The Man In The Photo!
The gentleman in the picture below e-mailed me to reveal what really happened on his holiday through SE Asia and is actually just a tourist caught in the traffic mayhem that fine day. Here's his e-mail for ya and he enclosed a photo below.
It was Saturday. I didn't have any real plans for the day but did have a few things wanted to go and do. I was just trying to go from my very nice room on Khao San Road to visit the Erawan Shrine. Well let me back up. Originally I had planned to go visit the Grand Palace that day but a very nice Thai gentleman outside the Grand Palace named Somchai informed me the Palace was closed to the public as there was a very special ceremony going on. I was a little bit miffed over that, having wanted to soak in the experience of this exotic Kingdom, but he did offer me a ride to some other cultural highlights nearby. A brother of his, Sombat, just happened to be in Bangkok that day and owns several tuktuks and one of his employees, "A" was nearby. Since the Palace had been closed he said most of them haven't been able to make much money. "A" offered to take me to some other tourist attractions nearby for just 200 baht. I thought about it and thought how lucky I am as this would cost four or five times that in my home country.
I hopped in and we first visited this shop where they sold a lot of precious stones and other gems. I was so lucky as it was very hot outside and inside it was air conditioned. One of the employees brought me a glass of water to drink but having read of scams where people spike your drink I was a little skeptical. I didn't fall off the turnip truck just yesterday, ya know! I didn't want to offend them so I took a big gulp and when no one was looking, I spit it out into one of the many flower pots. I was lucky as today was a very auspicious occasion and they had a very big sale going on. Almost everything was reduced by about 40%. The nice sales lady was so attractive with very long legs and very tall for a Thai. She must have been at least 180 cm tall. I always thought that Asian women were short. Anyway, I carried on and made a number of purchases as the sales lady, Lek, said many people had been buying them and re-selling them in their home countries for three and four times the price they paid here. I thought this would be a great way to finance my two month backpacking trip through SE Asia! I quickly made my purchases and then dashed outside. I must have made quite an impression on the sales lady Lek as she slipped me her card and phone number and said to call her later that evening. Being respectful I wai'ed her and then she shook hands with me. Boy, did Lek have big hands….almost as big as mine, and I was off.
The tuktuk driver "A" was still there and he took me back to my guesthouse where I could deposit the gems. He said don't trust the in-house safe as sometimes the owners will steal from the safe from a third key. He suggested to just put them under my mattress for safe keeping. No one would ever look there as it is so obvious.
I then came out and he whisked me off again. We were then off but said he needed to make one stop before heading across town. We stopped by this shop and inside they had rows and rows of very fancy suits. An Indian man wearing one of those turban things named Karan came up to me and asked where I was from. After learning I was from Toronto he said what a wonderful country Canada was and he had a brother there and had visited many times. He let me know that that day he was discounting all suits due to the events going on at the Grand Palace. He was marking everything down by 30% and could have the suit ready for me in 24 hours. I said that was good as I would be leaving Bangkok in just two days time for Koh Samet. He did a fine job in sizing me up and getting all the measurements just right. We must have been in there for about an hour as I decided just what I wanted to purchase. I ended up buying three suits, four shirts, six ties, and a 3/4 length cashmere overcoat for those cold winter mornings back home. After talking with him and telling him of my plans he said rather than carry all these items around he could store them for me right there in the back of the store and when I left Thailand I could just come by and pick them up as he would have them ready to go. I then paid for the items I purchased with my credit card. He said that the system was down right now and he would have to do it the old manual way with paper and carbon copies. I thought that was quite odd as I had just made several purchases at the gem shop and it seemed to be working fine. Karan said don't worry, this happens from time to time in a small country such as this. He even gave me the large suitcase for free to seal the deal! What a country this is! I thanked him and left smiling like a Cheshire cat as I knew I had made some very good buys that day.
"A" then revved up the engine and we were off. He took me to a bridge and there were a number of boats down below. The driver said the traffic was quite bad today due to the events going on at the Grand Palace and it might be better to just take a boat there. He said this would be quicker to reach the Erawan Shrine so I thanked him and went off in the direction he pointed. Sure enough, there were the boats and a place to purchase a ticket. Man was I lucky to meet such a great guy like Somchai, his brother Sombat, and his employee "A".
