Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bangkok (13) Private Tour - for FREE?

Bangkok (4) The drive to the hotel
Bangkok (5) P2 Boutique Hotel
Bangkok (6) The Family from SA
Bangkok (7) Breakfast on Wed morning
Bangkok (8) Pratunam, Scooters & Tuk-Tuks
Bangkok (9) Central World
Bangkok (10) Sukhumvit Road 
Bangkok (11) Himali Cha Cha
Bangkok (12) Beware of Cheating Drivers
Day 2: Wednesday, December 30 2009

A man called Mr Song, who seemed to be one of the "managers" at the hotel (I don't think he was) told me in the morning that we would discuss tour options for me when I got back later that afternoon. His colleague who checked me in the previous night was really kind. I liked him. He told me that his friend, Mr Song would help me out.

I didn't get the same vibe from Mr Song as I did with his friend. There was something about him that wasn't sitting very well with me. I figured perhaps I was just in an irritable mood so I let it pass.

I walk into the hotel and he approaches me. We sit down on the couch in the lobby and I tell him about how I was just cheated by a cab driver. He thinks I'm very upset, because he goes into the restaurant area and comes back with a glass of water for me. He'ss being really nice and I feel I was wrong to misjudge him so quickly.

He shows me a file of tour options I can go on. There is a City & Temple Tour (where I can see the reclining buddha), Floating Market Tour, or a ride down Chao Phraya River that also stops at a temple. I want to go on a group tour and I'm not keen on being the only person with a tour guide.  

"Tomorrow my free day. I take you temple tour."
"You'll take me? How much?"
Yeah right. For real? 

"What time?" I asked.

Is this guy serious? On his day off on New Years eve, he is offering to drive me to see famous temples for absolutely no charge?

"09:00," he says.

I sit flipping through the file again. I don't want to commit myself to this, and I don't know why he is willing to take me on his free day. Maybe he is just kind and my mind is just polluted by everyone cautioning me before I left.

He goes to the desk and comes back with a small map of the area.
"Here is hotel," he says pointing with a red pen.
He goes on, " walk here, and meet me here," as he draws a circle.

Hang on. Why do I have to meet him in front of  particular building around the corner from the hotel? OK - he doesn't want others to see him? The alarm goes off in my head. This is all too suspicious. I'm not going to stand on a corner and wait for him to pick me up and drive me somewhere for no charge. Hell to the no.

"You know what.... thank you, but it's your day off. I'd rather join this tour (pointing to the Chao Phraya River photos) and then I'll go to Wat Poh on Friday, OK?" I say.

He shrugs his shoulders and makes a call. He says everything is set and I have to be downstairs in the lobby at 07:30 the next morning. 

Part of the package I had with the hotel was a free tour if I stayed there for four nights. Initially I was booked for four nights, but then it changed to three. Mr Song said I could still qualify for the free tour, but then he said "Just give driver 100 Baht". I thought that was just a fee I had to pay. OK, fine.

I go up to my room very relieved that I declined his offer of a "free private tour". I go online and share my days events with online friends. Suddenly, I get a wave of replies from friends warning me about Bangkok cab drivers.

One friend, Ken sends me a private message saying, "Sheetal, be very careful of the cab drivers". I have to take heed immediately. Other friends tell me that if drivers refuse to use their meter, I should get out and try another cab.  I didn't know that they were so notorious.

I stay in for the night, watching TV and writing on my netbook. I'd have loved to be outside, but I'm a bit afraid to be out alone. Such a difference compared to my Singapore trip the previous year when I was out alone till the wee hours of the morning. I hope things will pick up the following day on my tour.

Bangkok (14) Chao Phraya River

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