How to Confuse a Bangkok Taxi Driver

One thing I have learned about living in Bangkok is never present your taxi driver with a map; it seems to throw them into a state of complete confusion.

www.talkingthailand.co.uk/confused

Call me old school, but I like to have a printed copy of a map, especially if I don’t know where I am going. I enjoy planning my route and following it to reach my destination. I have now progressed to google maps but, still, I always have a printed copy with me.

Sometimes, my destination has been too far to walk, so I have had to hail a taxi. Before jumping into the back seat I have shown the driver the map, which has the route marked out. Easy, right? Apparently, not so easy and the reaction I get is quite funny. They look at it, I point to the destination, they look again, turn the map upside down and back again. Sometimes, they bluntly say “no” they can’t take me, at which point I retreat from the vehicle, or sometimes they ask me if I know how to get there. Who’s the taxi driver? It’s not like the map is in English, all the place names are in Thai, so I really don’t know what the problem is. A few taxis have sat-nav, and they can follow that, but present them with a printed map and they go to pieces.

So, my advice is never, ever give your driver a map. Just get into the car and state your destination. That always works!

A Motorcycle Taxi Trip

Motorcycle Taxi, Bangkok

One of the most popular modes of transport in Bangkok is the motorcycle taxi. Although slightly more dangerous than normal taxis, they are quicker and cheaper.

I normally only get one from my home to the skytrain, about a ten minute journey. And, normally, I pick one up right outside where I live. However, this one particular day, the guys outside were not there, so I hailed one which was passing by.

I told him where I was going and agreed the price and off we went. About half-way up the main road, he shouted “police” and stopped so I could put the helmet on. If the passenger is not wearing a helmet, the taxi guy and possibly the passenger will be fined. Thankfully, every motorcycle I have been on has never been stopped by the police, so I have never found out what would actually happen.

But instead of giving me the helmet, he proceeded to take a black jacket out of the basket in front. OK, I thought, he’s finding the helmet, but no, he took the jacket and put it on and put the helmet back in the basket.

“Give me the helmet,” I said gesturing to it. He shook his head. “Give me the helmet,” I repeated and he, reluctantly, gave me the helmet. Weirdo! I sat there thinking why on earth doesn’t he want me to put the helmet on.

We continued up the road only to find it wasn’t the police and instead of letting me wear the helmet for the rest of the journey, he put his hand in the air and asked for it back. Maybe he thought I was going to steal it! I know I really should wear a helmet on the back of motorcycles and I know I am risking my own neck but it’s not something that occurs here, unless, of course the driver gets wind of a police checkpoint on the road.

Once at the skytrain, he took his jacket off, I paid him and he was on his merry way.

Most of the taxi guys are licensed and wear coloured vests but I’m sure he wasn’t one of them. He did have a vest on but he probably wasn’t licensed which is why he hid it with his jacket.

It’s all rather strange living in a city that’s different from your own and one where the rules and regulations are either non existent, or they change on a daily basis. You never know what’s going on 🙂

Going it Alone

www.talkingthailand.co.uk/alone

Recently, I mentioned to a male friend of mine that I was going to see a movie and he asked, “Is it a date?”

I replied “Yes, a date with myself.”

His reply, “Oh, man. You’re going alone?”

His reply made me chuckle to myself. I don’t know whether he found it hard to understand that I would even contemplate going out by myself or that he felt sorry for me.

I started doing things alone when I first went travelling 12 years ago. If you choose to travel solo you don’t have much choice. Yes, I met people and it was fantastic, I have some wonderful memories of those people and times. But, equally when you are alone you don’t have anyone to worry about. You can go where you want, when you want and do whatever you please.

The very first time I dined alone was in Kuala Lumpur in one of the hotel’s restaurants. I recall feeling a little self conscious and was thinking that everyone was looking at me because I was alone. They weren’t. I was made even more self-conscious when a group of musicians came over and sang to me. Maybe they felt sorry for me too. But I ended up not caring and left with a huge smile on my face.

