Trip To Monkeyville
It was a simple, yet elegant plan. It would be a Sunday, we would leave the Ambassador at 5:30 AM, drive to Samut Prakhan and pick up Mama and Papa at 6, do an end run around Bangkok and shoot up to Lopburi, take some monkey pictures, do lunch and head back with a short stopover at Ayuthya. I'd be back at the Ambassador's outdoor bar by 3PM, thereby missing the evening rush, sipping my first vodka martini.
WHATEVER COULD GO WRONG????? HA!!!!
The appointed day arrived and my trusted taxi driver, Mr. Chai showed up on time with his brother-in-law, our driver, (no English) and a minivan as I had requested. We hopped in and headed for Mama's house. We got there as planned at 6 AM to find everyone still asleep.
Oh well – this won't take long!! HA again!
We wake them up and they dress very quickly. But wait – we must eat breakfast first and then we must prepare food for the "road". We have also picked up two more passengers, a nephew and granddaughter. Thank God/Buddha I ordered a minivan.
So now we're on the road and only an hour behind. Oh oh, we forgot the cell-phone and must return to the house to retrieve it. Now we're 1 1/2 hours behind and I'm having a serious sinking feeling.
But finally we're on our way and I know we're on the right road (I have a map) and clipping away at a nice 120 K/hr. About an hour into the trip we suddenly leave the highway and I ask, "where are we going?" The reply?, "Don't worry, everything OK". Shortly, we come upon this HUGE fruit and vegetable market with thousands of booths and tens of thousands of pickup trucks and pull up to this watermelon vendor. I'm thinking, what the fuck are we buying watermelons for?
Wrong George, we're not buying watermelons, we're picking up 2 uncles and 2 aunts and 1 niece. Now we have 12 people in a 10 person minivan. Holy Christ, what have I gotten myself into here.
Little did I know what was yet to come!!!
So off we go and very shortly back on the highway to Lopburi, now 2 1/2 hours behind. As we approach Monkeyville I can see large outcroppings of limestone hills and know that we are very close. Without warning, we leave the road and are now heading East instead of North. Franticly I ask again, "where are we going?". They reply "To the Dam."
To the Dam??? What fucking Dam???
Then I realized the truth. I've been fucking kidnapped. The only person in the van that speaks English is my wife and she's not about to defy her "elders" by declaring my wishes. These folks are on a full "paid-by-me" holiday and they're going to do what they damn well please.
By now we're hopelessly behind schedule and my thoughts turn to the dreaded rush hour traffic awaiting us upon our return to Bangkok.
The Dam turned out to be a "piece of shit" Thai tourist attraction about 10 meters tall. The pollution/fog was so thick you couldn't see the lake behind it. We fed the fish, took some pictures and I thought that was it. <I have to agree and say that that dam is an incredibly boring place to visit. The one time I went there, I was amazed that there were a zillion Thais there…even the Mrs. could not understand what they saw in it – Stick>
Of course that wasn't "it". There was a large open food pavilion and everyone was hungry. Since we were in the boondocks, I thought it would be wise to check out the toilet for western stools, 'cause I was going to need one if I ate. 3 doors were open and 2 closed. The open ones had squat toilets and I assumed the others did too. I reported this to my wife and told her I wouldn't be eating. She of course, told her entire family which caused quite a stir. They assured me there were western toilets. By now I don't trust anyone in this bunch and return to check. 3 baht later, the other 2 doors are open and indeed, they are western.
So, let's eat and run I say. Oh no – we have tickets for the train they say. Train? What train? "Over there" they say – "we ride over dam."
The ride over the dam is short. Trouble is that once over the dam there's nowhere to turn around so we drive another 5 km to the turnaround spot and of course another 5 km back.
Finally, finally, we are on the road to Lopburi at a time we should be returning to Bangkok.
Lopburi's monkeys are a farce. I suppose at one time there was a large community roaming the streets – but no more. A hundred or so sharing a dump of a Wat with rats. And why not – there's rotting food everywhere. <Last time I was there I was impressed by it. – Stick>
So I suggest to my wife that we start our return trip and forget about Ayuthya. She agrees that the old capital is too far out of the way, but that auntie wants to make merit at this ancient temple "somewhere" in Lopburi.
No – not wants, rather insists!!!!
Off we go in the search for the magical temple and no one seems to know where it is. Finally a gas station attendant points the way and we arrive in short order. Merit is made, but there's a museum to explore. I refuse to go in and lose my "face."
By this time I am so fucking pissed that I don't care if my face falls off the face of the earth and is never seen again.
So we head back and it's a 3 hour ride and now about 3PM. We stop by the watermelon stall and are forced to eat watermelon and when we go to leave 1 aunt and uncle climb back on board. We have to take them to Rangsit. SHIT!!!
We drop them off and instead of heading back to the highway, we take a side road. Papa wants to avoid the first toll booth (30 baht) so we wander for a 1/2 hour before we reach the highway. I threaten to take a taxi back to Bangkok and lose face again. It's getting to be a very loooong day.
Finally we're back to Mama's house, it's dark outside and traffic is horrible. I don't say goodbye and lose face yet again.
The Ambassador is our next stop, but we're taking a strange route I've never been on before. I ask my wife "where the hell are we going?" She replies "Papa tell driver to take slow way and maybe you will pay him more."
That did it – I exploded in a rage and yelled at the driver to take me to the hotel NOW. Although he doesn't understand English – he got the message and we were flying down the crowded streets.
My wife says "Oh – you just want to do what you want and not what the others want to do." I said, "Now got it sweetheart, in Farangland the guy who pays, calls the shots, and if other's want to ride along -UP TO YOU." Things got very, very quiet.
If it weren't for the final statement by Papa, I would have given them the benefit of the doubt – that they were trying to show me a good time. But the fact is that they were very rude and clearly took advantage of me NEVER AGAIN
p.s. If anyone needs a great taxi driver, a Thai / Chinese with very good English, email me for a name and cell number.
Excellent submission! For me, the best in quite a while. You have captured a Thai day out both beautifully AND accurately. It is ironic that it was you who had planned the day, but it was quite simply sabotaged by others. Frankly, you had be very reason to be pissed.
The problem is that in the Thai way of thinking, you were clearly in the wrong and they’ll no doubt now consider you horribly rude and obnoxious.
For an extended Thai family, just being together and eating a few times constitutes the perfect day out! And if some old biddy says she wants to go somewhere, everyone is forced to go there too!