Our latest adventure in Thailand

adventure in thailandI stood outside a rather official-looking building. The yellow flags of the Thai royal family stirred in the slight breeze generated by nearby traffic roaring down the street. A 5-story mural of the king adorned the modern building’s facade. I wiped my eyes of the sweat that was causing them to burn as the few security officers in the guard post eyed me cautiously. “It’s always an adventure in Thailand,” I thought.

Tigger and I looked quite out of place in this nonpedestrian-friendly area. Not only because we are clearly foreigners, but we also had our light blue suitcases trailing behind us. We both sipped from our Slurpees hoping the frozen treat would somehow provide some internal air conditioning while I tried to spot the seemingly mythical bus station that would take us to Ayutthaya.

Seeing no sign of my own version of the white whale, I headed to the guard booth. I greeted them in Thai and did a wai, the Thai bow. Having realized that I was in a section of Bangkok that didn’t have many English speakers, I made my question simple: “Ayutthaya. Bus?”

A look I’ve seen many times before spread over their face as they nervously looked to their colleagues for support. They had no clue what I was saying. “Ayutthaya?” I repeated.

As I tried to figure out how else to communicate the name of my desired location, finally one of the guards lit up. “AyutthaYA?” he said, accenting the last syllable.

Relieved, I smiled and nodded my head vigorously as I answered, “Chai, krop!” YES! Oh, thank goodness we finally got this far!

adventures in Thailand, Bangkok

But saying yes in Thai was a mistake. Those two words together elicited a long string of rapid Thai. Of course, even if he had spoken only one word a minute it wouldn’t have helped me understand. I shrugged, completely clueless as to what he was saying.

Finally, a bus passed, and I pointed vigorously. That worked. YES! Success! He then proceeded to motion climbing another overpass and heading toward an unseen building in the distance. After giving me directions in Thai for what seemed like 10 minutes, he looked at me and said “Taxi.”

Ah yes. A taxi would be easier I’m sure. Especially since I was now sick and tired of carrying our two suitcases up and down narrow, steep staircases. In fact, between the heat, the long walk, and anything else the thought of climbing that set of stairs almost had me in tears.

Mai, krop,” I replied, shaking my head. I had been quoted almost $80 for a taxi at the airport. I was not going to do it.

He nodded his head in return, and even though I understand maybe 10 words in Thai, if that, I understood what he was trying to convey: A taxi would be easier, or it would be better to go back toward the airport and get a train. We didn’t want the train because this particular one is not air conditioned, and the idea of being packed into a train car with a bunch of other people and only open windows to refresh us just did not appeal to me.

An observant taxi driver spotted us and stopped. The two security guards went over to him and conversed. “Where you go?” he asked me in what later proved to be the extent of his English repertoire.

“AyutthaYA” I said making sure to pronounce it correctly.

Another round of Thai ensued. It was decided that he would use the meter (Bangkok taxi drivers generally do not want to use the meter and will greatly overcharge you if you don’t demand it) and take us to the bus station. A round of thank-yous and grateful bows ensued as our luggage was placed in the taxi.

As we began the journey to the station, I was lulled by the air conditioning. Exhaustion started to take root just as the taxi driver asked me if I wanted him to take me all the way to the town.

“How much?” I asked.

His answer of 1000 baht (about $34) earned an immediate “Chai, krop!” from me. Yes, the bus would be a lot cheaper, but at this point not having to move from the vehicle for a while and getting dropped off in front of the guest house was worth it.

adventure in thailand, koh samui

He stopped to refuel and called the guest house for directions. I heard the word for foreigner (farang) repeated a few times before he handed me the phone.

“We closed now. We open next month,” the lady on the other end of the phone informed me.

WHAT! “I already paid! I used Agoda.”

“I don’t know why they do that. We closed until next month. You find other guest house easy. Call Agoda and get money back.”

Luckily my day pack was in my lap which prevented me from striking my head repeatedly against the dashboard of the car.

The driver looked at me sympathetically. “Bangkok?” he asked.

I took a deep breath. I didn’t want to be in Bangkok. I wanted to be in Ayutthaya. I had been looking forward to it ever since we left Thailand a month ago.

I shook my head. “AyutthaYA.”

We drove around looking for places. Neither one of us was very familiar with the town. All I knew from reading was that I wanted to be on the other side of the river. I mimed river, but the up and down motion of my hand was pretty worthless. Finally, I remembered I had an app on my Kindle Fire for Thai. I pulled it out but couldn’t find river. I did, however, find boat and played that for him. Bingo!