Then, when I was travelling around Thailand, I met a woman called Sophia in Bangkok. She was travelling alone and I started chatting to her because my family and friends had just left me and I was feeling a little out of sorts. She really cheered me up and I will always remember what she told me. She said that doing things alone is very empowering.

Now, my home is in Bangkok and I go out everywhere alone. I have friends here but my working schedule means that it is not always possible to meet them. I take to the streets and wander around taking photographs, go to the movies, have lunch or dinner in my favourite bars, go to art galleries, or I just stay home and write, paint or cook, whatever takes my fancy. I have learned to love my own company. What Sophia told me was true; being alone and actually loving it is a surefire way to boost your confidence.

Start small. Next time you agree to meet your mate at a bar. Don’t wait outside. Instead, go and ensconce yourself at the bar and order yourself a large drink. It’s a great feeling!

www.talkingthailand.co.uk/alone
Pegasus Reef Hotel, Sri Lanka

Bus Baby

www.talkingthailand.co.uk/busbaby

I have lived in Thailand for a few years now and there have been a few things that have caused me to raise my eyebrows; motorbikes on pavements, family picnics in Tesco’s car park, five people on one motorbike. You know, things that you don’t normally see in your own country. I think the most recent crazy thing I saw tops all of those things.

www.talkingthailand.co.uk/busbaby

One evening, on my way home from work, I couldn’t believe my eyes and I had to look twice but as I got on the bus I could have sworn the driver was holding a baby! There was, dear God, a one year old baby, laughing merrily in the arms of the driver.

I thought to myself, surely he isn’t going to drive with the baby in his arms. How could he? He needs two hands for driving and the baby, being a baby, was doing the opposite of sitting still.

www.talkingthailand.co.uk/busbaby

Thankfully, before he drove off, he placed the baby next to him on the gear box cover. Not in a pram, oh no, on the gear box cover. Thankfully? Not! Not even strapped to anything, the poor mite could have gone flying if the driver had braked suddenly.

I got off at my stop, shaking my head in disbelief. There is not a lot of health and safety regulations, here in Thailand, and now it seems not a lot of common sense either. I am pretty sure that if this happened in the UK someone would say something but no-one says anything here. In fact, this 100% would not happen in the UK. However, it would have been useless for me to say something as the language barrier gets in the way and I would be deemed a crazy foreigner but even the Thais don’t, it’s not in their nature to confront even though they may feel the same as us.

Regardlessly, the baby seemed to be enjoying the ride and I’m sure he lived to gurgle the tale but COME ON!!

A Day Out in the Green Lung

Just a hop, skip and a jump from my place, actually more of a motorbike, BTS ride, taxi and boat journey to be exact, is Bang Krachao, otherwise known as the green lung of Bangkok. It’s a conservation area located in Phra Pradaeng district, so close to the city but it seems like a world away. There are no commercial businesses so the air is clean, imagine that in Bangkok, and, together with its lung shape, you can see where the name came from.

Bangkok's Green Lung
Source: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=85382

It’s a great way to spend a day away from the pollution, noise and chaos of the city. There are orchards, gardens, and forests to explore and you can do that by hiring a bicycle, which is what my friend and I did.

We got to Bang Na pier and took the regular boat service across the river, all of about 4 baht.

We hired a bicycle, a steal at 80 baht per day, and started exploring. The first place we went to was Bang Nampueng floating market, not so much a floating market, like the more touristy Damnoen Saduak, this one is more like a riverside market, where you can try traditional Thai food, sweets and fruit. There are also stalls selling clothes, DVDs and other things that you would normally find at these sort of places. There are plenty of places to stop and enjoy the charming atmosphere too. It was nice wandering around, but it wasn’t the market I wanted to see.

