This morning I got a lesson in LETTING GO, when an opportunistic taxi driver relieved me of 350THB for a 60THB ride. Even though I followed my concierge’s warning, taking a cab from a hundred yards away (rather than outside the hotel, where fraudsters lay in wait for gullible tourists), I still managed to get taken, quite literally, for a long and expensive ride.
It’s a story familiar to most travellers (other than yours truly – but not any more!). You get in the cab and tell the driver you want to go to X, near Y. But just as you settle back in your seat, he replies excitedly,
“AH, SIR. I take you to a great place. Not far. Just five minutes. You buy designer suit. Versace-Armani-Cerruti-HugoBoss. Dolce-and-GABBANA. WhateverYouWantIGetCheaper! Only fifty US dollar. I take you NOW!!”
And suddenly, the taxi’s driving in precisely the opposite direction from where you want to go.
“No,” I say, trying to keep my temper, maintain my dignity, and remember that Triads are Japanese, not Thai. “I don’t need a suit. I’m a backpacker. I just need 200 doxycycline. and a pair of sandals. That’s all.”
He’s not listening. I can feel the muscles in my neck pulling my shoulders towards each other and, in the tropical heat, my temperature rising further. He then pulls out a brochure for jewellery, with what looks suspiciously like a ladyboy on the cover, sporting a rhinestone tiara.
By now, I’m ready to hurl myself out the door into the solid and stationary rush-hour traffic.
Eventually I get him to stop, ask him how much the fare is – about six pounds – and get out, flinging a small wad of baht at him. THEN he asks me for a tip – for his cousin, who is gay, muscular, and hung (for which read: teeming with every known virus, bacillus, blood-sucking insect on the planet and also, no doubt, well-equipped with corrosive halitosis). Now I’m both speechless with fury and freaking out because I’m totally lost. Road signs are all in Thai, so I’ve no idea where I am.
Eventually I find my way to an information booth, where two serene-looking women point me in the direction of the skytrain. I ask them, out of interest, what I should have paid; about five times less, it turns out.
“Ahh, sound like he shit on you”, says the prettier of the two, smiling sympathetically. Thai people can smile whether they’re breaking good news or bad, and it’s surprisingly soothing. Westerners can’t do this effectively.
“You bet. From up there” I said, pointing at the sky. They both laugh, but I see a slightly confused glance pass between them. About an hour later – which is how long it’s taken for me to regain complete composure – I realise what the confused glance meant. She’d actually said “cheat”, and not “shit”.
This afternoon, I visited the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and remembered that in a few weeks time, my recovery time will be less than an hour. At least, I hope so.