Sunday, April 21, 2013

Travelogue: In the year 2556 in Bangkok

In the shop I flipped through a few items; by default the first thing we do is convert the price and compare with India; toothbrush, toothpaste, juice, water, sandwich, sausage etc. Prices seemed almost the same for basic items. The manufacture and expiry dates were weird - the year read 2556! I thought there was something wrong but later found out that it means 2556 BE (Buddhist Era); they call it the Thai solar calendar and it is the official calendar. Year 0 starts from the year believed to be the death of Gautam Buddha. So add 543 years to our normal calendar to get the Thai year. More about Buddha and the Indian connection in Thailand later.

(Pic: Side streets in Bangkok; the bike you see in the distance is a motorbike taxi – the driver wears a bright orange jersey; you hop on behind him with a helmet for short distance rides)

No room!

We treaded back to our hotel as the sun came up and the city was slowly waking up. And there we had a shock. The old lady we saw was gone. The real receptionist, a younger lady with a very fair complexion and round spectacles, was at the table. When we asked for the room she went through her large register, squeezed her forehead with her facial muscles, put a big smile without showing any teeth and nodded her head from side to side while her bob hair kept swaying in the back. Giving negative news with a smile! The expert was sitting on the two seater chair near the reception, trying to catch some sleep while we fought with the receptionist.

“I give your room 2pm. Checkin time.”

We knew that at the time of booking but thought that in case someone were to leave early we’d check-in early else roam the city and check-in later. But our expert was really exhausted and to top it he wasn’t feeling well. Our friend with the slight cold and the pure veggie tried again after a few minutes.

“If someone leaves early we can get at least one room?”

“No, no, no, no, no. Someone leave but I don’t give you room,” she said with a big smile on her face as if she were doing us a favor!

“If they leave your room then I give. No other room.”

So that was that. Our veggie tried thrice when he saw a few westerners leaving but the receptionist would repeat the same thing - squeeze her forehead, smile as much as she could without showing her teeth and nod her head sideways. It was final – a firm ‘no’ with a smile. I felt like laughing on seeing it; what a polite way to decline! This guesthouse was highly rated and relatively cheap but it had only about 20 rooms or so.

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