Exotic temples, street markets, tuk tuks, other than Japan where I was living at the time, Thailand was my first independent travel in Asia. It should be everyone’s first in my opinion. Easy, friendly, and cheap, it’s everything that signifies traveling in Asia for me. Yes, Japan is easy and friendly, but it’s not cheap!
Hiring tuk tuks, Devon and I puttered all around Bangkok visiting the National Palace, temples galore, great markets, taking a canal tour on the Chao Praya River, and eating, eating, eating. Bangkok was fun, but crowded, polluted, and chaotic. We couldn’t wait to get out of the city.
For the very first time, I hired my tuk tuk driver for private transportation one day to take us to the ancient city of Ayutthaya. He quoted us a great price, and on top of the sightseeing, promised to take us to his home village to visit a school and plenty of kids and his mom’s little shop. How could we refuse? It was the perfect day for us.
That morning, he picked us up in his white Toyota truck and off we went. Almost immediately he needed to stop and get gas, which he paid for, but as he was doing so, he opened his glove compartment and took out the longest, scariest knife I’ve ever seen. Ok. That got me a little worried. No one I knew carried a knife in their car. At this point, I started lamenting my decision and thought I could have put not only myself, but my daughter in danger.
The driver didn’t change his demeanor at all when I saw the knife. He didn’t act sinister. He seemed friendly and talkative and just plain happy. My inner voice just told me to go with it and be prepared to flee or scream or whatever if something happened. It didn’t.
We had the absolute best day of the trip. It was just Devon and me, free to go where we wanted, invited into places that are hard to be invited to unless you know someone, eating the local food, seeing the countryside. It was beyond awesome. So he had a knife. Obviously this was not unusual. It was a little bit of a culture shock, but we were so glad to have taken a risk. This incident, this day, helped to shape the way I have traveled since; to take chances, to get out and do things out of the ordinary, to get to know the people.
Note on safety: I think it is very important while traveling to be vigilant, aware of your surroundings, and prepared but I also think that most people, everywhere, are safe and honest and wonderful human beings, so it’s okay to get out of your comfort zone a little bit at a time.
Have you been to Thailand? Have you ever just hired a driver for the day? If so, where were you and how did it work out?