Posts Tagged ‘taxi’

Thai much massage

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Almost a week has passed since I arrived in Bangkok.

It was a long, tiring, hurry-up-and-wait day and a half getting from Kathmandu to Bangkok via Delhi.

Amusements along the way:

  • His’n’hers security and boarding queues at Kathmandu

Irritations on the way:

  • the foreign exchange desk at Delhi International terminal doesn’t serve foreigners
  • the shops at Delhi International terminal accept only GBP, USD or euros but give change in Rupees which are no use to me
  • Airbus 330 seats don’t recline; the cushion slides up and down instead making it almost impossible to get any sleep

I met Hannah outside baggage reclaim and customs on Monday afternoon and we took a taxi to our hotel. The ride was about 45 minutes and cost us 405 Baht including airport pickup surcharge and tolls. It was hot and humid but both less so than I was expecting. Result :-)

Our hotel is only a mile or so from Wat Pho (one of Bangkok’s largest and most famous temples) and is definitely not in a tourist area. We’re also about a mile from the infamous Khao San Road. Less than 100 yards from our hotel the area decays into slum with locals living under canvas at the side of the road and wooden or tin shacks propped up against the well-past-their-heyday buildings. We’re not quite the only foreigners in the area but there aren’t many others.

We’ve been eating from the local roadside food stalls. Dinner for two most nights runs to less than 100 Baht – about £2. We had our most expensive meal yet at lunchtime today. It looked like a Chinese dish from home and including a fizzy drink cost us 150Baht each.

Our first two days didn’t go quite to plan. We were both wiped out after getting here and too tired to try to start our Thai massage course on Tuesday. We wandered round the temples at Wat Pho instead and then tried to go to the Grand Palace in the afternoon but arrived too late and it was shut. We did manage to find out where to go for our course and that it would be better to start on Thursday rather than Wednesday. A Thai boxing match sounded like a good way to spend the evening but not at £40 each. On Wednesday I couldn’t post my trekking stuff (which I won’t need for the next three months) to New Zealand because the Post Offices were shut due to a holiday. We couldn’t go in the Grand Palace for the same reason. And we couldn’t find the river ferry points for the ride up river and weren’t prepared to pay £40 for a two hour scenic tourist ride. We rode the 3 Baht river crossing service instead (nice cool breeze on the river) and failed to find Wat Arun temple. We settled for another instead. Let’s face it, one temple full of Buddha statues and monks is much like any other. And my camera has been misbehaving (Canon EOS 20D Err 99) since Tuesday morning so no pictures for most of the week.

We started the Thai Massage course at Wat Pho traditional Thai massage school on Thursday and four days later are feeling pretty battered. They recommend having a Thai massage no more than once or twice a month and we’ve been getting up to three a day. There are only three of us in our group. There was a group of about eight Thai women who started on the same day but they’ve had a separate teacher and our two groups only worked together today. It’s the final day of the course tomorrow, with a practical exam in the afternoon. I hope we’ll be able to remember enough of the 160 step routine to pass the exam. Some of the transitions from one body area to the next are not intuitive or really obvious. One of the other groups graduated this afternoon, there was lots of clapping and cheering and big smiles all round. The number of groups running has been tailing off as the week progresses because the school will be closed over Songkran – the Thai New Year holiday which starts next Wednesday. On Friday and Saturday there were up to about 50 students working in the training room we’re using, all at different stages in the course.

I managed to get my camera to a Canon service centre after the course on Friday and was able to collect it yesterday. They seem to have fixed it so that was £50 well spent. Also I managed to get my trekking gear posted to New Zealand on Friday too so that’s five kilos less stuff to carry around for the next three months. The Canon service centre is in the MBK shopping centre, five floors and eight acres of retail therapy about an hour’s taxi ride away. The fourth floor was geek heaven – almost more mobile phone shops than there are grains of sand on the beach. Hannah was remarkably unimpressed by the thought of all that retail therapy but came with me on Saturday to collect the camera. When we came out of the centre there was some kind of free music gig in progress – “Wishing for Japan”. The band playing thought they were so rock’n’roll. Funny really given all the band members only looked about 15 years old.

