Monday, February 13, 2012

A First Time For Everything

Well, Friday morning, I had one of those "first time for everything" experiences in Thailand when I was kicked out of a taxi and left standing on the street somewhere in downtown Bangkok!  

Kevin and I had breakfast at a coffee shop near the hotel and then he left for work.  My plan was to pick up our race packets for the 10K race we were running in on Sunday.  I had the address for the packet pick up and printed out directions (in English and Thai) from Google Maps.  The pick up was at the Royal Thai Army Club, about 4 miles from the hotel and in an area of Bangkok that I had never been to before.  I thought about driving myself but I wasn't sure if parking would be available and, since Kevin and I were going to meet for lunch near the hotel, I thought it would just be easier to take a taxi there and back.  The concierge (who spoke very good English) hailed me a cab and spoke for some time to the driver about where I wanted to go.  Coincidentally, the concierge was running in the marathon part of the race so he knew exactly where to tell the taxi driver to take me.  

A lot of nods and smiles (which should have been my first clue of trouble ahead), we were on our way.  The driver did not want to follow the map I had printed out - proving all men are the same, no matter where you are in the world!  I didn't raise too much of a fuss because I could tell we were heading in the right direction and eventually we reached the vicinity of the Army Club.  However, we couldn't find the building or the exact address and the driver wouldn't stop to ask any of the GAZILLION policemen we saw.  We slowly drove around in a big circle twice and, just as we were starting for a third time, he pulled over to the side of the street and yelled, "No more!  Out! Out!".  He wouldn't listen to anything I said and just kept telling me, "Out!" and waving his hands around.  So, I got out.  And almost cried.  

I had no idea where I was (well, I did based on my map but, really, I didn't) but I lifted my chin, squared my shoulders and headed up the street in the direction where I thought the Army Club should be.  Along the way, I stopped several times and asked people for help.  No one could speak English but when I showed them my map and said, "Royal Thai Army", they understood enough to at least point me in (what I was hoping was) the right direction.  The last man I asked for help, pointed up the street and kept waving his arm like he was telling me to go a very far distance.  I asked, "far?" and he nodded vigorously (and, always like a Thai giving bad news, he smiled widely!).  At that point, I thought about hailing another taxi but I told myself to keep walking and give it another 10 minutes.  Just about 10 minutes later, I passed a building that had several "New Balance" (running shoe sponsor of the races) signs by the front door and knew I had found the right place.  Funny thing is that we had passed the building twice in the taxi and it had Thai writing on the front so I don't know why the taxi driver didn't see it.  Thankfully, the packet pick up and my return trip to the hotel were both uneventful.

After relating this incident to some friends, I found it is not all that uncommon here for a driver to kick passengers out of the taxi.  Some drivers use the excuse that the motor is breaking, some say the taxi is running out of gas and some (like "my" guy) just tell you to get out.  I guess if the traffic is too heavy in the direction you are heading or if you are going too far for their liking or if they want to go eat lunch, they want you out.  Oh well, live and learn.

I had lunch with Kevin and then headed home to Nichada so I could meet the kids when they returned from their field trips.  I think they had a lot of fun being away with their friends (and from their parents) but it seemed like they didn't enjoy the educational aspects of the trips.  The earlier they learn that everything can't always be a good time, the better it will be for them.  Am I an evil mother or what?!? Ha! 

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