Guide books will warn that various scams are used at the big tourist attractions in Bangkok. A favorite one is that attraction “X” is closed, claimed by the Tuk Tuk driver, who, of course, will take you to better, open locations. This is so frequent that signs around the Royal Palace warn of this scam and remind the Palace is open every day.
So, while we knew this, the fact that the day was a Thai Holiday let us suspend disbelief and fall prey to the “closed” attraction scam, while in Chinatown. This was made easier, as it was coupled with the friendly stranger, who just happened to be walking down the street and decided to make conversation. He also conveniently had a child going to school in Florida and being so friendly, gave the suggestion of a longtail boat ride. He said the Wat was no good today and it was a truly boring day to visit the area (having since made multiple trips there, Chinatown is NEVER boring).
While the BS meter in my brain was doing a little beep, the guy was persistent and told us where the locals go (locals don’t typically go), as opposed to the higher-priced touristy places. So while not our original plan for the day, we went for the adventure. He called a Tuk Tuk and away we went!
And where we went was down back streets and James and I wondered if maybe this was the trip we were robbed, as we headed down quiet industrious streets, away from the public. But we landed at a boat dock and a woman very happily and quickly took our money (about $50 worth) for our private longtail boat ride down the khlong.
The boat took us down the main river, passing sites we had no names for, the driver slowing down as we clicked away but the noise of the boat not allowing for communication. Soon enough, we turned down a smaller khlong, heading beneath a structure that could dam the water flow. This smaller khlong held interesting houses that seemed to defy gravity, remaining upright against its decaying structure. Many houses appeared so patched together they left us guessing how much of the original structure was left.
These homes were the highlight of the trip as they were a very interesting view into the homes here. We kept snapping away at the homes and Wats zipped by, filling our cameras with poorly lit, blurry photos. The boat moved at a quick pace except around corners where the driver would lean out to turn the boat, very interesting to watch. Occasionally, we would see another longtail boat going by, generally filled with other farangs.
Before boarding I had bought fish food and we came to a place with a large sign “Feed the Fish for Good Luck”. Feeding the fish is a way to “make merit”, important in Buddhist culture. Our driver slowed the boat and we began to chuck out the bread. Immediately huge fish began fighting for the bread, rising up and out of the water. Feeding frenzies were happening all around us as people on the pier were also chucking in bread. The water appeared to boil with fish bodies. We went through our bread then motored down to the “floating market”.
I’d really wanted to see the “Floating market” and had confirmed with the ticket lady our boat would take us there. They are very popular around Bangkok (some more authentic than others) and should include boats selling food and other merchandise. So far I’ve had limited success at “Floating Markets” and today was no different. This less authentic market was composed of about four people in boats waiting for the long tail boat drivers to stop. We were approached by a very persistent man with various knickknacks, all quite expensive. I’d made the mistake of showing interest in a hat that turned into a fan (multi-use!), and so was hounded to make a purchase. I asked how much and he told me 300Baht (about $10) so no deal for the paper hat. He was persistent and the driver wasn’t helping us by leaving, so the pitch changed to the drinks. We acquiesced as he prayed on our kindness suggesting we get a ‘beer for driver’. The driver had been nice, so we were inclined to this, although I believe he took a warm beer, which leads me to believe he was in on the transaction. There was, of course, a nice markup on the drinks, but at least then we were on our way again.
The boat ride ended at the pier, where a toll had to be paid for docking and, of course, the driver had to be tipped. The ride did not yield good pictures for me, but had been a neat tour of homes. I’d recommend mostly giving up on photos if you have a small compact like mine and just enjoy the view. The homes are all very interesting to see. And be sure to tip your driver!