Transport has been a bit hit and miss. The tuk-tuk drivers routinely have a laugh on the price they want for a journey. Having taken at least one metered taxi for most of the journeys we want to make we have a reasonable idea what the fare should be. If they won’t bargain down lower than that then we walk away. Many of the tuk-tuk and taxi drivers seem to have skipped doing “the knowledge”. Others don’t want to accept a fare because it’s rush hour, or going somewhere they don’t want to go, or simply not worth their bother. It averages about three or four flag downs for each journey before finding a driver who knows where we want to go and is happy to go there. Taxis are generally less hassle than the tuk-tuks, are more comfortable, safer and much less fun.

There are some new photos in my RTW2011 set at Flickr.

We’re off to Koh Chang on Tuesday for four days of rest, relaxation and recuperation after the massage course.

Bloody annoyed

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Last night was wet and miserable. I debated staying in or going dancing. Niño Bien or Club Gricel would be my choice. At about 10:40pm I decided dancing was the thing to do and given the time, and that I hadn’t been for three weeks, Niño Bien was the place to go.

A number 12 colectivo got me to within a few blocks and I scurried the remaining distance, thankful that the rain had eased off. Despite getting a fairly crappy seat I danced most of the tango and one of the vals tandas until deciding I was all done at about 3am. None of the dances were spectacular, only one was disappointing and it wasn’t the one with the shortest partner.

On the way out of the milonga and not for the first time I stopped and admired photographer Daniel Flores’ tango related prints. He displays them every Thursday at Niño Bien, and some nights at Salón Canning too. There is one favourite that always catches my eye and a couple of others that get a second look. Daniel appeared beside me and began chatting about his work. The prints were $50 (pesos not dollars) each, for three only $40 each. I had more cash than usual in my pocket – I had come prepared for a taxi one or both ways and possibly a second milonga if Niño Bien had turned into a flop. Getting them back to the UK undamaged may be tricky but the prints will look nice framed and hanging on my walls. So I splashed the cash and left with three very nice black and white prints for $120 in a plastic bag. A bargain. Or so I thought.

Outside it was raining hard. I had just enough cash left for a taxi but opted for the colectivo. Half way to the bus stop I changed my mind when a taxi turned the corner in front of me with his red light on. “Santa Fe and Malabia” I said. My daysack went on the floor, the prints flat on the back seat next to me. In the five months I’ve been here I’ve taken three taxis except for the two weeks when Sam and Jo were here. When I was sharing a cab with them I’d usually ask for Santa Fe and Scalabrini Ortiz, it was just easier, but given the rain I thought I’d ask for the closer option – only a quarter of a block to walk instead of three quarters. Standard operating procedure would have been for the driver to tear down Cordoba, playing the red light game, hang a right at Scalabini Ortiz and then left at Santa Fe. I got the not-boy-racer driver who took a more sedate route along Soler and then decided to get sneaky and try to nudge up the fare by crossing Scalabrini Ortiz and Malabia and then having to  turn down Armenia and double back along Santa Fe – adding two blocks to the fare. I objected and when we pulled up at Santa Fe and Malabia a minute later he knocked half a peso off the fare. Irritated and distracted I paid and climbed out taking my prints with me.

When I walked past the mirror in the lobby on the way to the stairs I half thought something was wrong. It was only when I got upstairs, into the apartment, through the kitchen and into my room that I worked out what was wrong. I went out with one bag, I arrived home with one bag. My daysack containing my tango shoes and a few other odds and ends was not on my back. It was still in the back of a taxi last seen driving off along Malabia. The odds and ends included my Ixus 70 compact camera. So my three prints for £20 actually cost a pair of shoes, a digital camera, a daysack and some odds and ends. Another £250 or so. Damn. I am bloody annoyed.

Mental notes to self:

  • don’t buy things you really don’t need
  • don’t be lazy and take a taxi just because it’s raining
  • notice and remember the taxi number when getting in
  • don’t forget to take ALL your belongings with you when getting out of said taxi