Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: TOURIST TRAP (08/20/15)
- TITLE: Hi-jacked
By Lois Farrow
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“Can I get you a tuk tuk?” he asked. “Where are you going?”
It was very obvious we looked like tourists.
“Maybe,” we replied. “We are going to the river.”
It was our second day in Bangkok, and we felt we were doing well. We’d already been on the Sky Train system and checked out several shopping malls. We were confident of our ability to catch the train to the river and organise a river cruise, but still, a helpful local was not to be turned down, and a tuk tuk ride would be fun.
He had brochures, asked for paper to summarise options, and talked non-stop. His deal was much cheaper than commercial options, he assured us, and he could help us each step of the way. Yes, he said, we would go from a local pier, cruise on the main river, feed the fish while cruising small side canals and visit a floating market. It sounded ideal. They could bring us back to Central Pier where we would catch the train home, and listen to this, he could even get us a discount on the tuk tuk.
Soon we are weaving our way through the dense traffic, the open sides giving great road-level views. I am always amazed at the way the drivers of cars, trucks, motor bikes, and various local types of transport blend together to share limited space without tooting or obvious stress.
We reach the appointed place and the operation is so slick we have no time to question or demur. Sit down please, yes you will take the long boat along the river, into the side canals, feed the fish – would you like to buy some food? – and that will be 2,000 baht – very cheap - thank you very much, here is your driver. When I get a chance I whisper to my husband that we have been hi-jacked as we are passed from person to person so smoothly.
The cruise is great, although there is no English commentary, so we don’t know the significance of the high-rise buildings we pass. We feed bread crusts to the fish at the appointed place; those fish are so fat being fed by tourists all day long. We have 30 minutes at the so-called floating market which is mostly based on land. Delicious smells entice us to buy snacks to eat while listening to children playing an assortment of instruments. We buy drinks and watch crafts and return to our boat.
So many long boats jostle for space while they wait for their customers. We are the only ones in our boat, although other boats are full. A noisy outboard motor hangs over the back and the boat is steered by a long rudder. Negotiation around the tight corners of the narrow canals is a feat of great skill.
Contrasts along the canals are stark with mansions alongside wooden structures, clearly lived in, which are rotting into the river. Small boats are moored to most houses, vital transport on the waterways. Growth is lush and we admire frangipani and hibiscus, banana palms and bougainvillea. Yes, we are in the tropics and I am reminded of living in the tropics as a child.
Two hours later we are brought back to Central Pier. We have plenty of time to get back to our hotel so I stop to read the notices at the entrance. A day pass for the river ferries costs 250 baht. Two hundred and fifty for a day? We have just paid a thousand each for two hours!
So much for our cheap cruise. But then, the ferries would not have taken us up the back canals or to the ‘floating’ market. We may have been victims of a very slick operation designed to extract maximum tourist dollars, but we had a great trip. Put it down to experience, and take more care in the future.
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