Entry #24: Field Trip
The Grand Palace in Bangkok is truly grand. Its
probably the most colorful palace I have seen...and I have visited
Versailles in France and Buckingham palace in England. Not to
take away from those two, they are both magnificent, but this one
seems to glitter more...and in a good way, not like your grandmother
on her way to a Wayne Newton concert.
Anyway, the Thai people are very nice and even the souvenir hawkers
are much more of a "soft sell" compared to the women on
the Great Wall that followed me the entire way for 4 hours on a 8
mile hike trying to sell me a Book (like I read books! Ha!)
But not every place is perfect, and the scam-du-jour is that as you
approach the grand palace a tuk-tuk driver (a tuk-tuk is like a taxi
but shaped differently- I'll try to remember to take a picture of
one so you'll know what it is) will welcome you to Thailand, ask you
where you are from and where you are going. When you tell them
that your headed to the Grand Palace they say, "Oh, today is
a Buddhist holiday and the Palace does not open until 1 PM to the
public, so you have 3 hours to wait, why don't you go to these other
sites?" They then recommend 2 or 3 smaller sites, which
would involve getting out of the tuk-tuk to snap a photo then tuk-tucking it to the next drive-by site. These sites are spaced
a far distance across the city from one another... too far to walk
of course, youll need someone to drive you! Which leads
into the pitch for you to hire them to be your tour guide for the
day. In reality, the tour price isn't much (between
$1 and $2 US,) so its not the worst scam to fall for, but if youre
on a tight time frame like me, a 3 hour tuk-tuk tour might risk missing
out on the stuff you really wanted to see.
Anyway, I didn't fall for it and instead made it to the Grand Palace
and took some great shots of a group
of school kids on a field trip as they walked through the Palace.
I was recruited to help them with their homework, which was
"Interview a Foreigner." They were a pretty shy bunch, and
I was the only foreigner willing to be interviewed. I spent an hour
signing my name, explaining where I was from and why I came to Bangkok
60 times. In exchange, I had the kids pose with my Red Sox hat. The
photos are pretty good some of the best yet. [See the Sox page for
more of the photos.]
You may have noticed in my Grand Palace photo album that most people
are sweating profusely, as it is 90 degrees here with 95% humidity.
Needless to say, I'm not looking my best. In addition, I think I caught
the bird flu or SARS in China so I'm a bit under the weather. Luckily,
I'm well stocked with antibiotics so I should be back to good by tomorrow.
(Don't worry Mom, I know I look like crap, but I won't die.)
Hopefully I'll have more stories for you tomorrow as I check out the
underbelly of Bangkok tonight. Stay tuned....