I purchased my ticket and after a few minutes I boarded the boat. It was quite long and not very wide. It sure did seat a lot of people. Everyone rushed to get into the boat but they allowed me to get into one of the rows first. I thought how lucky am I as I wanted to get next to the side of the boat so I could take pictures or the quaint little riverside scenes I was anticipating seeing. In a few minutes there was a loud noise. Sounded like a jet engine about to take off. Come to find out it was the boat engine making all that noise! Was it ever loud. I was glad that I was about 3/4 of the way up front. I was just getting ready to take a picture when all of a sudden this bluish-green plastic sheet was being raised up. How could I take pictures like this? Soon we were off and cruising down one of the majestic waterways of this bustling metropolis. I reached up and grabbed the rope that held the plastic tarp and lowered it a bit. I then raised up my camera and took a few snaps right quick. Just then a big wave came up and a big spray of water came into the boat. A number of people screamed and shrieked. They must have thought it was the Titanic or something! I actually enjoyed the cool water hitting my face and arm to quell the heat that had been sweltering me that day. After that a few people tried to raise the plastic sheets so I relented. I mean, sheesh, we were already wet and it did cool everyone down. I can't imagine why anyone would be upset? We stopped along the way to pick up and drop off a few passengers here and there. I marveled at the way the skilled boatman could negotiate themselves walking on the thinnest of boards along the side of the boat. Perhaps they were gymnasts in a former life. As we sailed along this narrow river (I learned later it was called a "klong") I admired the daily life of those who lived along its banks. Soon after the boat went very slowly along the klong. I'm not sure what it was, maybe a shallow spot in the klong? Then we were off again at a faster rate of speed. Boy this was great! I took a few more pictures when I could but someone always kept putting the tarp back up. I thought that they would enjoy the cooler air and to feel that wind rushing through their hair. At the next stop everyone on board alighted the boat. I asked someone where the Erawan Shrine was and they pointed me in the direction to go. Eventually I made my way there but for a while I was lost in some small little roads. I learned later they were called "sois". The people were very nice and everyone always pointed me in the direction to go. At times I thought I wouldn't get there but I did. It wasn't quite the big attraction I thought it would be.
The area was quite small but many people were there paying their respects to this large shrine. I bought a few garlands and placed them there as well. A very nice lady talked to me and asked if I could fill out a survey for her. Being the gentleman that I am, I obliged her and after about 20 minutes I was finished. She then said I could come by this hotel over on Sukhumvit to receive my free gift but I told her it would have to wait for another day.
By this time it was getting late and I thought that I should be getting back. I was a bit tired and thought that I would return to my guesthouse and maybe sit outside and have something to eat. The food is so inexpensive and I like to soak up the atmosphere of being in such an exotic location that few people ever get the chance to see. The survey lady, I think her name was "B" but not sure, told me I could get a motorcycle taxi to take me but I declined saying that I thought I would stroll along the wide streets of Bangkok and then take a bus.
I made my way back where I had come from and had been taking a lot of pictures along the way. Eventually I reached the "klong" where I just been earlier. I marveled at the boats and the skill that they achieve in handling them. I enjoyed the breeze that was blowing but it was hot. As I continued my walk there seemed to be a parade going on. I walked through the crowd and people were talking on loudspeakers and everyone was dressed in red. It was like it was a sea of red everywhere. People were smiling and laughing and seemed to be in quite the joyous mood. A few people talked to me and loved to have their photos taken. This is how you get to know the people of a country I thought, by immersing yourself in their culture! About this time a big truck stopped so I took some pictures of all the people on this truck. That made them smile and yell some more. I asked one of the guys on the truck what was going on. I said, "is it a parade?" and he smiled and said, "Yes".
He then asked me, "Where you stay hotel?" I told him that I was staying at Khao San Road and he said he was going that way so jump on. Wow! Was this ever cool. I then climbed up aboard and they gave me a great seat. I could take a lot of pictures up there of this parade. We snaked along the road and many people were happy to see me and shouted "farang, farang" (that's Thai for foreigner) at me. Man, did I feel special! I really felt in touch with these people and joined them in whatever it was they were saying. Not sure, but something about "Apisit khee-nok", I guess that is some special person and they were praising him for all the good work he was doing!
I ended up not getting back to my room until late that afternoon. It sure was an eventful day and I enjoyed telling some of the other cool people who were staying where I was all about it. They said I was really lucky, and you know what? I think I am!