In retrospect, I consider my trip to Thailand over two decades ago still hilarious and memorable. One day in particular, my friend and I experienced surprise after surprise while exploring Bangkok. It was bright and sunny, great for an adventure, so we believed, and the day did not disappoint. We filled our stomachs with a sumptuous breakfast and talked about what we were expecting to see and do. Back then, my itinerary planning skills were practically non-existent and many of my activities were done on the fly, that is, impulsively.
The morning we left our hotel, we decided to take a tuk-tuk ride to the Emperor’s Palace. Tuk-tuks are modified makeshift motorcycles attached to a covered cart that carries up to four persons seated on the inside. They are used for easy transport in and around the city, often zipping in and out between cars and buses. The fare depends on the distance, but often negotiable. We settled on a fee before leaving the hotel and were eagerly expecting to be dropped off outside the palace doors.
To our amazement, not long into the journey the driver abruptly pulled to the side, stopped, and insisted on payment for petrol. When we resisted, he refused to go any further and ordered us to disembark the tuk-tuk. That was not the arrangement. We were livid but remained calm. We were in a bad situation. Neither my friend nor I spoke Thai. We had no clue where we were, how far from the palace we were, or how to get there. Whipping out our city map and studying it for a while we eventually decided to walk the street in search of assistance. Lesson learned – plan ahead, have clear directions and only use reputable drivers recommended by hotel.
We managed to connect with another tuk-tuk driver who knew exactly where we wanted to go and took us there without further ado. We paid the driver and he went on his way. At the palace gates my friend and I purchased our tickets and proceeded to enter when we were stopped. Politely, I was told that my attire was not suitable and if I wanted to enter, I would have to cover myself. When I asked “why?” I was told these exact words, “should the Emperor come out onto the balcony, he should not see me wandering around the gardens indecently clad.” I was wearing a pair of shorts to the knee, spaghetti strap tee-shirt and Birkenstock sandals (the kind without a strap around the heel). The staffer took me to a room where I could rent a blouse, sarong, and shoes for the time I would be spending at the palace. I was assured the items given to me were laundered daily after each use.
Well, I put on the shirt, sarong, shoes and was allowed onto the palatial grounds. The buildings, architecture, and gardens were absolutely beautiful. My impromptu get-up was not a camera moment that I am proud of, but I was not the only soul who had to re-dress in order to enter the palace. I was dressed to suit the weather but not to strut around the royal grounds. Actually, the rental is a brisk business for unprepared, unsuspecting tourists. By the time you realize you should have dressed more appropriately it’s too late to turn away. So, the only option left is to rent the recycled garments. Lesson learned – dress suitably especially when visiting certain religious/civil/public places of interest.
After the palace incident, we decided to hire a guide. He took us on tour to view several temples and buddhas: The Sleeping Buddha, Jade Buddha and a few others I do not recall their names now. At first, we were enchanted, impressed by what we saw and heard. At one of the temples, our guide instructed us that in order to show respect, we had to remove our shoes before entering. We willingly obeyed and neatly placed our shoes along with the many others at the door. My friend and I were still wearing our sandals. However, our guide wore sturdy cowboy boots. He was knowledgeable and had a solid command of the English language. After completing the tour, we returned to where we had left our shoes and slipped them on but were aghast to find the cowboy boots missing. We helped the guide search but to no avail. They were gone.
After we left the compound, we came upon a sign partially hidden near the entrance stating, “Do not leave shoes unattended.” The theft quickly brought our tour to an abrupt end. We paid and gave our guide a generous tip to assist in getting a new pair of shoes. As my friend and I walked away, we felt sorry that he had lost his American-styled cowboy boots on account of taking us on tour that day. No one wanted our sandals 😊. Lesson learned – never leave your possessions unattended in a strange place.
To end the day on a high note we chose to treat ourselves to a Thai meal. As we walked to the restaurant, we met a young girl cooking and selling her treats on the street. Against my friend’s advice, I purchased eight of the hot fried balls she deftly dropped into a paper bag. I questioned her about it as we waited for them to cook. In her halting English, she told me it was a flour batter. Eating the first ball, I recognized the taste instantly. The flour was not regular wheat flour but cassava flour (yucca). It was slightly sweet and tasty. I encouraged my friend to try it and she too fell in love with the fried dough. Lesson learned – don’t be afraid to try something new, you just might like it.
Community Peeps, first, we were thrown out of our tuk-tuk, then we had to wear different clothes, we lost shoes, and lastly, we tried street food which was not recommended. Well, Bangkok sure surprised us and taught us valuable lessons too, don’t you think? Have you ever had such a day whilst on vacation? Share your experience, whether at home or aboard with me here. Write it in the comment box below.
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