Who are these people who have amazing idyllic experiences everywhere they go? Seriously, who? Because I want a word. Especially the people who write about Bangkok.
If Hong Kong warranted a love letter, Bangkok needs a strongly worded letter to its mother. Or the customer complaints department. After not one but two trips there in the space of two weeks, I think I finally worked out what it was that made me so enraged.
It’s not you, Bangkok. It’s me. (But, it kind of is you). We just had vastly different expectations of each other. It just wasn’t meant to be.
The weird thing is, I had a good time overall. The temples were beautiful, from gargantuan gold Buddhas, to intricately adorned temples that looked like Showstoppers Mary Berry would be proud of. It was truly amazing. I couldn’t imagine how they were actually built, and everything was so colourful and interesting – how could I not love this place?
I had literally one of the best meals I have ever tasted, beside the river next to The Grand Palace.
I roamed the night market on Silom Road, haggled, declined the Ping Pong show.
Took time to wander and found gorgeous Lumpini Park, dodged all the joggers and marvelled at the wildlife.
Khaosan Road was an assault to the senses. I felt I didn’t get the most out of it as I was too preoccupied with dodging the guys with trays full of skewered scorpions to really engage in the whole experience.
But overall, good. Great even! I found a cat café! And they served cold tea! It was brilliant.
But would I go back? No. No ifs, buts or maybes. No.
I was ready for hustle. Bustle. Built up city. Pollution. Fast pace. Noise. Smells. Great, par for the course, no problem.
So, what had such a huge impact? Two words: metered taxis.
Sorry, three words: metered taxi drivers. Three other words: total bloody nightmare.
I’m not averse to haggling. I’ll agree a price with a Tuk Tuk driver, bargain in the night markets, that’s no issue. But I didn’t do that when buying my train tickets, or in shops, or restaurants. There’s a time and a place, no?
So, if I flag down, or book, a metered taxi – I just want to get where I’m going and pay the price that’s on the meter. Usually with a good tip.
I don’t want to get in a pre-booked taxi, then be dumped at the side of the road 100m later when the driver refuses to put the meter on and tells me to get out. I don’t want to argue with the driver and have him begrudgingly put the meter on and then sulk like a recalcitrant teenager for the rest of the journey. The Land of Smiles, it would seem, does not extend to the inside of a Bangkok taxi with its meter running.
I don’t want to stand in 30 degree heat and humidity and try four* different taxis before finding one willing to switch their meter on.
*Four seemed to be some sort of magic number for willing taxi drivers. I just didn’t always have the time or patience at my disposal to deal with this.
I do not wish to finally get a taxi, after a stressful 30 minute wait at the front of the hotel trying to get to the airport, to then have the driver try and dump me out at the side of the road again because I insisted on having the meter on. I definitely don’t want to be forced into using my best teacher voice, when faced with a Thai driver telling me he suddenly doesn’t remember where Bangkok airport is, so I need to get out.
‘Airport. Meter. Thank you.’ Yes, there’s an upward inflection at the end of that. No, do not in any way mistake it for a question.
In the grand scheme of things, maybe it’s not that important. But having every journey start off on a sour note, makes exploring Bangkok much more arduous than it needs to be.
I never thought I’d be so glad to board a train for an 11 hour journey. Onwards, to Chiang Mai…