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A misadventure in Bangkok

December 28, 2011

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned another Volunteer who is also in Bangkok for a similar reason as I am. He has been doing well but spends most of his time in his room, reading, watching movies or TV shows he downloads, etc. – mostly because his mobility is somewhat compromised.

Well, compromised or no, I have been trying to encourage him to get out for short amounts of time, get some real-life PT, and see a little bit of Bangkok. It is was for this reason that I invited him along with me to see the Royal Barges Museum here in Bangkok.

The interesting thing about going anywhere with this Volunteer is that something absurd always happens to us. I can say that yesterday was no exception. After promising him that the route we were to take would entail little walking – of course there is SOME, but as little as possible – we set out. He knew that he was going to encounter stairs for the sky train, so he was fine with that. So off we went, and were well on our way to our destination.

We were enjoying the water taxi ride and I was watching for our stop when I realized we were fast approaching it, and we were at the front of the very crowded water taxi. Well, by the time we were able to get up and move through the crowd, we had already left the stop where we had wanted to get off.

This would not normally be a big issue if it was just me – I would just get off at the next stop, walk back across the bridge, and find my way. But I felt somewhat responsible for bringing him along, so I gave him two options from which to choose – get back on the taxi and pay full fare for one stop, or find a regular taxi to take us to our destination. We chose the regular taxi.

What I did not realize about the area in which we found ourselves was that the taxi, in order to cross the bridge, had to follow the one-way streets, bringing us around a large park, past the Grand Palace, back over the bridge, and thus finally to our destination. He overshot and tried to pull into some sort of government lot, where he was stopped. He told the guard we were looking for the Royal Barges Museum. The guard pointed out where the entrance was, and then our taxi driver told us “the museum is closed”.

Well, we were not going to believe that – after all, it is a common line for taxi drivers to use – they say the destination is closed, and then try to get you to go shopping. What we forgot is that taxi drivers usually do this at the beginning, not the end, of a trip. So we got out anyway, and entered the rather unimpressive looking walkway that was supposed to be the entrance to the museum. Or so we thought.

It turned out that we were taking “the back way” into the museum, as the front door is actually along one of the canals. So our way took us past peoples’ private homes, past a trash heap, along smaller canals. The further we walked, the worse I felt – I had promised G that he would not be walking far, and here we were, walking a good distance just to get to this museum. We got some laughs out of it, trying to find the signage to know which direction to continue. Behind us, a British couple we had passed on the street on our way in caught up with us, just as we were approaching the museum.

A man asked if we were looking for the museum, and pointed us to the entrance. As we rounded the corner, we saw the museum, which had its gate closed…a sign said “Opening 4 January 2012”. The same man came and explained to us that the museum had been closed due to flood damage (strange, I thought, this was the ONLY place I have been in that is still closed due to flood damage). Whatever the reason, it was closed, and then I felt terrible – all that walking, all that strain on G’s knee, for a closed museum.

Apparently the two men there thought we were with the British couple, as they referred to us as a “family” and offered us a tour of the canals. I asked, twice, how much it would cost – no answer. The British man asked how much it would cost – no answer, just continuing the hard sell. So the British couple said “ta ta” and off they went – fast. The people kept trying to sell us on the tour, and G got them down to 200 baht per person for an hour tour…until they realized that it would just be us two, then they tried to bump it back up to 400 baht per person. So we kept walking.

By now, I am feeling like a heel – I had promised him little walking and all of these things seemed to be working against us. We got back out to the street, found a taxi, and told him we wanted to go to a water taxi stop. He said if we just walk forward and turn right, we will find one. So we did and I don’t know what he was talking about, but there was no water taxi stop…so we ended up on the other side of the street and caught another cab.

I don’t understand cab drivers here – they seem to drive in an area that they would theoretically know, but every time I have taken one, I tell them where I want to go, show them the map (which is in English and Thai) and they still don’t get it. We ended up needing to tell this one how to take us to where we wanted to go. We were both rather confused about that one.

After that, G had had just about enough walking, but unfortunately no one gave up their seat on the sky train (the monks on the water taxi declined to take the seat that was offered, so G gratefully sat there, but later told me he felt like a jerk for doing so). But he eventually got his reward when we sprang for another movie – Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows. The movies here aren’t cheap, but they are new and in English (with Thai subtitles) so it is nice to see them – no dubbing here!

And so ended the day’s misadventure. At least I got him out of the hotel and onto a new form of transport!

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