Thailand Day 2: Bangkok

So today was eventful.

By the end of day 1 I had lost my bank card. That’s fine. I have a credit card, I’ll use that. Simple. I called and cancelled my card with the bank.

I got up later than I wanted, around 11am. I’m gonna say it’s because of jet lag. Definitely not because I was roaming Koh San Road and tuking around in the early hours of the morning.

My plan for today was to go on a canal ride and visit the temples. They go hand in hand, as the canal rides stop at various points so you can get off and wander around the temples. Initially I was going to simply get a taxi to the temples, but the taxi man informed me it would be much better to do it by canal. Fair point taxi man.

Suit Shopping?

On the way in the taxi he stops off at some kind of suit tailoring shop. I’m very confused. He insists I go in the shop with him. Okayyyy… Upon entering I get bombarded by around 5 men asking me if I want a suit. One leads me into a consultation room. He shows me more suit brochures. What’s going on?

I insist I don’t want a suit, and they finally let me go and I sit back in the taxi.

I later find out the taxi drivers receive ‘coupons’ for bringing customers through the door. The coupons can be used for petrol I believe. I’m not 100% on this, but this is what I later gathered. I wander how successful that is? Bringing unwanted visitors to a shop. Anyway…

Lonely Canal Boat Ride

The driver takes me to a deserted looking harbour. No tourists around, only locals. I walk up to the counter and get grunted at. 2000 baht for the ride. It takes me round a lot of the old town (is that what it’s called) and through to the temples.

I get in the boat and it looks as though I’m on my own.

As it sets off I can see other boats in the distance full of tourists and a guy with a microphone talking about various landmarks etc. I’m just on my own on a rickety old wooden boat with a driver. I have no idea what he is saying, but now and then he talks.

The boat ride was really good. It was really interesting seeing the villages and locals wooden houses. I would definitely recommend this. Along the way there were a few ‘floating markets’. These are simply just boats selling stuff like Buddha statues. Who needs another Buddha statue!? Me apparently. I bought one with the rest of my cash. This hinders me later on.

The boat stops off at one of the temples and the guy tells me to get out and have a look for half hour. He will wait. He sure did wait… I didn’t return.

The Search For An ATM

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I take a quick look around the temple then realise I need some cash just in case any more floating markets come past and I need another Buddha statue.

I get pointed in several directions before I stumble on a little town. Hmm… getting quite far away from the boat now. Ah, I’ve got another 20 minutes yet, it’ll be fine.

A tuk tuk beeps at me.

“No thanks. Just need an ATM.”

“Ateieemm? Come”

“Yeah, ATM. Near?”

“Ateieeemmm. Yes. Come.”

So I jump in the tuk tuk. It seems that he thinks I want to go to some place that sounds like ATM because he drives past lots of ATM machines. I tell him to stop and he just smiles and nods. Eventually I get it through to him to stop.

I’m definitely not catching the boat again.

I go to the ATM and insert my credit card.

Transaction Cancelled.

Hmm. I get back in the tuk tuk and this time he knows what I’m after. He finds another ATM and I try again. No luck. I try some more. No. Shit…

So there I am with an angry tuk tuk guy that needs paying. I’ve stranded my boat guy. I have no money. I try to call American Express but my phone isn’t working abroad. Tuk Tuk man doesn’t understand a word I’m saying. This is a disaster.

He tells me to get back on the tuk tuk. He takes me to what looks like a gang of tuk tuk drivers on Koh San Road… They talk to me in Thai. I try a few more banks around there. I walk into a currency exchange. Maybe that will work.

They don’t want to know.

The tuk tuk driver suggested taking my watch as payment. At this point I was pretty helpless. Around an hour away from my hotel. No cash. Mob of tuk tuk drivers trying to take my watch. I need a saviour.

Luckily a taxi man gets involved. He can understand me quite well. He says I have to go to Travel Tourism and they can sort it. Something about taking my passport to the bank and they can withdraw money for me that way?

The taxi man pays the tuk tuk driver off and takes me to the Tourism board. I later find out it’s run by his wife. She is very helpful and explains I can get the money using my passport. There is also other options like Western Union. You can basically wire yourself money and collect it from any WU branch in the world. Great if you’ve lost your card.

In the end she allows me to use her phone to call American Express and ask them what’s going on. Apparently my card isn’t activated for cash points. And you have to fill out a form to get that activated. Luckily after explaining my situation they allow cash withdrawal on my card. Shout out to AMEX!

So I go ahead and try my card  round the corner from the Tourism centre and it works! Albeit with hefty credit card charges.

It’s a strange day. Refusing suits, getting on a lonely canal boat, tuking around trying to find ATMs. I didn’t get to see the temples, but maybe I got a better, fearful, character building life experience. Nah… it was just a massive blag. I can’t help thinking if I didn’t buy that Buddha from that floating market, I would still have cash and this adventure wouldn’t have happened.

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Thank god for Peesat and his wife for saving my skin there. I of course paid back my tuk tuk fee and gave him a nice tip.

It was nice to finish the day with a beer on the rooftop pool. Time to book a hotel for Koh Phangan tomorrow. Full moon party!

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Takeaways:

  • Don’t count on American Express or any credit card as back up for withdrawals
  • Make sure you have a fair bit of cash
  • ‘ATM’ is really hard to understand in Thai. I don’t know of a better word yet
  • Tourism centre will save your life if you’re in the shit in Bangkok

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