We awoke early with bigs plans of hitting Dusit Zoo, a Wat and a Palace and after coffee and a croissant (I know, its weird. We come all the way to Thailand and indulge in a European continental breakfast) we headed off for the long and sweaty walk. We were not even a third of the way on our journey before we met a very nice Thai man named Chang who told us that today was a very special Buddhist holiday and that we could get a Tuk Tuk for only 20 Bhatts to take us to some very special religious places. So we jumped in the first governement sponsored Tuk Tuk and went to see the Big Buddha. It was truly awe inpiring, standing a massive 45 metres high. Once we had marvelled at this we were on to see the renowned Black Buddha. When we arrived we were met by a very nice older Thai man whose brother was a Monk at the temple. He took us to kneel before the 'Black' Buddha and showed us how to pray for good luck. It was a very pleasant, if a little surreal, experience. Afterwards we sat before the Buddha and
talked about the history of Thailand, about the Monks, about his experiences as a monk, and now as a high school English teacher. He advised us that the next couple of places on the list that Chang had given us would be closed until 2pm for the monks to have prayer ceremonies so we went back to our Tuk Tuk driver and asked if he could take us to the Zoo instead. This is where our story gets a little more interesting...
We have come to learn that the black buddha does not exist. It is a way of getting tourists into the Tuk Tuk driver to get free petrol by taking tourists to Tailor shops. Our Tuk Tuk driver insisted that the Zoo was closed and said that he would take us to the best government sponsored Tailor in Bangkok. We were skeptical but we thought, in for a penny in for a pound and decided to head off. It seems that the Tuk Tuk drivers seem to be working in tandem with the tailors and we were dropped off at a shop where we were offered free beers in order to receice the hard sell about how
amazing this mans suits were. We managed to convince him we weren't interested and left up one free beer and one free Coke. When we came out and said to our driver that we wanted to go back to Khao San Road, he did not seem to happy and explained that we had to go to one more tailor in order for him to get his coupon to make up his fare. We realised then that we had been caught up in some kind of pseudo scam but in all fairness, the people were all very nice and Cheryl bought a very nice silk pashmina for the knock down price of 600 bhatt. Although we could have got it cheaper in the market, we chalked the whole thing up to a morning adventure and retired to our favourite pub for a chill out and a bite to eat.
It wasn't until we took the pashmina out in the bar that we realised that the pattern on the bag was the same as the inside of the Tuk Tuk and we realised the cunning orchestration of the whole endeavour and we couldn't help but feel quite impressed at the resourcefulness
Our Tuk Tuk Driver
of these Thai people involved in the tourist trade. The whole experience brought to light the mentality of Khaosan Road. The people here are lovely and everything is very reasonably priced but it seems to be that they enjoy their clients to be kept as a captive audience. We hardly made it a third of the way on our journey before we were picked up spun around and dropped back on our doorstep. The whole process was entirely painless and not at all menacing and although we had cottoned on fairly early that some sort of deal had been struck without our knowledge, we were happy to see where the trip took us.
Lesson learned, we headed out in the afternoon to the grand palace. Nice people tried to tell us that the palace was closed today but they knew places we could go. We thanked them politely and said we would continue on and see for ourselves. As we arrived we heard the gigantic loudspeaker bellowing out
'Welcome to the Grand Palace. The Grand Palace is open everyday from 8am til 4pm. Please do not trust anyone outside the palace who attempt to
impede you on your journey'
As we arrived there seemed to be some commotion as it seemed that what looked to be a rather important African diplomat had been visiting and we were coralled to the side of the wide palacial driveway and ordered to stay still until their motorcade had passed by. Once inside we were blown away by the beauty and intricacy of the buildings. The photos below should give you an idea of the spectacle.
On the way home we took a detour and found ourselves travelling headlong into a red political rally and the streets were packed with people all wearing red shirts, t-shirts and hats and we heard passionate rhetoric being blasted out over the crowds through loudspeakers. It was very exciting and I woud have loved to have gotten some pictures but we felt uncomfortable pulling out the camera in the midst of the crowd so we ducked down a side street which, as if by magic, brought us out at the opposite end of our home from home; Khao San Road. Was this simply chance or did our prayers to the Black Buddha really serve to furnish us with
great luck? I'll let you decide.
Tomorrow morning we are to be at the embassy at 8am so we are going to take it easy and have an early night. Cheryl wants to take me for a pedicure. So... we'll see what happens there...
Until next time.
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