Ahh, all across south east Asia, the tuk-tuk reigns as transport king. God knows why. They’re no cheaper than a taxi, stink of petrol fumes and must have at least a 200% higher chance of death than even the ropey buses you can see crammed full, clattering along traffic-filled streets at 60mph. But, when in Rome, you eat spagehtti and when you’re in Bangkok, you travel by tuk-tuk. Which is precisely what Roy, Flavien and I did the following day. One driver said he’d take us to see “all the sites” for 30B. Obviously, “all the sites” is totally subjective, but we were simply looking to inject a little culture into a so far indulgent few days. Our first stop was the giant standing Buddha. “It’s forty metres tall,” Roy informed me. “It doesn’t look like 40 metres. Maybe 40 feet..” We walked closer. “It definitely can’t be 40 metres. I’m about 1m70, right?” We all worked out our heights in metres, then feet. The compared ourselves to towering Buddha, which seemed to change in size depending on which angle we looked at it from. Eventually we found out, it was 32 metres tall.
Our tuk-tuk driver took us to see more over-sized golden Buddhas, which sat or stood or lay or knelt variously across Bangkok. In every instance, they were surrounded by offerings, but always looked tacky. In between looking at Buddhas, our driver strongly encouraged us to visit what he told us was his friend’s shop. Now, the way this works is pretty simple. Any tuk-tuk driver who brings Westerners to one of these gaudily fancy jewellers or tailers receives a commission from the shop. Thus, if you ride in a tuk-tuk, you’ll be forced into one of these ridiculously overpriced stores for items you really don’t require when you’re traveling – what the hell am I going to do with a tailored ball gown? Squash it in the back pocket of my backpack? Wear it for a Full Moon Party? No, quite… And, unfortunately, once you’re in the shop, you’ve gotta have a shitting good reason for leaving empty-handed since these shops are over-staffed and under-customered.
Between our trio, The Golden Argosy (even if I did see something I wanted to buy in a place called Argos, my principles wouldn’t allow me) was fighting a lost cause. I refused point blank to buy any fancy gems, Flavien played the French card, and Roy… Well, Roy can’t even be bothered to put a pair of flip flops on his feet. He was hardly going to pass out duckets for flamboyent unnecessaries. Once we’d eventually fought of the evil Argos daemons and escaped outdoors, our tuk-tuk driver had vanished. He must’ve realised he’d get no commission, or perhaps some less aware tourists had stumbled into his path. We had not yet paid him any money at all, and he’d been driving us around for a good couple of hours. Either way, we boarded another petrol fume machine with a lively driver who offered both the lads to drive the vehicle, yet laughed when I asked if I could. By this stage, we were ready to head back to Khao San Road to pick up our things from the guesthouse and get on our night bus to Phi Phi Island. Of course though, our new tuk-tuk driver couldn’t give us a ride without the opportunity of picking up some commission. And thus, we ended up in our fourth fancy store of the day – silent, over-air conditioned, over-staffed, drab. We giggled to ourselves at how ridiculous the whole scenario was. In truth, if the driver had taken us to some kind of restaurant, we’d happily have spent money, but tailored suits and fine gold were on none of our shopping lists that day. We had only been in the shop for a few minutes before we managed to return outside. Our poor tuk-tuk driver not only didn’t get his commission from us but was also getting picked up my a policeman for a parking misdemeanour of some kind. Unlucky.