Getting over the river still didn’t turn out to be an easy fete. We finally managed to communicate I wanted to be on the other side of the river using the limited words available in the trial version of the app and lots of pointing. After crossing the bridge, we still had difficulty finding a guest house or hotel until he pointed and practically yelled “Farang!”

I looked to see a group of people whiter than me walking across the street. I nodded my head and repeated the same word. White people walking en masse? Must mean a hotel is nearby, right?

And it worked! We ended up in a lovely guest house in a much better location than the placed I had booked. And this one was open.

Sometimes the simple act of arriving is the adventure. And so far, it seems like any time Bangkok is part of the equation, there’s always an adventure in Thailand for me.

Have you ever paid quite a bit extra just to avoid some hassle when traveling?

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  2. I agree. Arriving in a strange place, not speaking the language, exhausted can be quite an adventure in patience and tenacity. I’m glad everything turned out well!

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  3. Sounds like you kept your cool and ended up better off. The universe works like that!

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  4. Proof positive that It’s amazing how travelers always manage to communicate — and usually get where they want to go – even when it isn’t the clearest or most direct way. As you point out, the simplest act of arriving — or simply being there — is an adventure.

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  5. Sometimes it’s really hard to bring yourself to pay extra for a taxi over a bus/public transport because you get stuck in this weird mindset of trying to save every last penny… and then you have to remind yourself you’re in SEA and it’s really only a few extra dollars at most to take the more “expensive” option.

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    • Well, for us it is realistic to try and save money. We travel on a super tight budget, and when the taxi ride is more than what we typically spend in a whole day. . . yeah, it’s going to be tough for me to swallow. 🙂 And in this case, the taxi was a LOT more than the train or bus would’ve been. But having the experience of discovering at almost the last minute our lodging choice was closed and needing to scramble. . . well, I’m really glad we went with the taxi.

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  6. Oh, this made me laugh.

    The tonal language in Asia can be just brutal for pronunciation.

    Charles and I once spent half an hour, in the dead of night in the middle of Bukittinggi, Indonesia trying to get a taxi driver to take us to the Bamboo (which we pronounced bam-boo) hostel. For all our trying, we just couldn’t get the poor man to understand.

    Finally, a look of recognition crossed his face, and he said, “Ah, bahm-BOO hostel”, and proceeded to drive us directly there. Sigh.

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    • HA! Well, now I know if they’re having a hard time understanding me to just start accentuating the final syllable. Perhaps that will work better. LOL Too funny!

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  7. Often its these types of experiences that make the best stories. . . and of course, “the journey is the destination”. Happy travels! 🙂

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  8. The tip about making sure the drivers use their meters and just trying another driver until you find who will was one of the best travel tips I ever got back when I was a Thailand newbie.

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  9. You should be super careful with tuk tuk drivers, they often rip people off. Sometimes Thai people are not as nice as we describe them. Have fun!!!

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    • I generally avoid tuk-tuks unless there’s a set price, it’s a short trip, and/or I’ve found out from a local what the charge should really be for the ride.

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  10. what a journey! i love that the people were so helpful – that’s a wonderful thing, when you’re travel fatigued.

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  11. Sounds familiar!

    When travelling in Jordan I found it to be much easier to use private transport compared to the public transport, which was find if you were going in or out of the capital, but otherwise sucked, which surprised me for such a relatively developed country. Since I was travelling with a friend, the cost wasn’t that much higher than a bus and we had the added convenience of being taken right to the door of the place we were staying and could ask to stop off on the way to see things we would have otherwise missed.

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    • Sounds like a nice way to travel! It definitely can save a lot of time and aggravation. The bus and train take about 2 to 2-1/2 hours. The cab ride was about 45 minutes. HUGE difference there. Also a LOT more expensive, too.

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  12. I’m pretty much a cheaparse and that means I constantly have frustrations with transport in SEA. Either the taxi driver won’t use the meter or the tuk-tuk driver won’t depart unless I pay the foreigner’s fee or any number of other hassles. I just can’t bring myself to pay the extra charges that some want. 🙂

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    • Extra fees bother me as well. I only get really prickly, though, when they’re exorbitant. Many of those BKK taxi drivers are trying to get $8-10 more than the metered fare. Now that’s just BS!

