Saturday, January 4, 2014

Jan 4 2014 - Be careful during your last day in Bangkok!

It's a luxury to have a full week in one city. We are able to explore places a little out of the way, such as the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Bangkok. It was a little too far to walk, so for the first time we started exploring the public transit system. The website was a bit convoluted, so we improvised our own route that involved Skytrain, Subway, Bus, and walking. The walking part of the trip included hiking through a park and along a canal, crossing a crowded highway and railroad tracks, passing derelict houses and a run-in with a few chickens. So yeah the museum is in a bit of a remote part of town. And we had thought it was recommended by Olga's brother Konstantin, so it seemed worth a day's journey.

Very few patrons at Bangkok MoCa

When we got to the museum, we could see it wasn't the kind contemporary arts we'd be interested in. There was a Florentine Sculptor who influenced a generation of Thai art students, mainly it was those artists' works that were on display. A very successful Thai telecommunications businessman had built a huge 6 story "well-lit white-walled" museum to house the collection. They had nice benches and they did let us take photos. That's the nicest thing I can say about it. I did enjoy riding the rails and getting comfortable with the bus system! And in Konstantin's defense, we almost certainly misunderstood his recommendation :)

MoCa is not just empty - it's huge and empty!

We wandered our way back to the center and had a super spicy dinner at Baan Glom Gig that included a spicy Green Papaya salad and Southern Style Curry with Mackerel. When even the Thais warn that a meal is spicy, watch out!!!

One hell of a spicy curry
I finally met my match!!!

Our last day, we decided to take a ride in a Tuk Tuk - a sort of motorized rickshaw motorcycle type jalopy. This was just the beginning of a full day of dodging scams. Olga goes into great detail in her blog - I'll just say that tourist scams take many forms in Bangkok and are very deep and elaborate. In the end, it cost us about $4 and an hour of our time before we figured out what was happening, bailed, and got a ride back to where we had started. Not too bad!

Tuk Tuk ride is fun, even if it is a scam!!!

We also visited the Grand Palace, which itself is not a scam, but hardly seemed worth the time it took to visit. That being said, it is surrounded on all sides by scammers trying to convince you to buy pants they say you need to enter the palace, scammers telling you the palace is closed in order to send you on a shopping trip for gems/silks, and taxi drivers you refuse to offer you a fair price for a ride. In the end, I would recommend taking a well-recommended organized tour if you want to see any of Bangkok's more touristy sites. We only started running into scams (or becoming aware of them) on our last day when we ventured into the touristy areas.

A lot of puzzled map-reading and
head-scratching at the Grand Palace

This being our last evening, with our flight leaving at 7am, we could either wake up at 4am or just stay up all night and get into adventures. Guess which one we took :) Our scam sensors already finely tuned and now slightly oversensitive, we headed to the Patpong red light district. I had heard about the "ladyboy" (trans) go-go dancing shows - and we picked a place that was a mix of (biological) women and ladyboys. The show was super tame, they were essentially wearing bathing suits, sometimes lingerie, sometimes full outfits, and dancing on a stage. That's all we participated in. There was another scene going on where the dancers come over to men, drink with them (or as we witnessed, pretend to drink and pour it out), generally show them a good time. We did see one man go home with a dancer. But the dancing on stage that we came to see was pretty tame. And no, we couldn't agree on which were ladies and which were ladyboys. We also happened upon another alley in Patpong that seemed to have exclusively gay bars and clubs. The ladyboy culture in Thailand is super interesting, and to some extent, unique and specific to Thailand. I wonder why...


Karen Wilson said...

That journey to get to the museum sounds pretty crazy! And wow, all of the scams - you are not making me want to go to Thailand. Would you recommend it?

Dave Grenetz said...

I highly recommend visiting Thailand - we had just a great time!! Although, if possible, stay away from tourist towns and tourist sites in Bangkok. And try to walk most places :)

The other Olga said...

Sounds like we overstated the difficulties a bit, heh. We had a blast; Thailand's a fascinating and very rich culture. Obviously, it's good to work on developing savvy in our sightseeing approach :)