Thursday, November 16, 2006

Thailand is a really stupid place to Say Yes More

So I'm off school this week, and since no-one else is, I thought I'd take myself off to Bangkok and do a bit of sightseeing, maybe a bit of shopping. I took the ferry to Pra Athit, which is near Khao San road, and started walking. Picked up a second-hand Rough Guide to Thailand, and a map of Bangkok. I had started by following the Westerners, figuring they'd lead me to Khao San, but then I lost them. Soon I came upon a little lane of shops selling souvenirs and the like, so I went down there. One stall was selling strings of semi-precious stones, pearls and so forth - I bought myself a string of turquoise and had it made into a bracelet and earrings (actually two sets, since there was enough). I figured it would be a good price - I know on Khao San it tends to be inflated prices for the tourists, but it'll be okay in this little obscure place. Then I walked another 20 feet, and found myself on Khao San road. Oh well.

So I wandered aimlessly for a while longer, got a little bit lost. Came upon a white concrete fort dating back to the reign of King Rama (okay, there are 9 of them - I forget which one this was) and felt pleased with myself for discovering it, off the beaten tourist track and all that. Then I realised that just around the corner was the pier I landed at.

So I sat down and had a look at my Rough Guide and map. Usually I hate to get out my map in public - so obviously a tourist - but it's not like I exactly blend in here anyway, so out it came. Okay, I could go see the Democracy Monument, head up the way to the Golden Mount, and onto the Marble Temple. Sounds good. So I pootle off down Khao San road again, to the Democracy Monument. Where I'm accosted by a Tuk-tuk driver. He spins me some yarn about the Thai Tourist Board giving subsidies to Tuk-tuks today because it's a national holiday (what?), and he'll take me on a round trip to four or five sights for only 20 baht. It's bound to be a scam, of course, and only an idiot would agree. So I said, "sure". When I got in the tuk-tuk he muttered something about Thai fashion, Thai souvenir. There it is. But hey, all I have to do is look at some overpriced merchandise for a few minutes, and I can get a tuk-tuk tour for 20 baht - that shouldn't be too hard.

So first he takes me to a big Buddha. And then a lucky Buddha (I'm not sure what makes this one any more lucky than the others, but there you go. He's 300 years old though, I was reliably informed). So far so good. And then a tailor's. Okay. So, I play along, ask how much for this dress. 8,000 baht. He nearly got drenched with coffee. If I'd been drinking coffee. 8,000 baht?! I just paid 4,000 for two the other day, and that was Khao San road prices as it was! I'm outta here. Onward. I get back in the tuk-tuk, and driver tells me that in order for him to get his petrol coupon I have to browse for at least maybe 15 minutes. Gah, okay. So the next place (jewellery) I manage to browse for a while, even though they want to charge me 20 quid for a small ruby mounted in silver (c'mon, I could get the same thing from Argos for that). Funny thing about Thai salespeople, they're really pushy, but in such a sweet, gentle way that you almost don't mind. Almost. Anyway, long story short, I ended up buying a bag. It's a cute bag, it has elephants on it, and it's silk. He gave me a discount because I live in Thailand, then he gave me another discount because I'm a teacher, and then another because I like elephants (?). And he threw in a coin purse. It was still overpriced, but I've done my bit for the "Thai Tourist Board" and my nice little tuk-tuk driver. But then he wanted me to go into another shop. Really? I didn't manage my 15 minutes though - even I have my boredom threshold for staring at suit fabrics. Sorry mate. And so we pressed on, to the marble temple. The marble temple's very shiny. And, you know, spiritual and that.

And then he dropped me off at the nearest pier. Because I asked him to, that is - not because I hadn't fulfilled my browsing obligations.

So, what have I learnt from this experience? Say yes less. Handy hint though, if you're ever shopping in Thailand, tell them you're a teacher (ajarn) in Thailand. Seems to help - especially if you add that you have lots of friends from your agency (got Robbie and Colin free silk ties from their tailors).


At 9:41 am, Blogger Flo said...

Loving your blog Charlotte, you're really helping us to live the experience alongside you (but, thankfully, without the pain of the massage!)

At 3:33 pm, Blogger Queen of Sheeba said...

Yea! What is with the guilt complex when you refuse to spend the money YOU worked hard to make on expensive cheap stuff you don't really want? Sales people are just that good.


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