Is this all just serendipity or are we being set up?
We woke up early, pulling the blackout curtains to find a dusty sky and having a hot breakfast on the second floor.
Breakfast was a spread of soup, curry, rice, and mango. Which makes me feel sick thinking about the typical American day-starter of processed corn and sugar.
Our host is delightful, and I already can’t help but smile as I see people here because they’re so FRIENDLY.
“Kap Kun Krup!” we bow a few times.
The plan is to go see a few temples, maybe a market and then stop back before our nighttime food tour.
We left through China Town on foot, all in all maybe putting in about two miles. The first winding through the streets of stalls already setting up shop in the morning, the second by the river, which makes a “C” shape around the city.
We arrived at the temples early, and me being the typical American, avoided the first person who approached us, thinking he was me selling something.
He pointed at my feet, or what I thought was my feet and I said “no thank you” with a smile and we continue on.
Then, another block ahead along the wall of the temple and we’re stopped again, this time by a man with a broom sweeping out front and smiling.
“Going to the temple?” He asks.
Suddenly we’re in a long conversation and he’s telling us that we’ll need pants if we want to enter. Then he’s telling us about all of these great places to go see and he suddenly he snaps a big leaf off of a tree and smiles and says “Just one moment, this make good map.”
Whipping out a pen, he draws a series of streets and circles right on the leaf listing out the different sites we should go see.
He tells the nearest Tuk Tuk driver to take us on a tour of the city for the day and being his friends to do it for about 100 Bhat (that’s $3 US).
We zip off to a nearby temple and as we take off our shoes and walk in, there’s only one other person sitting in there.
We strike up a conversation; turns out he’s here from Chiang Mai here with his family, there’s a festival tonight at the temple and he’s waiting there for sundown.
He’s a teacher for multiple grades and subjects (hence his English skills). He tells us that while in Bangkok he went to a custom tailored suit shop that’s only open to the public once every 3 years, for 7 Days and it’s open right now, so he went and got 3 suits.
He teaches us to bow for luck at the altar and…
We’re off again in the Tuk Tuk, this time we’re headed to…
A suit shop.
The Tuk Tuk driver said it was on the list from the friend back at the temple and suddenly everything is not adding up. They call it the “factory” but it’s basically just a storefront, and now we’re being sold to…
So was the guy at the temple a plant for the idea of suits, like subliminal advertising? Did the leaf guy get a commission or something?
And now I’m uncomfortable, but I’m also warming to the idea of a suit for some upcoming weddings and I’m caving as the fabrics are being rubbed on my skin to show me the quality and…
Everything’s been serendipitous and everyone has been so friendly.
So, OK, I’m in Thailand, I’ve never done this and will never do this again so I’m getting a suit.
Am I sucker?
But then I realize I didn’t bring enough Bhat out with me to cover the purchase, and I left my wallet at home and…
We’re whisking back to the Airbnb with the female host from the suit shop who’s riding shotgun on the side of the vehicle to go to where we’re staying with a credit card machine in her hand so I can go upstairs and come down with a card to complete the purchase.
She’s sweet, turns out she’s half Chinese, half Thai, and has barely left the city EVER. You take travel for granted. Most people barely leave their town! At least not by air. But this is why you travel, to learn and gain perspective.
And I HATE to be the one talking when I’m with people from another country. I want to ask the questions, I want to learn about them. So often it’s the opposite, and maybe it’s manners or hospitality but they hear from tourists all the time and I want to shut up whenever possible so I can hear more about what life is like.
Anyways, now that the trip back was a success we’re back on track for the tour again.
We hop in and Ali, our driver says that after this temple, the next stop is… A jewelry store.
Ok, now I’m skeptical. The jig is up, not buying and don’t want to go in. But everyone is so nice and smiling that we do a lap through the shop and get right back in the ride and say let’s go.
“Want to see the floating market?”
Now we’re at the river with about 6 other tuk-tuks arriving at the same time, full of mostly Europeans.
We decided to decline the boat ride, even after haggling the trip from 1500 Bhat to 750.
Is it right to haggle in a foreign country? I’m not sure, on one hand, it’s part of the culture. On the other, I feel like I should pay full price and help support the growth of this economy.
On the other hand, sometimes it’s fun to see what you can get away with, and after even a few hours here your mindset around Bhat totally adjusts. Suddenly small amounts seem like a lot and you want to stretch your dollar and…
Here’s where I am really getting confused.
Does the driver get a commission from these shops? Or, are these just the places where tourists like to go so he’s just trying to help? Did the man, in the beginning, know that this route, the nice little drawing on a plucked leaf was really a highly crafted plan of subtle human-advertisements and in-shop purchases?
Am I being realistic about human nature or am I a jaded American?
But some things aren’t adding up to that either.
We could spend AS long as we’d like in each location, so timing didn’t make much sense to me, so the floating market with all the Europeans had to be a coincidence. And our Tuk Tuk could have been 1,000 baht instead of 100 and we wouldn’t have known it was overpriced.
As for the guy in the Lucky temple, it seems unlikely that his job was to wait in that temple for hours while tourists like me show up one by one so he can work a story about a suit purchase to prime us for the next stop.
Everything here feels like a beautiful serendipity of moments that accelerate us through time and space, each one pulling us quickly into new places.
This is travel at it’s finest. We are LOCKED IN.
I feel like I’m driving but also being pulled.
I’m both shocked as things are working out and expectant that these characters we keep meeting are meant to be there and I’m just sort of open.
Unique personalities are appearing at every turn, sharing only bits of their stories with us before we’re in a blur and engaged with the next one.
In all directions, there are senses to be stimulated. You can’t possibly soak it all in.
We walked into the streets this morning and though we were in control…but are we?
It’s kinda like this city has you in its palm.
It’s kinda like… Life.