put my hands together, “Sawatdee Kaa (hello), Bangkok. I’m coming!”

When I looked around the arrival lobby, I didn’t see anyone holding a sign with my name waiting for us. After a long wait, I felt tired and depressed. "Where's the pick-up service?” I said doubtfully. I noticed a row of service booths were noisy on the corner, like a fair, promoting the service of shuttles, hotels reservation, and tour orders. However, I didn’t want to wait anymore. We needed a ride.

After settling in at the hotel, I followed the map to check the nearby convenient stores and restaurants as well as explore something interesting. While we were waiting for the traffic lights, a man approached us and said, “Hello!” He looked at my children and said, “So cute! Where are you from?” Just like the locals who like to have a small talk with visitors. He seemed to know a lot about Taiwan, my home country, and that really released our wariness slightly. “Do you know the worthiest gift is Thai jewelry?” he said, “I know a very good place where you must go to see.” And then he called a tuk-tuk (auto tricycle) and got a bargain with the driver. It seemed hard to refuse.

The real adventure started. I really didn’t know where we were heading. The tuk-tuk sped through the lanes. The style of their living-places was quite similar to the style of my childhood. I could easily peek inside  the low-rise apartments beside the narrow street—so close! My children felt excited like riding a roller coaster, but I was anxious because I didn’t know what would happen to us.

The driver pulled up in front of a store. The entrance didn’t have a special decoration or a wall showcase. Two women greeted us and offered tea. It seemed that they knew we would come. I browsed around their displays. Nothing was attractive to me. I really wanted to go. Suddenly, I felt worried. I once heard that if you didn’t purchase anything they wouldn’t let you go. However I wasn’t willing to buy anything. We tried just walking out. Eh? Nothing happened. They didn’t force us to stay. I was relieved after leaving there, but another problem came. Where were we?

I couldn’t remember the winding route we had come. Besides, it was definitely far from our hotel. Fortunately I had a map and a travel guide. “Getting to the main road might be easier,” I thought. I checked out the signpost but still had no idea. We probably needed a taxi.

A woman pushed a toddler, and a little boy who walked beside with her saw us. I was surprised that she asked us in Mandarin, “ Do you need help?” Later, she explained that she used to work for a family in Taiwan. “You need to bargain before taking a car, or you would not know how huge amount we would be charged, especially tuk-tuk,” she said. “If the driver asked more than 100 baht around the city it would be too expensive. And, it would be better to observe their expression before bargaining,” she reminded us.

After getting back to the hotel, we decided to take a one-day tour next day and then followed my schedule to go around this city by public transportation (MRT, BTS), and tuk-tuk. Tuk-tuk was our favourite because it was so crazy and fun to travel the streets.

During four days in Bangkok, I always saw Thai people’s smile. They were not as busy as a bee. They were relaxed and enjoyed their life. Most Thai were willing to help travelers. Although I got many warnings about traveling in Bangkok, I’ve experienced their kindness more than the terrifying stories I heard.