We got back on our bikes and cycled all the way to the Bhumibol Bridge, which I had seen from afar, but I wanted to see it up close. The bridge is part of the Industrial Ring Road, 13 km long, connecting Bangkok with Samut Prakan. I love a good bridge and this one didn’t disappoint, even from below, where we were standing, the cable-stayed spans and the diamond-shaped towers loomed above us. The bridge is really quite striking.

Bridge-fetish satisfied, we cycled onwards thinking that if we continued in the direction we were going, we would eventually end up back in the middle of Bang Krachao. Wrong! We cycled another 5 km or so before realising we had no real clue where we were, so we thought it would be best if we turned round and went back in the direction we had come from. It was fun though, we found ourselves cycling down unknown roads and narrow lanes, stopping along the way to have lunch, take photographs and check the map. I think the people we passed thought we were mad, particularly when we passed them again in an attempt to look like we knew where we were going!

Eventually, we made it back and cycled to Sri Nakhon Khuankhan Botanical Gardens. It is really pretty, with tropical trees, flowers, a large pond and several walking and cycling paths. Many people go there to enjoy the nature and relaxed surroundings.

Once we got back to the pier, we clocked up how many kilometres we had cycled, a, not too shabby, 50 or so. We were so tired, what with the heat and the cycling around all day, but it was a fabulous day out and one to be repeated sometime soon.

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone has a fantastic time with your families and friends. Enjoy each other 🙂

 

Zaks Dining and Lounge; Great Food and Relaxation All in One Place

I have a new favourite place to hang out on my days off. I normally venture out in the afternoon but as I was off one particular weekend I decided to go out later in the day to enjoy the evening’s shenanigans on Soi 11. My destination; Zaks Dining and Lounge.

Zaks Wine Pub, Bangkok
Source: https://www.facebook.com/ZaksBangkok/photos/

I have been there before with my work colleagues, and as I sat there eating my pizza and drinking my wine; creature of habit, me, same food and drink, just a different location, the waitress came over and we started chatting. She told me she recognised me from the time before. How’s that for making your customers feel special? It won me over!

Rose is her name and it’s not just her that is particularly friendly, all the staff at Zaks are the same. They always seem to be so happy as they go about their business. I sat and watched one guy who, on seeing some customers looking at the menu and deciding whether to come in, greeted them enthusiastically with a huge smile. Sure enough a few minutes later they came back and he welcomed them in.

The food is delicious. All of it. There is Thai food on the menu but the western fare is amazing. Pizzas, burgers, tapas and more. I have never had a bad meal there. There is a daily happy hour which starts at 3pm and finishes at 8.00pm so more of a happy few hours. You get discounted drinks and two for one tapas specials so you can’t really go wrong.

Zaks Wine Pub, Bangkok
Source: https://www.facebook.com/ZaksBangkok/photos/

I like dining alone. I usually amuse myself with writing, reading my book, or just plain-old people watching. I find it fascinating; the way people interact with each other. I wasn’t the only one alone that night. I watched a guy contentedly munching on his food, while drinking his happy-hour wine and reading something on his laptop. Not a care in the world. It seems many people like to do the same, whether they are solo travellers or people like me and that guy who like to get out of the confines of our homes, just to have a change of location and do whatever pleases us. I think everyone should try it. Being alone and actually enjoying your own company is very liberating.

After a few wines I took myself off home. It wasn’t late but I had enjoyed my evening. Happy-few-hours are very popular in my world. If you haven’t been before I thoroughly recommend it. You will find me sitting outside with my wine. 🙂

Zaks WIne Pub,

Open: 3.00pm-1.00am

Website: www.zaksbangkok.com

Inside or Outside?

When I am alone I often think of weird things and this is one of them. Do you like to sit inside or outside? 😉 😉Weird

I’ve always been one for sitting outside in restaurants. Even in the blistering heat of Bangkok, you’ll always find me outside. It’s much more interesting; you can see more and it’s great for people watching.

