Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Long Live the King (Now with Pictures)

So, the Spaniard and I began our hopscotch through SE Asia a couple of days ago by catching a ferry from HK to Macau to connect to a flight to Bangkok for an eventual flight to Hanoi. Quite the journey to save just a couple of bucks, but it did allow me to spend a couple of days in Bangkok on the way to Vietnam.

Bangkok was great, and we saw all the requisite sights, including the royal palace and various temples. We also ate great Thai food, and visited the nightlife areas, including Khao San Road and Si Lom. All in all a full couple of days.

One of the most memorable things about Thailand was the admiration the king has amongst his people. Every where you turned, including the airport, there were pictures of the king and signs proclaiming "long live the king!" Before getting here we had read that he is held in such high esteem that after the fall coup the new military leaders went to him for his blessing. By granting it, the king gave the new regime legitmacy and the people went back to their normal business.

One manifestation of this esteem was that over half the Thais we saw were wearing yellow shirts with some weird crest on it yesterday.

The Spaniard noticing this decided to buy one for himself and put it on. Turns out the yellow shirt is a sign of solidarity with the king and the crest was the royal crest. Everybody happened to be wearing it yesterday because this is the 60th anniversary of his reign and his 80th year of life. To celebrate this Thais wear the yellow shirt every Monday because the king was born on a Monday.

Well this action by the Spaniard endeared us to the locals. Many people came up to us thanking him for wearing the shirt, and asking how he knew to wear it. Others asked us if he worked in Bangkok since he was doing something local. This was then followed by is this your first visit to Thailand and how long have you been here?

While, all in all the Thai were a very friendly people, but after a while we figured that there was a more sinister motive for some people behind the line of questioning. Basically it was there way of determining how fresh off the plane are these tourists and how much can we overcharge them. We fell for one scam when a friendly local, who we asked for directions, told us our destination was far away and that we should see this other destination as well. Before we knew it we were in a Tuk Tuk(thing motorized rickshaw) going to our destination for only 20 Baht(70 cents). However we were also taken to a Jewelry store, ticket broker, and custome tailor where the tuk tuk driver received commissions. We only escaped the longtail boat trip after the Spaniard used his height and a loud voice to intimidate the driver into taking us to our final destination. (Note picture is before the detours. . .)

Damn it we were had, especially since we were dropped off where we started and our final destination ended up being a 10 minute walk away. Of course on the way another friendly local came up to us telling us the Sleeping Buddha, where we were heading, was closed along with the temple across the river were closed for ¨Buddha Day.¨ Instead we should go to other sights via tuk tuk which he could help us with. . . Of course, we didn´t fall for the ruse a second time and we headed to a very open Sleeping Buddha and very open temple. (Proof that the Sleeping Buddha was open)

After these stops we hopped into the taxi to head to the democracy monument just to walk around the area in which it was located. Of course it was ¨closed¨as well and the driver wanted to take us somewhere else. Yes there was a coup, but we knew the democracy monument was still there as we had driven by it several times. Plus, its just a statue in a traffic circle, so it´s always open and we got to view the now ironic monument.

I guess even though you dress like a local, you still wear a target on your back when traveling.


Josekin said...

Dude, you're white, you always wear a target on your back. How about bargaining in Thailand? Was that easier or tougher?

Faisal said...

Ah, to be a tourist in Asia! One thing I've realized is that you're the prey, and the locals will show no mercy sometimes. But the game of wits is kinda fun, no? Kinda like being James Bond...