Bangkok: Mostly business, not pleasure


My next big Bangkok adventure (provided you've got a low threshhold for adventure) was to find my way to the building that houses Nikon's sales and service centre for all of Thailand.

It was about 25km away from my hotel, so I figured I'd have to get there in a cab—not a tuk-tuk or motorcycle taxi. I approached the cadre of taxi/tuk-tuk drivers camped out at the entrance to my hotel, and, instead of shaking my head and hands at their entreaties of "Taxi?" I said, "Yes, I think I will." I engaged a certain Mr. Sutthipapa (who was genuinely buddha-like in body style) in conversation, told him where I wanted to go (and back), and settled on the price of 500 baht (about $15). About 1.5 hours later, we arrived at the Empire Building, on Sathom Street, where I proceeded to deliver my camera into the hands of the Nikon folks on the 45th floor. Took about 10 minutes to arrange with the astonishingly cute, long-legged spokesmodels Nikon employed in Bangkok to provide this service.

Back down to Mr. Sutthipapa, who was looking a little worse for wear at this point, and he drove me back to the hotel, another 1.5 hours through traffic that was depressingly the same. I imagined that he regretted our earlier deal, leaving him with 500 baht for three hours work, but he didn't say so. He DID seem pleased, however, when I gave him 700, thinking the earlier price was just too outrageous.

So, camera-less now, I proceeded to deal with my next priority—coping with the lack of internet at my hotel, and the need to keep my travel weblog at least somewhat up-to-date. This was less successful. I located a bank of computers at a neighbouring hotel where the hotel staff—unlike the staff at my own hotel—seemed at least to care that when I paid 100 baht for an hour of internet time I actually got it. However, there wasn't a way to hook up my own computer to their internet, so uploading files wasn't in the picture. I managed to get some e-mailing and Facebooking done, but that was about it. (Not that keeping in touch with loved ones is a minor matter.)

For uploading files (photo galleries, etc.) I was stuck with my own computer on my own hotel's internet. Occasionally the icon at the bottom of the screen would show the network had internet access, I would run downstairs to buy some time, start ftp-ing away, then either the ftp client or the internet access would cack out. Once, just for fun, I went into the hotel's cafe, bought a coffee, asked for my "free internet" as promised on the sign, and got another ticket. Sure enough, no internet. In my mind, it's only "free" if it's actually there, but there's really no point in getting into an argument.

In the end, my photos of the Bangkok section of my trip had to wait till I got to Chiangmai to be posted.

Final note: the hotel staff (did I mention it was the Sawasdee Khaosan Inn?) always promised me I'd get some money back when I checked out for the internet problems I'd been having. When I checked out, the guy pointed to the agreement the hotel had with the internet services company, and told me I should take it up with them. Sigh. But even when you're not getting what you paid for, it's so cheap there's no real reason to get exercised about it.

My recollection of my time in Bangkok is that it wasn't really what I'd hoped for. Most of it was spent running around arranging for things: getting a Thai Blackberry SIM card with the features I needed, which required a sales rep who spoke English well, getting my camera fixed, fooling with internet problems. On only my first and last days (Feb 1st and 4th) was I able to get on the road with my map and do some walking around looking at things and taking photos of them.

(It's hard to walk in Bangkok. A walking farang, to a taxi or tuk-tuk driver, is a farang that should be riding in a taxi or tuk-tuk. Walking's weird, not to mention unlucrative.)

But I did manage to get in some good meals, and have some good drinks in bars with guys playing guitars (mostly very well) and singing (variable).

It was, at all times, very hot and very humid. Largely because of the traffic, the air always sucked. But it's a sprawling, fascinating city. I very much hope to get in some more walking-around time there before I leave Asia.


Brian Robinson Public Relations
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