Lessons waiting to be discovered
Back-posting from Oct. 10.
Today, I was taught many unexpected and invaluable travelling lessons.
I signed up to join a local tour in Bangkok to take me to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market and Maeklong Railway Market. On the minibus I met Marty from Australia. He’s been travelling through the norther parts of SE Asia for a few weeks, including Laos and Thailand. Since it was a half day tour, we got the chance to share some experiences. Since it was relatively early on in my lone-backpacking journey, I needed to get rid of some of my naive habits.
Negotiating tuk tuks: We were waiting for the train to come through the railway market when Marty suggested if we can roam around the city to see if there’s something worth looking at. We talked to one tuk tuk driver which quoted us a ridiculous rate for just a short ride around the city (which wasn’t big at all) – to which we politely rejected. After crossing the streets and asking another tuk tuk, the driver hesitated for a moment and asked the driver whom we just asked (in Thai, most likely how much we were quoted). We left right away, as Marty pointed out he likely wasn’t going to quote anything lower. We later found another tuk tuk for half the price. Lesson learned: negotiate the price quickly, and if it takes too long, move on to the next one. There’s always bound to be someone who is willing to make a quick buck.
Navigating Bangkok: Khlong Saen Saep is a river canal that runs directly east-west through the heart of Bangkok. I was having a hard time navigating back from the Khao San area to my hotel area, which is central around MBK shopping mall. Using the local metro system requires walking about 15-20 minutes on the busy streets of Bangkok and then the metro takes another 30 minutes. Total time: roughly 1 hour. The other option is to take a bus, but timing is extremely tough, as the the traffic in Bangkok is pretty hell during rush hour, and that journey can easily take two or more hours.
Marty showed me how to take the Khlong Saen Saep boat, which costs just 10 bahts, and takes 20 minutes from Khao San Road to my hotel door to door! It takes some practice getting on and off the boat as they don’t exactly “dock” – more like a “touch and go”, and a “side curtain” to prevent river water splashes (which is quite interesting). I swear it was about 95% locals riding the boat, but that’s certainly the fastest way to go!
Experiences from travelling: Since Marty had travelled through Laos and Chiang Mai, both places that I was going to visit later on, I was able to get some information on which destinations were worth it and what to watch out for. I ended up booking a bike tour through historic Bangkok on the last day in the city due to his high recommendations, and it was one of the highlights of my stay in Bangkok.
Everyday is a lesson waiting to be learned, you just need to be willing to stretch your comfort zones.