Day 26 - July 9.: We spent most of the morning by the pool on the roof of the hotel. The light haze made the sun just about bearable and with the occational dip it was quite pleasant up there.
Later we took a walk to see if we could locate the Planet Scuba diving shop. That was easer than we feared and it didn't take us many minutes. All the maps of Bangkok I have seen has not been very accurate to say the least. Street adresses are also totally useless since they don't follow any system and you woun't neccesarily find number 14 next to number 15. The city very much show signs of "organic growth" in that aspect. Because of this; the "adress" we got was "across the road from Gullivers bar". Pretty ambiguous!
At the divers shop we got our bus and boat tickets to Kho Tao confirmed as well as the final departure time. The package we chose included tranportation as well as accomondation in addition to the PADI course for under 22.000 baht. That's pretty cheap!
On the way to the divers shop we were approached by this extremely polite and nice guy who told us all sorts of touristy stuff about Bangkok, what we ought to see and do while staying there. He told us that this day was a very special day and that for only 10 baht a Tuk-Tuk would drive us around the city for a whole hour.
When we asked him why it was so cheap he told us it was because the goverment (tourist department or something like that) would give drivers of tourists a gas coupon. We were a bit sceptical to the whole consept at first. After all the books say "don't ride in a Tuk-Tuk". The problem is; they don't say why
Anyway, this guy didn't try to sell us anything or drag us into a waiting Tuk-Tuk so we didn't think much more about it. As we continued to walk along the street a Tuk-Tuk pulled up to us and wanted to take us for a drive. When looking back it is easy to see that this was a friend or associate of the other guy, but since we were looking for the shop we didn't need transportation and we said we would go later.
After the divers shop we were approached by another driver and he too confirmed the 10 baht price. Here we had 3 people saying the same so we figured it had to be true and we went along with him.
He told us he would take us for a sightseeing of the city and stop at different temples and shops for us to see. We however had to promise to go into one tailors shop because that was were he got his gas card.
That's the catch with Tuk-Tuk rides. Unknowingly the tourist(s) take part in a scam where the drivers cheat shops for comission when they take people there that don't intend to buy anything in the first place.
We did the normal tour, visiting a couple of temples before he took us to the suit factory. He told us to go inside and have a look. If we wanted to buy anything that was fine - if not, that was fine too. The only thing was; we had to stay there for at least 10 to 15 minutes before he would get his gas coupon.
When we got inside there wasn't much too look at besides fabrick and it took the salesman only a minute to see that this was only another Tuk-Tuk scam. The driver didn't like that very much when we came out and told him what had happened inside. We didn't put enough effort into it he told us, while we said we didn't want to buy anything in the first place so why should we.
The driver told us we had to go to another shop now since he didn't get anything out of the first shop and we reluctantly agreed. Fortunately they had a bit more to look at when we came to the next shop. They fitted custom-made motorcycle suits for one. Not that I have the license yet, but I might be getting one (when I have that 40-year crisis or something)s o there wasn't any problem spending 15-20 minutes sizing up one of these. In the end I ended up with a price of just 32.000 baht for an entire outfit (jacket and pants), that's around NOK 5.500. Not bad eh?
Back out on the street the driver was finally happy and we could continue on our trip. After the next temple he started to nag us about going to another shop, but since the deal was one shop we didn't go for that. Wanting to intimidate us into going he got quite worked up and even started to sverve from side to side in the street. We told him again that we would not go to any more shops and that he could drive us back or just drop us off right there in at the curbe. That did the trick and not long after we were back where he picked us up.
So the lesson is: feel free to go on a Tuk-Tuk ride, but be aware of the game and it's rules. Agree on the exact route and how many shops before you go. If not; you can always pay normal fares instead, but a meetered taxi would probably be cheaper. Still, one trip is an experience you should try if you get the chanse.
After dinner we had a lot of time to spend since the bus didn't leave until 8pm. We spent most of the time walking the streets as there are no lack of things to look at or, preferably, buy. After window-shopping for a while we went in at this tatoo-/piercing studio where M. wanted to check the price on a bellybutton piercing. It was really cheap and half an hour later it was done.
The studio was excellent in every way, it was clean and they followed proper procedures with gloves, sterile needles and even face masks. There was one thing though. The chair where the "patient" (or maybe some would call it victim) sit was right in front of the window facing the street. There was no curtain or blinds so a small crowd of tourists, backpackers and local people quickly gathered outside. Some with very pained expressions on their faces and several who shielded their eyes when the needle went through