Thai Boy’s Diary: The Quintessence of Charms
When I reached there at 11.00 am, I was informed that the palace would be open after 1.30 pm. I was approached by a tuk tuk boy named Bo. He said that he would bring me to some interesting places in Bangkok for only 500 Baht (RM5). I agreed since I had nothing to do until the palace would open at 1.30am.
Bo was only 23 years old. He came from a poor family in southern Thailand and migrated to Bangkok looking for a better life. For a young man working as a tuk tuk driver in a tough city, he looked pretty innocent and pitiful. But he was an excellent driver who knew all the tricks and twists of Bangkok streets. Despite the dangers I was exposed to on the roads, I felt safe in his tuk tuk.
He brought me to a holy place called Wat Phra Phiren. The monk in the temple told me that I came on the lucky day since there was a special religious ceremony being held there. I had no idea what he was talking about.
Bo then took me to the Gems Export that displayed all sorts of gem stones. He told me that it was the last day for a grand sale and that I should buy something for my sisters or my mother. When I got there, I was not interested at all and immediately got out of the shop. Bo was not very happy and talked to me in his broken English.
“I bring you to another jewel shop,” he said.
“No, Bo. Bring me back to the Grand Palace.”
“No, I bring you to another jewel shop.”
O.. o.. I smelled trouble.
He looked at me and said, “Can you help me?”
“What?” I asked worriedly.
“I want you to go to this jewel shop and look around for 20 minutes. It is okay if you don’t want to buy. If you buy something, I will get two free coupons for gasoline from the shop, if you don’t buy anything, I will get only one coupon. Can you help me?”
I was confused and scared. What do I do? Should I help him? Why should I help him? Why? Oh my god, I suddenly realized that my whole life totally depended on him now. If he was not happy with me, he could easily kidnap and sell me to a go-go club tauke. No, I didn’t want that to happen.
“Okay Bo, I will help you, but I want you to take me to the Grand Palace right after that. Deal?” I said.
“I am helping you now, Bo. Happy?”
“Okay.” He was smiling.
Later I was brought to a jewelry store – Chin Jewelry Co., Ltd.
I took exactly 20 minutes to be inside the store, pretending to be interested in the jewelries. But nothing caught my attention me because I was not a jewel lover. When I left the store without anything, I knew the promoters were cursing me in Thai. Who cares?
I got into the tuk tuk again and Bo was happy with his one free coupon for gasoline. I felt sorry for his pathetic condition of life, but at the same time, I admired his courage to look for money through some normal efforts, not through simple acts of begging or showing his naked body at a go-go bar stage.
I reached the Grand Palace at 1.30 am. I gave Bo 800 Bath, an extra of 300 Bath for his patience and efforts for the past two and a half hours.
May God Bless you, Bo.
Later that day, as I was looking at the map of Bangkok, I noticed a small note of warning:
Warning! Beware of taxi or tuk tuk drivers offering ride to discount jewelry stores or entertainment venues. You may risk buying fake goods or other forms of deceptions. Firmly decline when approached and report any such incidents to the Thai Tourist Police Telephone Number 1155.
Er, had I just been cheated? or had I just been lucky?
The Flamboyant Palace
I spent three full hours in the Grand Palace, gazing deeply into its grand tapestry. What an immense beauty! I had been looking at these structures in magazines, books and postcards, but there was nothing compared to what I saw with my own eyes. The Grand Palace was one of the most unbelievable wonders I had ever seen in my life.
Phra Siratana Chedi
The Temple of Emerald Buddha
Looking at these temples made the other temples I had seen before look physically trivial. Of all temples here, there was one that moved me the most – The Temple of Emerald Buddha. This was the only temple where visitors were allowed to enter and admire the elaborate beauty hidden inside the hall.
Shoes taken off, I went inside the hall and found everybody was sitting down on the floor. I went to a corner and sat down, just like the rest. Most of the tourists were silently looking and admiring the intricate carvings of the temple and various statues and idols scattered inside the praying hall. Some were offering their silent prayers. Everybody was quiet. Things were still. I had a weird feeling mounting inside and wanting to be unleashed. There was some sort of peace crawling and settling inside me. The whole environment was too queerly peaceful I thought I was in a dream. Out of a sudden, I could feel the tears on my cheek. Am I crying? Am I really crying? Why should I be crying? In the middle of a Buddhist temple? Of all holy places, why here? Should I be crying in front of Ka’abah in Makkah?
I had no answer for those questions. I just cried. And cried confusingly.
Dinner with Friends
That night, I had a dinner date at a restaurant at Silom Road with Thierry, the Frenchman I met at the Lumphini Park the previous day. While I was waiting for a train, a fair-looking guy came to me. Oh, not again.
