This Crazy Travel Story is written by my dear, beautiful and kind sister Hege, about the time she and her husband tried to escape the police in a tuk-tuk.
July 2013 I was lucky enough to spend my three weeks honeymoon in beautiful Thailand with my lovely husband. We travelled around visiting several islands and cities, enjoyed the friendly people, colorful culture and yummy food of Thailand. Our great escape found place the very last day of our trip, spent in Bangkok.
A few days earlier, we had dined with an American couple on a river cruise. They recommended us to visit the Grand Palace. They told us that that they had been mesmerized by its size, color and buildings. Also the Grand Palace contains the Temple of the Emerald Buddha regarded as the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand.
On the map we found the place located in the historic center of Bangkok and decided that we would walk from our hotel. We estimated that we would use about 40 minutes. We had a nice walk, and where heading in the right direction when a man stopped us outside a school. We were about five minutes away from the palace. The man was dressed in jeans and a jacket suit. He told us that he was a teacher in the school right next to us. He asked about our nationality and where we were heading. We told him we were heading for the Grand Palace.
“It’s a national day today” he told us. “The Grand Palace doesn’t open till 2 pm.” It was only noon. He told us that it was Buddha day today. The palace would be used by the government for celebration because of this day, and it would not open for tourists until later. He seemed reasonable.
The man suggested that we took a trip to other sights nearby while waiting for the palace to open. Since it was national day, Buddha day, we could ride the tuk-tuk for a really cheap price. Only 5 bath (about 0,13 euro) per trip, for as long as we wanted. This was because the driver would get free fuel from the government to drive tourists this day.
The teacher told us to look for the tuk-tuk’s with the yellow taxi sign. Some of them where white, other yellow. The yellow ones were tuk-tuk’s that we could count on. They would only drive us to places, like stores and such, who were affirmed by the government.
Further down the road there was a tuk-tuk driver with his pink tuk-tuk , with yellow signs, taking a break. The teacher pointed us in this direction and asked if we were interested. He could help us communicate with the driver. There were several different places to visit which he named. We agreed on taking the trip to three different Buddha temples.
The tuk-tuk driver was, of course, free to drive us. And he accepted this really small fee for the trip. The teacher told us to wait until the trip was over before paying the driver. We jumped in the back of the tuk-tuk and thanked the teacher for helping out.
They say that Norwegians a pretty naïve. Well, I’m taught to be slightly cautious, and I know that when a deal is to great it normally is too great. But my husband and I agreed on that we didn’t have anything to loose on this trip, after all we hadn’t had a tuk-tuk ride yet and it was our last day in Thailand. We felt pretty safe and saw the possibility to get of whenever we didn’t want do drive any further. In the back of the tuk-tuk we even joked about being driven straight to a “closed hospital” where they would harvest all our organs and sell it on the black marked.
After a five minutes driving we entered the first temple. There was a man inside guiding us, showing the different Buddha’s. He confirmed that it was indeed Buddha day this exact day and that we were lucky we could drive tuk-tuk for this great offer all day. The temple was also sited right next to the police station. We felt a bit more relaxed now. Maybe we just where really lucky!
The driver took us to the next temple. After this he asked if we could take a small trip to a shop, we didn’t have to buy anything, just take a look. We said okay, and he drived us to a big jewelry store. Of course the prices were really good. It seemed like a really nice store, and even if we still were a bit suspicions of the whole trip we ended up buying a silver ring with purple stone matching the earrings and necklace my husband had bought me years earlier.
The driver was really interested in knowing if we bought anything. My husband asked him and he told us he would get fuel coupons if we bought stuff. He asked us if we could drive by another place. Just on the way to this next temple. We agreed also this time. The driver seemed really friendly, and as he was driving us for this small amount of bath. We almost felt sorry for him.
This next shop was a tailor. They tailored dresses and suits. We told them that we were leaving Thailand the next day, so there was no time getting anything done in time. He told us wrong, that they would manage to deliver by nightfall. My husband gave in and decided on a pair of pants. They measured him, and he could pick the fabric and color. We had to pay in advanced about 1000 bath (about 30 euro). Of course we were skeptical and really felt that this was a game of chance, but they seemed convincing. They asked for the hotel name and room number.
The third shop was full of nice stones, and also had a part with a lot of different souvenirs. We bought some souvenirs.
Now we had been driving for one and a half hour. The driver would take us to the last temple and then back to the Grand Palace. We thought…
Out on the main road there is a police officer waving us in. The driver pulls over, shows an ID to the officer. They talks in Thai. Next to the police officer is his MC. The driver seems disappointed. The police officer clearly shows the driver that he has to pull up on the sidewalk and walks in front so that the driver can follow. We are not sure what to think. My husband and I did not say anything to each other, we were just sitting quiet in the back.
Suddenly the driver throws his head to the right, runs the pedal to the floor and takes off with his tuk-tuk, leaving the police officer behind. With us as passengers he passes a big crossing section and takes a right into the next ally. I remember thinking to myself “Is he really trying to escape? On a tuk-tuk? From a police man driving MC?”. The police officer has already caught us. He is mad, looking hard at us in the back of the tuk-tuk, pointing us out on the street.
When we are all outside the tuk-tuk the driver shrugs his shoulders at us. I still feels a bit sorry for him. He can’t help us, and we can’t help him. He didn’t even get his 5 bath. We had to figure out of this situation on our own.
My husband and I are unsure of where we are. We have been driving for quite some time and can’t recognize the neighborhood or any of the buildings.
We stop another tuk-tuk, ask if he can drive us for 5 bath. He is really offended. We try to tell him about Buddha day. He drives away. Okay. This settles it. It is not Buddha day. We just have to find a tuk-tuk and pay the price so we can get back to the Grand Palace. The next tuk-tuk understands where we want to go, but for some reason he can’t drive us. But he takes us in and drives us to what seems like taxi central. There is a man there telling us that the tuk-tuk can’t drive that far. We have to take a taxi instead.
The taxi is driving for quite some time and finally we are at the Grand Palace. I’m really hungry by now, and we walk around the palace’s walls trying to find some where to eat. We find a small bakery were we eat. After this we are ready for the site of the day. The Grand Palace. When we finally arrive to the gate we see that the palace is closing in ten minutes. It opened at 08.30 as all other days. No grand palace for us.
One (silver?) jewelry, some souvenirs and a crazy travel story richer we returned to our hotel. My husband joked about our hotel room being raided after we had left the details at the tailor.
Did we get the pants? Yes! They were already delivered at the front desk when we arrived to the hotel. It was some really nice pants which my husband still wears two years later.
Is there anything called Buddha Day? Yes. Also called Visakha Bucha. But it was two month prior to our visit.
About the Author:
Hege Hellvik has a masters in Social Geography, and works as a consultant in an international company. She has during her life travelled to several countries divided on five continents. She was born in Norway, and live there permanently with her husband and their little daughter.
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