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  13. I like my rolling suitcase as well and I carry a messenger bag with my electronic gadgets. Soooo much easier than a backpack. All that packing and unpacking. Heck I just go somewhere and unpack. LOL I”m not one to move around alot. I’m curious how your son handles all of this? Does he ever get stressed out?

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    • It’s especially easy when you use packing cubes. Absolutely do love the suitcase. As long as I don’t have stairs to deal with.

      He does extremely well with it. We typically stay at least 1 week in an area but usually longer. Paris was a bit more tiring as we switched every few days, but he does remarkably well. He just really kind of goes with the flow.

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  14. What a great taxi driver! I probably would have given him a hug. And I’ll be the second person to say that I didn’t encounter any taxi problems in Bangkok. Granted we didn’t take many, but those we did turned the meter on as soon as we got in.

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    • I’m glad you had an easier time with them. I paid more to ride the BTS just so I wouldn’t have to deal with them.

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  15. “Bangkok taxi drivers generally do not want to use the meter and will greatly overcharge you if you don’t demand it.” Wow, that wasn’t my experience at all. I was there for two weeks, used taxis a lot, and I didn’t even once have to tell a taxi driver to put on the metre.

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    • WOW! Would you send some of your mojo my way? You’re the first person I’ve heard who hasn’t complained. One of the popular Bangkok blogs even has a page dedicated to ways of getting even with your driver for refusing to do it. I would’ve enjoyed things a lot more there if I had your experience. It really was annoying going through 12 taxis at the train station and about 8 later that night. I rarely ever had a taxi driver who didn’t make a big deal or flat out refuse. And it’s one of the common complaints about Bangkok from travelers. I’m jealous!!!

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  16. Ah, yes, the joys of traveling. My family and I went to Harbin, China several years ago and had to have collection tags in our pockets, directing us back to the hotel we were staying at in local terms, as well as Mandarin and even Russian! We laugh about it now, but it was a bit harrowing to drive on the sidewalk over ice, nearly taking out pedestrians!

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  17. Ack! What’s with agoda? I use it all the time and love it. That said, a comment and a question:

    1. What you just described is pretty much the de rigueur for my arrival in most any stray corner of the globe. Indeed, no shared language, hot (or alternately freezing cold), sleep deprived, exhausted, confused, oh and… yes – toting a bundle of all my worldly possessions that seems to grow heavier by the minute. I mean, we travelers are nothing, if not closet masochists, no? 😉

    Which brings me to the question:

    2. So… “…our light blue suitcases…? So you and Tigger don’t use backpacks? I travel with a small rucksack for my techno-gadgets, and a small rolling suitcase/backpack combo. What exactly are you two using?

    P.S. If it’s any consolation – with any luck, you’ll soon be visiting me here in the coooool, greeeeen mountains of Dalat, Vietnam, yes? 😉

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    • Frankly, I don’t think it was Agoda’s fault. It’s the owner’s obligation to go in and update their availability calendar in the system, and I’m betting she hasn’t done that. This is the 1st time I’ve had any problem with a place through Agoda, and they also refunded my money in less than 12 hours.

      I had to laugh at your closet masochist statement. I prefer to think of myself as adventurous. LOL

      We use rolling suitcases primarily. We switched from backpacks during our 2nd stay in Mexico. It’s just easier to live out of a suitcase than a backpack. And when it’s extremely hot, it’s nice to not have a big thing hanging on your back. Also, in Honduras my congenital spinal deformity created some havoc, and we would’ve been in real trouble if my yoga routine hadn’t fixed it prior to us leaving there days later. With a rolling suitcase, that isn’t a concern. For our gadgets I have a daypack, and he uses a messenger bag.

      We would possibly like to switch to those suitcases that are also backpacks, though. That way you kind of have the best of both worlds. The only time the suitcases suck is when lots of stairs are involved. His is super lightweight at 13 kg, but with my jeans and winter coat, mine weighs in at 20 kg. Not fun for carting up or down flight and flight of stairs.

      The heat wasn’t as horrible when we weren’t schlepping our gear and standing in full direct sunlight for an hour. LOL But, yes, in a few weeks we should be meeting!

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  18. Adventures in transportation eh? We couldn’t bear another minibus ride in the South of Thailand so spent a whopping 6000 Baht (!!!) on a taxi from Hat Yai to Penang. I’m SO glad we did though. I had an upset tummy that day and being crammed in the back of minibus for five hours just wouldn’t have cut it. Glad you’re back in Thailand!

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