For the most part, my time here in Thailand has been epic. The food is to die for, the people are extremely nice, and I have successfully darkened my skin color (using SPF 30, of course!).
Yesterday, a few fellow CTLC teachers and I went on a 1-day jungle trek. We “white water rafted” (this is the low season, so there was very little white water), bamboo rafted, went to a private waterfall, zip-lined, and rode elephants. While we were rafting, we got out to cool off in the water, lazily floating down the river. There was a family on the side of the river having a picnic. They beckoned us over to join them. We got to watch the woman make homemade papaya salad with a mortar and pestle, had some sort of jerky, and shared a few beers. This was a cultural experience that you can’t purchase at a travel agency. It was perfect.
Today, we went to a place called the Tiger Kingdom. We played with big and small cats and got some sweet pictures. However, we had a bit of a hiccup with our transportation.
We flagged down a red taxi, which is a pickup truck that where the passengers ride in the covered bed. They go anywhere in the city, usually for between 20 baht-60 baht a person. The man who picked us up said it would be 180 baht for the four of us, and he would wait for us so he could bring us back to the hostel. We insisted that he didn’t have to wait for us and we could find another taxi, but he kept saying it was not a problem and he would wait for us. I really didn’t want him to wait because I was sure that he was pianning us (cheating).
Upon arrival at the Tiger Kingdom, we tried to pay him for the first half of the ride. He said that we should pay when he takes us back. As we were leaving he said, “take your time”. So we went into the main lobby where they told us it would be about an hour wait to see the tigers. Then after about 10 minutes, we were led back to the tiger cages, and the man who took us wrote our number down on a piece of paper. More than an hour later, and after seeing groups come in and enter the tiger cages before us, I asked them woman when we were next. On the queue, they were on number 140 (we were number 113). It turns out that the man forgot to put us in the queue. He didn’t seem to care.
Also, they said that we would each get 15 minutes with a tiger and we would have a photographer taking pictures of us because we purchased a CD to take home. Well, we got 15 minutes, but we all had to share one tiger and we only got about 3 minutes each with the tiger. Pianned once again.
After we saw the baby tigers, we went out to the lobby to wait for the CD to get made. The man who was our taxi driver was livid that we took so long. When we finally got out to the parking lot, he started yelling at us and telling us that we would have to pay him more money because he had to wait and we didn’t tell him that it would take that long. We agreed to give him a little more, but not the amount that he was asking for. We tried to pay him at least for bringing us out to the Tiger Kingdom, but he refused and said he was going to call the police.
We started walking down the road to the nearby hotel to call a cab there. But he followed us, all the while screaming at us for making him wait and not telling him. We tried to explain that the Tiger Kingdom made us wait and we were not aware that we were supposed to tell him that we would be longer than what he originally expected. This whole altercation of screaming at each other took about 45 minutes. At one point, I was legitimately scared for our safety, as he was reaching for some stick-like object he had in his truck and was opening his door to get out.
We finally settled it by paying him 200 baht, 100 up front, and 100 when we got back to our hostel. I was worried he would drive us to the police station or some remote area. (I’ve read that Chiang Mai police are very corrupt). While going back into the city, a man in a Tiger Kingdom uniform got out of his car in the middie of traffic and was talking to our taxi driver, and they were periodically glancing back at us. Then, the driver was trying to take secret photos of us while he was driving. Super sketch. We finally got out of the taxi a bit further away from our hostel so he wouldn’t know where we were staying.
Moral of the story: beware of the Thai pianzis.
On the bright side, Paola and I got some delicious chocolate banan crepes, followed by an hour long oil massage, followed by a 30 minute neck/shoulders massage. We feel much better now.