So I managed to wake up and get ready about 10 minutes before breakfast stopped being served this morning, which felt like a minor achievement. It was pretty odd though, as it turned out that my hotel infact did not have any sort of eating area, meaning I was given a ticket that would get me into the buffet at the hotel across the road. I though these places would be in some sort of fierce competition with each other, but apparently not.
Also interesting is that Bangkok considers spaghetti bolognese a breakfast food, because they were serving a lot of it. Granted, it was really good, far better than the frankfurter pieces that were being served beside it (also a questionable breakfast item), but it still felt a bit weird, and not the kind of culture shock I was expecting.
After that I met up with a bunch of other ETAs (English Teaching Assistants- I’ve seen it written plenty of times in the last few months, so I forget it’s not immediately obvious what that stands for) and we attempted to make our way to Bangkok’s Grand Palace. We got lost, obviously, and ended up asking directions from a man claiming to be a teacher, who directed us towards some nearby TukTuks that would take us there for free.
There was a catch, obviously. This man was clearly not a teacher, which should have been obvious from the fact that he was wandering round the tourist area of Bangkok during school hours. And whilst the drivers of these TukTuks would infact take us around for free, the reason that they were able to do this was because they clearly had a deal with several store owners where they would take clueless tourists to their shops in return for free gas. So whilst we did visit some temples (although not the Grand Palace, despite that being the reason we went out in the first place), this was in-between a lot of visits to clothing and jewellery store. Oh, and ONLY clothing and jewellery stores, or a mixture of the two. Apparently no other shops in Bangkok are worth seeing.
So a lot of my day was spent being coerced into buying expensive items from random shop owners. I only succumbed once, buying a 300 baht T-shirt with a drawing of Bangkok’s floating market on it, and that was only because the suit shop owner wouldn’t leave me alone. I was the only guy in a group of girls, so not only did this make me a target, I was also told that I was a ‘lucky man’ and congratulated on my ‘7 girlfriends’ on more than one occasion. Not at all awkward when you’re with a bunch of people that you’ve only just met (although kudos to the guy who ‘assumed’ i was their bodyguard and then tried to sell me a suit, because the more I think about it the more I’ve realised that’s a pretty solid advertising technique).
I’m making this all sound a lot worse than it actually was though- we got to ride on a TukTuk all day, which manage to be both really fun and massive deathtraps at the same time, and true to their word the drivers didn’t charge us anything. Plus we managed to see a Standing Buddha temple which was pretty magnificent, and I kind of liked how we spent most of the day driving around Bangkok, as I got to see a lot of it.
We’re planning to go out later but as I write this Bangkok is being drenched in monsoon rain, although hopefully it will pass soon. I’ve also just had an email from the British Council saying that the other ETA I was placed with in my school has dropped out so I’m now likely to be placed alone, which makes the whole experience seem a bit more daunting. Having said that, I then received an email from my Thai Mentor talking about how excited she was that I was coming, and emphasising that I have a TV in my room to watch the world cup on. Apparently many locals love watching it, so now I’m picturing us staying up late to watch it in a large crowd every night.
You know, because you’ve got to think realistically in these situations.