Entry #24: Field Trip

The Grand Palace in Bangkok is truly grand.  It’s 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, you’ll 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 you’re 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....



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