“Excuse me, is this the train to Silom station?” he asked me.
“Yes,” I answered. He smiled at me, giving me that curious look. Oh no, don’t give me that look, I am not a money boy.
On the train, he asked me whether I was familiar with Bangkok. “No, I am from Malaysia,” I said.
“Oh, I am from Malaysia too!” he said excitedly, smiling at me again. He continued, “I thought you were a Thai boy.”
“I knew it, as expected.”
We laughed and began talking about stuffs in Bangkok. His name was Sham, and he was also a backpacker. I told him about my recent experiences in the Grand Palace. He listened attentively to all the details I narrated. I was relieved that I finally found someone on that day to talk to. Someone from Malaysia, oh, what a fortunate coincidence, again.
When we reached Silom station, I invited him to join the dinner and he agreed. I met Thierry at the Noodi, a noodle restaurant near Soi 2. I was extremely delighted to have both of them during the dinner. We chatted like good old friends. Sham was such a swift talker and Thierry just listened and when it was his turn, he charmed me with his big ideas about life.
“Thailand is such a beautiful country. That’s why I chose to stay here,” Thierry said.
“Don’t you miss your families and childhood friends, Thierry?” Sham asked.
“Yes, I do. But it is just something that I have to do. There are things you wouldn’t understand and couldn’t explain until you experience them by yourself.”
Sham and I were quiet, digesting Thierry’s words. I was amused by his thoughts. I then interrupted, “Er.. can I just experience my noodle first and try to understand its flavours?”
It was my last evening in Bangkok, and it was a dazzle, since it was filled with beautiful memories of people I had recently known as strangers who turned up to be unexpectedly fast angels.
Check it: Chatuckak
Before I departed home, there was one last thing that I had to accomplish – to see Chatuchak Market. This is a must-visit place for bargain-hunters looking for almost anything under the sun, and this is a shopping heaven which is probably the world’s largest open-air, weekend flea market.
I wanted to explore everything that day, but with a 14-kg luggage on my back, I had to find a temporary place to store it before my back ached and before I fell on the street that somebody had to call for an ambulance to carry me to the airport. I didn’t want that to happen, so I went to a tourist centre and asked for help.
“Excuse me,” I approached a lady sat at the counter, “can I leave my luggage here?”
“No, we don’t do that anymore.”
“There was an explosion in a tourist’s luggage recently.”
“A bomb? Oh gosh. Hey, I am sure there is no bomb in my bag. You can check it if you want to, haha,” I said cheerfully and laughed over the matter. She was not laughing. I waited for her answer. Then I showed her my most pitiful look and started begging, “Please miss… please… just for a while. I am from Malaysia. Please…”
“Malaysia?” She looked surprised and said, “All right, you may leave your bag here.”
I was so pleased, put my luggage and stormed out immediately, since I had only a couple of hours before my flight departure to Kuala Lumpur.
Generally, this place was very much the same with Rantau Panjang’s tax-free market in Kelantan. The only difference was that it was a lot larger, I meant LAAAARGER, both in sizes and choices. The shops were extremely organized and streamlined according to their nature of businesses. At the end, I managed to enter a few shops only, perhaps 20% of the whole market. Most of the shops I went to were fancy shops filled with attractive souvenirs and trendy clothes. But the most interesting part of the market was its second-hand books. I was terribly spoilt with overwhelming options. And I had never been in such a concentrated place filled with all sorts of appealing books.
I wish I could have more time to explore the whole market, but I was running out of time. Before I got into a taxi to Suvarnabhumi Airpot, I promised myself that I would come back here again and spare one whole day or two for shopping alone. I will.
This was my, er, second experience being on a plane after my first domestic flight from KL to Kelantan years ago, haha. Internationally, this was my first one, haha.
At the passport check-point, the Thai officer refused to let me in because of the way I looked.
“It is really me. Look at me!” I was impatient.
“No, this person in your passport is not you.”
“It is me-lah, bahalol. When I took that picture, my hair was short and I was a bit plump. But now, I have longer hair and a bit skinner. People change, right? Look at me closely!”
He looked at me again, scrutinizing every inch of my face. He suddenly laughed and said, “Yes, yes, yes, it is really you, haha.”
I was mad and offensive at his not-so-hilarious remark. He asked me to sign a paper and I took his pen on the counter. I tried to write something but there was no ink. He looked at me and said, “Hey boy, that is not a pen. That is my walkie-talkie!”
So scared and nervous, I was not aware that I had been holding an antenna of a walkie-talkie, not a pen. Embarrassed, I said: “Sorry, you walkie-talkie looks so cute.”
We both burst out laughing.
I came back home with a wonderful feeling. No, wonderful feelings.