Friday morning. Around 10am. Bangkok, Thailand. Number of elephants seen: 0.
After multiple failed attempts at catching a city bus, I jump in a taxi, point to an intersection on a map and show the driver the address of my guest house. I can only assume that if you are a taxi driver by profession, are given both a map and an address, that those 3 things will suffice as adequate information to get your passenger to his destination…
The driver assures me that he knows exactly where I need to go. So I sit back and learn a few things as he drives: 1) There are no road rules in Bangkok. 2) There are a lot of motorbikes. 3) My Thai vocabulary is non-existent. 4) My driver knows very limited English. 5) My driver asks heaps of questions.
He not only asks, but feels the need to turn completely around and look me in the eye until I give a response that he deems appropriate. It was as if I had Lloyd Christmas as my driver. Trying to keep the “eyes on road” ratio greater than 1, I begin to answer “yes” to mostly everything.
So about 15 minutes in, Lloyd pulls literally off of the road, turns around, and indicates we are at the destination by pointing outside then at me while giving a 1-5-0 with his fingers – because the whole sidewalk thing didn't give it away – to let me know how much I owe. He is all smiles and very proud of himself. We did after all just break some serious language barriers.
Exhausted to keep up with his questions, I hadn't been paying too much attention to where we had been going, but after I start to pull out cash, I look around and deduce we are not in the correct place. I voice this…
Through hand symbols, I learned that apparently at some point in the conversation I agreed with Lloyd that it would be better to be taken not where I indicated on the map, but to somewhere where I can drink beer, get a massage, and see boobs. Those were the 3 words in English he knew and apparently since I smiled and shook my head “yes” when I heard him say them, he decided I'd rather forego dropping off my bags for a quick round with a tallboy and a stripper. And so, my first act in Bangkok was hiring Jim Carrey to drive to me to a brothel.
Lesson 1: Don't play Yes Man in a country where you do not speak the language.
We pull off of the sidewalk, this time speaking infrequently as to avoid confusion. He ended up getting within 5 blocks of the intersection, and for the 30 minute drive, the fare on the meter was 120 baht, or a bit short of $4. This, I can live with. Except the driver refuses to take anything less than 300B. We get in a small confrontation, me offering a generous 200, and him screaming something I cannot understand, all the while asking for 3-0-0.
Lesson 2: Always confirm you're on the meter before getting into the cab.
The bottom falls out as I walk inside the KS House, so I check-in and head upstairs to the restaurant for a quick bite: Chinese noodles with pork and bottled water for a cheeky $1.50. By the end of my meal, as I was writing this, the thunder and lightning had run off, and the sun decided it would show its face. I walked down to my room to pee and got my 3rd lesson of the morning.
Lesson 3: Don't put used condoms and napkins into the toilet bowl.
Is it that big of an issue that it warrants a sign in the bathroom? Is this common in every room, or did I just get the sex room? Where am I? I rethought my choice in hostels, finished my business, and quickly left the room. Bangkok: you can only get better from here.
PS - I only paid the meter.