A while ago, I went to a bar with friends, only to find, to my horror, that there were no seats available outside; there are always seats available outside, but not this night. We were offered seats inside the bar, so, along with my bottom lip and annoyed expression who had now joined the party, we took our seats. INSIDE! ARGHHHH!

You may be thinking that it doesn’t really matter where you sit, especially if you are with friends, and you would be right. It’s just that I prefer sitting outside. Each to their own.

Another week, another evening, and I was sitting alone in a restaurant having dinner. I watched as a group of three people came in, followed by another, separate group. The ever attentive staff asked, “Inside or outside?”  Both groups replied “Inside.” A rather more stern reply of “Inside” came from one of the guys before either of his two companions could say otherwise. His reaction was quite amusing; like he didn’t really know why the staff were asking that question, of course they wanted to sit inside, it’s too bloody hot. There you go, sitting outside has its benefits, you get to see all this action however trivial it may seem. It adds to the amusement of the evening.

When someone asks me to sit inside, I have to struggle with myself not to behave like a child but there are a couple of people that will get me to comply and my friend Mark, is one of them. We met for dinner and drinks a couple of months back and he is quite happy sitting outside, like me, but he requested that we go inside for dinner. A reasonable request, I thought, being as it was rather hot. I yielded and am happy to report bottom lip did not join us. Once we had finished we were outside again. Proving to myself I can do it if I am persuaded.

I know it’s hot in Bangkok but for me I shall continue to station myself outside. It’s fun and the people watching is hilarious. You should try it.

Which do you prefer? Inside or outside? 😉

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A Forest in the City

I love Bangkok for many reasons and you may be wondering why I would love a city which is a sprawling metropolis made up of modern high rise hotels, offices and apartments. There is so much to see and do in the city, so many places of interest and if you look closely you will find many areas of green hidden among all the concrete. One such place is PTT’s Pa Nai Krung located near to Suvarnabhumi airport. Pa Nai Krung means forest inside the city and it is a beautiful area created to raise awareness of how important the preservation of forest areas is to the environment and to inspire people to grow trees and plants at home.

PTT  is an oil and gas company and in 1999, they established a reforestation project in Honor of His Majesty the King. The project grew and in 2012, the PTT Reforestation Institute was born. In 2015, land was transformed into an urban green space, the goal of which was to create a natural forest area in the city and a place where you can learn about forest ecosystems.

There are some 250 native trees, plants and shrubs which are all in the early stages of growing. There is a sky-walk and observation tower where visitors can get 360 degree views of the surrounding area as well as the diversity of flora in the forest.

Open; Tuesday to Sunday, 9.00am to 4.00pm

Admission; Free

Dialogue Coffee and Gallery

Dialogue Coffee and Gallery is a small, yet chic little Indie cafe on Phra Sumen Road, Phra Nakhon; an absolute favourite area of mine to hang out.

Dialogue Coffee and Gallery
Source: www.bloggang.com
Dialogue Coffee and Gallery
Source: www.facebook.com/Dialogue.bkk/photos/

The 100 year old house has two floors; downstairs is a cafe which sells hot and cold drinks, and a range of food from spaghetti to German sausage and pizza. There are a few tables and chairs where folks can sit and relax and read the small selection of books available for sale.

Dialogue Coffee and Gallery
Source: www.facebook.com/Dialogue.bkk/photos/

Upstairs is an art gallery and exhibition area. Narin, the owner, told me that anyone can display their work there. Anyone, who isn’t well-known that is. He told me that, in the past, people have used his gallery for talks and music nights. If anyone buys the art on display, Dialogue will take a small commission for it rather than charging the artist for the use of the space. Upstairs is simply decorated; green and grey walls with a wooden floor. But the simpleness of it, creates a space that is warm and homely.

There is a lot to do in the Phra Nakhon area of Bangkok, so if you are in the area take a break from whatever you are doing and head to Dialogue. It’s a fabulous place to unwind with a glass of wine or cup of coffee and chill for an hour or two.

 

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