Sunday, June 24, 2012

Bangkok 3 Tuk Tuk Scam (6/24/2012)

Sunday, June 24, 2012
After leaving Jim Thompson and Ban Krua, we went under the bridge to the Saen Saeb Canal commuter boat pier.
As the boat pulls along side the dock, you have to quickly step onto the wooden railing of the boat, then jump in while it takes off. It was quite a big step for my new knees! The trip cost only 10 baht/33 cents.
You are warned not to fall into the water of the canal, and in fact not to let it splash on you! In China the water may look murky, but plants grow in it. Here the water looked toxic and was full of trash:
The end of the ride was at the Mahatthai U-Thit Bridge:
Italian Rococo in design:
She can't stand looking at the water!
The boat below the bridge:
The first thing we noticed when we arrived, was a large crowd of red-shirted demonstrators in a park across the street. The Red Shirts are one of the political factions in Thailand. As we were trying to orient ourselves, a friendly man approached to ask where we were going. He suggested the Golden Mount should be seen at sunset, and mentioned that sites in this area were closed to foreigners because of the demonstrations. He also said that in compensation, the government was opening sites to foreigners for free in another area and that the tuk tuk would only cost 10 baht because they would get free petrol/gas vouchers. We were forewarned about tuk tuks, so I asked how were we to distinguish the government tuk tuks. So the guy called one of the waiting drivers over, asked if he was a government tuk tuk, pointed out recommended sights to see on a map, and told the driver to go slowly. He went back to standing on the bridge to wait for his wife to arrive on the commuter boat, as they too were going to see the Lucky Buddha to pray for a child.
Later we realized he was watching for arriving scam victims!
Our first stop was Wat Intharawihan, a temple dedicated to monk Luang Phaw Toh sitting up in a niche:
The main boht/chapel:
The "famous" Standing Buddha at 32m/105' tall:
We were told he was 45m/148' tall.
Shaved ice vendor:
Our next stop was Wat Sitiram with the "Black Buddha." Once inside the boht, we didn't see any black Buddha.
A friendly man offered us too much information, saying this was his first temple stop upon returning to Thailand. The larger Buddha was the "Black Buddha" because it once was painted black to hide the fact it was made of gold. It was the smaller "Lucky Buddha" to whom people prayed, and he had prayed here years ago for success when he sold everything including his wife's jewelry to go to the U.S. to make a living. He has done well, so they have returned to Thailand to spend their new wealth (replacing his wife's jewelry because it is cheaper in Thailand than at Tiffany's!) and to thank the Lucky Buddha.
It does appear to be the Buddha of Bling.
The thing that threw us off here was that an employee asked where we were from. But she was looking at me and asking about our passports. I thought she was checking to make sure we (specifically Tamiko) were indeed foreigners who got the free admission today. Ha! There is always free admission at these temples!
Our next stop was to a Thai Export company, a Thai handicraft/souvenir shop where we were asked to go in while the driver got his "petrol voucher." Now we knew definitely we were scammed. Tuk tuk drivers will even offer free rides if they can get you to these shops.
Next, the Wat Benchamabophit/Marble Temple:
Made with Carrara marble from Italy in 1899.
Ordination Hall eaves:
Ordination Hall window:
Cloister wall:
Shrine to the Thai royalty:
A Ficus religiosa/Bohdi tree:
This tree was brought from India in 1891. Buddha attained enlightenment under this type of tree.
A canal separating the temple from the monks' living quarters:
The device in the foreground is a water aerator.
An interesting fountain:
Visiting with monks:
Bell tower:
Gable and roof decorations:
Kent with the drums:
Tamiko with the long drum:
It is 5.32m/17.5' long.
Inside the Ordination Hall:
In the cloister, a couple nappers:
The cloister contains 53 images of Buddha showing all the mudras/gestures:
The elephants at the entrance to Dusit Park:
We then were taken to a jewelry shop ($200 for a pair of fake garnet earrings!) and a tailor where Kent did order 3 shirts for $100 because he liked the "Egyptian cotton" fabric. The tuk tuk driver was very happy.
Red Shirt demonstrators:
Muay Thai boxing arena:
We were then returned to the spot where we were picked up. Kent liked being zipped around in the tuk tuk instead of walking. In the end it didn't save us any walking, but added three temples and three shops to our itinerary.
This is a tuk tuk:
Go to Bangkok 4 for more of the day's activities.

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