Well my first day and only full day in Thailand started off hot, and just kept getting hotter! I started walking towards the Grand Palace, only to be told by a woman 'from Phuket, I from Phuket' that I was very white and would not be allowed to go to the palace because of wearing shorts. After crossing the road with her and experiencing a few near-death experiences I asked a European couple if I'd be allowed in, and they said I'd be able to hire clothes so I'd be fine. Happy with the latter answer I carried on walking, the sweat tissue already in hand, and got stopped by another Thai woman, again from Phuket who wanted to practise her English. She also told me I couldn't go into the palace, and that I should go to the Big Buddha in the opposite direction. After listening to her practise the line 'forty metres high' a fair few times I thanked her and carried on my walk, luckily getting all the way to the palace before being stopped again. The next person was a Thai man, who said the palace was closed because it was the King's birthday and I should go to the Big Buddha, I simply said 'okay, I'll just have a quick look anyway' and walked on. He also told me the Big Buddha closed at 12, and as it was 11.30 I wasn't about to rush in this weather. I carried on walking and after seeing the 350baht entry fee I had a quick peek and walked past, only to be stopped again! This bloke worked for the palace, I think, and told me it was okay because I could borrow clothes inside, but I explained I wasn't going in because I didn't have the money: 288baht was my budget following dinner last night.
He said to go to... the Big Buddha! I said okay and which way should I walk from the palace, to which he kept on replying I should get a bus. Adamant I wasn't getting a bus he pulled a Tuk Tuk driver over and told him to take me to the Big Buddha, Golden Mount, and back to the palace for 20baht, now that was in my budget. After ascertaining several times that it would only be 20baht I got in the back of the Tuk Tuk! It was nice a cooling at first to drive through the traffic with the breeze, until we stopped and all the fumes permeated my lungs!
First stop was the Big Buddha, which was pretty big, 'forty metres' in fact. I think. I looked around and took a few pictures, declined releasing a bird from its cage, and got told off for taking a picture of a shrine. Considering everybody was taking pictures of every other shrine I'm not too sure what I did wrong, but as soon as I apologised the man was more interested in where I was from and if I was teaching English. Every Thai I bumped into asked if I was either going or had been to Chang Mai, so I assume that's the typical backpacker route, and they were quite dismayed to hear I was only here for one day. 'Oh' was the common response. I bought a 25baht banana smoothie from outside the buddha and made my way to the Tuk Tuk, I did think about getting the driver one, but he declined so I didn't feel too bad drinking it after that.
Soon after he pulled over and asked, I thought, if it was okay for him to fill up on petrol before we went to the next place, and would I mind just looking around somewhere whilst he did. That wasn't what he meant, it was where the Tuk Tuk drivers took their passengers to get petrol tokens in return. I didn't mind too much, as I just looked quickly and then moved on out, making him very grateful. He pushed his luck after that though, as we ended up going to two tailors who both got annoyed with me when I said I didn't want a 'very nice suit' making. The first laughed when I said I had 100baht if he could show me anything, the second said I should take my little money and leave. I did so gladly, and asked if that was it now. In between the tailors he'd taken me to the Golden Mount, as I'd asked, and I'd climbed the few flights of steps up to the top, only to get very hot feet on the tiled floor, and look out across Bangkok. I think I got more excited by seeing the fire station outside!
The driver kept repeating 'you help me, I help you', which I thought was a little off, as I paid him to help him. Nonetheless, I kept thinking that not everyone is out to get me, as Doug reinded me yesterday, and just enjoyed the ride back to the palace. I paid him the 20baht, and wandered off down the road; I did consider a 5baht tip, but he lost that with the many stop-offs!
I walked back down the main road towards the Phra Sumero Fortress near the hotel stopping for a lemon juice, lovely and refreshing, and some sudoku to cool me down, then back through the fortress park where I'd been this morning. They'd been setting up a few stalls when I was there, and it was now clear it was some form of green awareness thing, I looked at the t-shirts, but they were 160baht, which would wipe out my budget! Alas I simply wandered through towards the stalls and bought another banana smoothie for just 15baht. Bargain. I thought that if I'm going to have fruit I may as well go for banana, as it comes in its own natural packaging, although I'm not sure about the ice that goes into them!
More walking back to the hotel before stopping off at an internet cafe and managing to use my Skype account, with headphones and a microphone, only to hear that nobody was in!
After heading back to the hotel for a lie-down before the group meeting, the door suddenly opened to reveal my new roomate Anjali, an English girl starting out on her own six month trip. As we headed down to the meeting I realised I'd not locked my door all day as she showed me how I should have done it - oops! The group's made up of sixteen, with twelve Aussies, two Irish, and us to Poms as we're so endearingly referred to. Dinner was a budget affair as I tried to use just my leftover baht - kiwi frappe instead of alcohol, but I'm sure that'll change once the next currency becomes available!