After a somewhat tumultuous flight into Bangkok, life in Thailand started off fairly smoothly. All four of our checked bags made the journey yet again. We found a taxi fitting all five of us and our luggage. Our driver called the Thai owner of our rental apartment for us and got us there quickly and easily.
Bangkok was the metropolitan city we’d expected. Lots of cars and concrete. We spent the first couple days there primarily recovering from jetlag, which had us slap happy and then falling asleep at the dinner table our first night in the city.
The girls particularly liked the hot pink taxis. Unlike every other major city we’ve been in so far, the taxis are actually cheaper than the BTS mass transit system, which is faster and well air-conditioned. Our first lesson in getting scammed as obvious tourists came with these taxis. When we would stop one and tell them where we were going the driver would give us a price, usually 300 or 400 Thai Baht. As it turned out, they’re supposed to use their meters which would have charged us a fourth of those prices. Live and learn in Thailand, I guess. We figured it out after a couple days there, but gave a few hard-working cab drivers something to smile about until we did.
Bangkok is all about shopping. It has several malls bigger than the massive Mall of America in the U.S. The Siam Paragon is a high-end mall with a dedicated shop for every luxury fashion brand you can think of. Of course, true to the economic diversity of Bangkok, it’s situated right next to open air markets packed with food and discount items. You could buy a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes and a few minutes later pick out your dinner at a fish stall.
Since we’d be spending Christmas in Thailand I decided this would be a good place to get a few things for the girls. I opted for MBK, a more moderately priced retail center with the classic stall setup. There I learned my second lesson about Thailand – price haggling. However, it was less about my shrewd negotiation skills and more about being distracted by my three kids. A Tracey Thai business deal went down something like this:
(Tracey picks up a wooden elephant)
Shop owner: I sell you 200 Baht only.
Tracey: Uhhhh… (looks around to make sure she can still see all three of her children.)
Shop owner: Okay, for you, 150.
Emily (from another stall): Mama, did you see this?
Tracey (turning head toward Emily): What?
Shop owner: Okay, okay…100, but no less.
Alison (from another stall): Mama! Look at this!
Tracey (stepping toward Alison): What honey?
Shop owner: Okay okay okay, 60 Baht. Final price.
And sold! Kop kun kah (thank you) for the $2 Christmas present for my five-year-old. So, if you want good prices in Thailand, I suggest you start by taking a bunch of kids with you and coaching them to call you over to the competition’s booth while you’re in the middle of negotiating. Seems to work like a charm.
Before we could go see the temples of Bangkok, we had one very important task to take care of – avoiding homelessness. We were “going with the flow” and planning our time in Thailand upon arrival, so we had just a few days to figure out where in the country we would land for the rest of the month. It’s a daunting process every time we pick a place to temporarily live in a country we know very little about. We finally decided on Koh Samui, an island off the east coast of the Thai peninsula.
As always, we don’t know what to expect. The photos of the AirBnb apartment we chose to rent looked nice enough, but we’ve learned that doesn’t mean much. Wide angle lenses and some adjustments in Photoshop can make a lackluster place look darling no matter what. Yet, every place we’ve stayed on this journey (and there have been almost 40 of them) have worked out fine for us. Adjusting to tight spaces, minimally-stocked kitchens, low ceilings and other idiosyncrasies of the properties we’ve rented has probably been one of the biggest learning experiences of this journey. We knew whatever we found when we arrived in Koh Samui would be just fine.
With the jetlag, shopping and trip planning taken care of, now it was time to be tourists in Bangkok and see some temples! Luckily, we had our own personal tour guide in town.
Bangkok to be continued….