I ended up in Bangkok on accident, and therefore wasn’t very well-informed about what there was to do and how much it should cost. When I arrived, I did what I always do when first seeing a city: wandered around looking at things. I was instantly enthralled by the number of ornate temples; there is one on just about every block, each more stunning than the next.
Here, the street wandering might not be a good idea. I would recommend to other travelers to have a specific destination in mind before leaving the hotel, and know in advance what a fair price is. Come to find out, Bangkok people are notorious for scamming and overcharging unsuspecting tourists. Very few people speak more than a couple phrases of English, and those that do will probably take advantage of you.
I was gazing up at a pretty building and a seemingly nice old woman started telling me about the building. Then she told me that what I should really do was go on a river cruise. She kindly told me that she would direct the tuk tuk driver where to take me. I thought there was no reason not to trust her, so I hopped in the tuk tuk. The river cruise cost me 1500 Baht, or $50 USD. I found out later that the same type of tour is available for about $8. Oh well… at the end of the day, that money means a lot more to them than it does to me.
I was the only person on the boat, save for a friendly couple from the Netherlands. The tour took us through some back waterways where we could see local homes – many very run down. We caught sight of some Asian water monitors – they are like iguanas that swim. They can be found along the banks of the river, sunning on rocks and chewing on fish. Super cool and unexpected! There were also exotic stork-like birds. To me, that was more fascinating than seeing grandiose temples.
Then we pulled up at the floating market, and were told we had 30 minutes to see it. That gave us just enough time to walk through the place, grab a bottle of water and a kabob, and then get on our way. It wasn’t really enough time to shop or eat.
What stood out about the market was a lady who was frying up baby turtles. Yes, sweet baby turtles. I was horrified.
Next we stopped at the Wat Arun temple. This was beautiful and definitely worth seeing, even though it was swarming with tourists. There are no signs explaining the historical or architectural significance of the place, so you’ll have to do your own research separately. I found this to be the case with just about everything in Bangkok except the museums.
There was an old lady sitting at the dock at Wat Arun, telling each boat that they owed 30 Baht ($1 USD). We watched as each boatload of tourists confusedly tried to figure out if they should split the cost or just pay it. The captain told us we had an hour to explore Wat Arun. We remarked that we probably didn’t need a full hour, more like 20 minutes. We wandered around the little tourist market, and sat in the shade and talked until an hour had gone by. But upon returning to the dock, the lady told us our captain would not be returning to pick us up.
We shrugged and walked to the next dock over where a ferry was charging 4 Baht to cross the river. On the other side of the river is the famous Reclining Buddha. It was extremely crowded but cool to see.
It was at this point that I started to wonder if any of the Thai people actually got to pray in silence at their temples. All of the temples I’d seen that day had been flooded with tourists. I attempted to ask a tuk tuk driver, and all he would tell me is that he does go to a temple and pray.
Anyway, the tour was cool because I got to see so much in just one day! My stay in Bangkok was off to a good start.