The second day of my trip, I was even more determined. I was not only going to get food, I was going to do some site seeing. What do people like to see in Bangkok? The book said the Grand Palace was good. Of course, the question was – how the heck was I going to get from Rangsit into the city? And where was the Grand Palace anyway?
I sent John a text message at work and asked him how to get to Bangkok. He said to take the motorbike taxi to the main road, then flag down a white minivan shuttle and tell them I wanted to go to Victory Monument (Anu Sauli, in Thai). Um…okay. One thing I knew for sure: I was NOT taking the motorbike taxi. I mean, really, how could anyone expect me to hop on the back of someone’s bike with no helmet in this crazy traffic? I decided I would walk to the main road. It didn’t seem that far. Sure, there are no sidewalks, and someone might run me over, but it’s safer than the motorbike taxi — right?
I started walking. And walking. And walking. At this point, I was drenched in sweat. My shirt was soaked. My face was sunburned. I was sure the main road was closer than this. Was my memory that bad? And then I had a very unfortunate feeling in the pit of my stomach. I walked in the wrong direction! Do I keep walking, do I turn around? Am I going to die of heat exhaustion? After a few minutes of continuing in the same direction, I decided to turn around. And about the time I thought I might have heat stroke, I decided to hail a taxi (a real taxi, not a motorbike).
The taxi driver saw my sweat drenched self and turned the A.C. on full blast. “Tesco,” I said. The man didn’t speak English, but I knew Tesco (sort of the Thai version of Walmart) was close to the shuttle stop. I attempted to explain to him that I wanted to go to the “big Tesco”. I also knew there were two other small Tesco’s along the way. As we passed them and he tried to stop, I just kept repeating, “No. No. Big Tesco,” and gesturing with my arms something very large. He figured it out eventually. He dropped me off at the big Tesco, and I was feeling pretty accomplished. I sat down at an ice cream shop inside, hoping the air conditioning would dry my shirt. Once ready, I headed back into the heat to the shuttle stop. Now all I had to do was flag down a shuttle going to Anu Sauli and get inside.
Of course, the signs on all the shuttles were in Thai. I couldn’t tell where they were going. So I had to stop every white minivan heading in my direction. I would open the door and say, “Anu Sauli?” No one understood what I was saying until I said it at least four times, at which point, they all said no. I stopped four shuttles. Everyone said no. I felt a bit like a dumb-ass. I’m not exactly sure if they just didn’t understand my accent and said no so they could continue their drive or if they really weren’t going to Anu Sauli. My hunch? They didn’t understand me.
All the while, a taxi sat in front of me at the curb. The window read, “I speak English.” The man in the taxi watched me as I tried to flag down the public shuttles. I gave in. I walked up to his window and asked if he could take me to the Grand Palace. He didn’t understand me either, so finally I got inside, pulled out my trusty Lonely Planet, and showed him where I wanted to go. “Oh, yes, yes, of course.” And he started driving.
One thing I’ve learned about Thai people that speak English — they love to practice with other English speakers. So although his accent was strong and I could only understand about 50% of what he was saying (and I suspect the same on his part), he talked the entire time we drove. Which was a long time. The Grand Palace was NOT close.
One thing I did understand. After hearing that I was traveling alone, the driver asked how old I was. I told him 33. He looked at me confused. “Are you married?” “No,” I replied. He looked even more confused. “Do you have kids?” Again, I answered, “No.” A look or horror overtook his face. “You’re not married, and you have no kids, and you’re 33 years old? Why wouldn’t you be married? Do you need me to introduce you to a nice Thai guy? I’m sure I could find one that would be willing to marry you.”
Great. I’m an old maid.
Finally, I made it to my destination. It was a whole other world compared to Rangsit — it was filled with tourists. This would be easy. My taxi driver gave me his cell phone number and offered to be my personal taxi while I was in Bangkok. “Just call me, I’ll take you anywhere.” He was sweet. But let’s be honest, he saw me as a cash cow. I was a western person, staying in Rangsit off and on for two months. Given his usual route, he didn’t make much money and wouldn’t often get the chance to drive people as far as Bangkok. In his eyes, a win-win. In my eyes, taking a taxi everywhere would break the bank. I would need to figure out how to get around like a local.
In the end, the Grand Palace was beautiful and a perfect example of a Thai temple. Plus, I got a good laugh from the sign at the entrance.
And so, Day 2 was a success. Next time I’ll tell you all about making friends with monks and adventures in Laos.