I’ll give you some of the good stuff first. Welcome to Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace. Absolutely Beautiful!
Like what you see above? Want more pics? You’ll get a few more below but the best way to get a lot more awesome pics like these is to get on a plane and see Thailand for yourself! The most expensive thing will be your ticket, after that the sky is the limit.
Getting back to the adventures of Chica Negro and “The Ugly American,” zipping along in the tuk-tuk, I’m feeling good. I don’t mind going to the scam gem spot for its time literally to pay the piper. It’s almost 11 am, right when the place where you can borrow appropriate gear is “opening.” I figure ten minutes more, after the gem spot and we’d be back at the Royal Palace. Once we reach the gem spot, everything’s sparkling and pretty but the designs are mediocre. I tell the “The Ugly American,” “Stay right behind me and do what I do.” I quickly peruse the place with ease. “Gem experts” in black suits all attentively swoon towards me and “The Ugly American” hoping to catch interest. I politely decline and start for the door, I open it and don’t feel “The Ugly American’s” presence on my back, he is at a display case pointing at something. My heart sinks.
“I want to buy you those sapphire earrings” he says. ” The Thai guy at Wat Saket said sapphires are auspicious this year. ” “Yeah,” I thought, “the guy at Wat Saket also lives in Queens, NYC and may be in on the scam, you fool.” Then I said to myself, “Be nice, he’s trying to do something really nice.” My gut kept tugging at me to just grab him and leave but I relented. I’m not a big jewelry person, I barely wear earrings but Hell, if you want to but me sapphires, by all means. I try them on, they’re pretty. I like them but I love the matching ring the salesgirl slips on my ring finger while I’m not looking. Somehow it looks much more dramatic on my finger than in my ears, but the main problem, it’s a fucking ring. A no go. Bad news due to me and “The Ugly American’s” prior history. You see for me, it’s just a ring, for him there are strings, long, thick tentacles that would take a bulldozer to break. I turn and say, “Forget about this, let go.” He doesn’t leave. He’s now negotiating prices and looking at the gems through a loop. My initial glee turns to dread. ” I’m ready to go, please let’s go.” After another 30-45 minutes of haggling, he lands the price he wants, I’m a little sick and he pulls out his Amex card. Decline. then the Visa. Decline. Then the other Visa. Decline, Decline, Motherfuckin Decline. My eyes get big for I realize that “The Ugly American” did not call his card companies to let them know he’d be travelling abroad…like I suggested. Up until this point, we’d been paying for everything with Baht.
The last time I was in this situation was with my high school sweetheart more than ten years ago and it was my first trip to London, actually it was my first trip outside the US ever. He was “treating” me to London. We land at Heathrow. First thing he goes to get cash from the ATM machine, it declines, and declines, and declines. I say, “Try another card” and he says, “that’s the only one I have.” He had no other cash reserves on him, just one ATM card. Needless to say, it was over from that point, actually way before that, but poor thing didn’t have any common sense and I was livid. While definitely not the same situation, for in Thailand, we both had lots of cash reserve, I personally never travel broke, whether someone is treating or not. Mama didn’t raise no fool. Even in London, I took up the slack but like I said it was soooooooo O-V-E-R.
“The Ugly American” is demanding that the salesclerks call the credit card companies. “there are no balances, there shouldn’t be a problem!” This, I know, is true. The man does pay his bills and has an excellent credit score, but my annoyance still raged. “Why aren’t we at the temples? Why are we stuck in a jewelry store wasting time! If you want to buy me something, buy me a ticket back here for all the time we are wasting! Let’s go! Another 45 minutes passes, as the clerks scramble to help “The Ugly American” with his credit card troubles so they can proceed with the sale. I’m sick, he’s insane. In the meanwhile they are bringing us the local beer to keep us calm. I sip politely, I don’t drink beer. Tastes like piss. “The Ugly American” is slurping it down like Diet Coke. 1 beer …2 beers …3 beers… 4, I make my stand because now it’s been 2 hours and I quietly lose my patience, I shutdown the salesclerks and I grab him and say, “Obviously this is not meant to be, let’s go. Either way, I’m leaving with or without you!” Afraid of not finding his way back, “The Ugly American,” sheepishly and a little drunkenly walks with me towards the door. Finally WE ARE FREE!!!
We jump into the tuk-tuk and the driver zips away. I feel relived until the driver pulls up somewhere else other than the Royal Palace. “Thai Silk” he says shyly, for he senses my irritation. I know its not his fault. I tell the “The Ugly American” to stay in the tuk-tuk, of course he follows me, afraid of me going in anywhere by myself. I shake my head. We walk in and there are bolts of fabric lining the walls, samples of silk suits and dresses on mannequins and clothing design books everywhere. I peep the downward step that leads to multiple rooms that pull you further into the establishment. I idle by the door while “The Ugly American” is bragging about his suits he got made in India and tries to one up the salesperson. Just like in a car accident, I see “The Ugly American” start walking briskly into the entrance where the multiple rooms lie and not watching his step, falls violently to the ground…face first. WIPEOUT! The huge thump! The slow motion action of it all. The $3000 Canon camera from around his neck goes flying through the air. The $700 wide angle lens cracks on impact. I just stand there. Me saying, “Watchout, look down!” right before the crash landing had no effect and yes once he hit the ground, I just stood there. Four Thai silk salesmen rushed to his aid. I turned around and went to the bathroom. Again I was done.
Riding towards the Royal Palace in the tuk-tuk was a scary time for “The Ugly American,” for he saw my face, he knew what I was capable of, he knew he blew it. Apologizing over and over, he only fueled the fire that made me want to punch him in the neck. I was livid, tired and emotionally spent. What if he had been really hurt? I shuddered at the thought of spending all of time in a hospital instead of exploring Thailand. I was angry that he even put me in that position. Sounding selfish, am I? Hell yes, we are all grown folks here. I’m not a fucking babysitter. I am silent til we get to Wat Phra Kaew.
We arrive. I pay the tuk-tuk driver double our fare. He smiles brightly and looks hopefully at the “The Ugly American” for he sees my disdain. Once we go into the entrance, I turn to “The Ugly American” and suggest that we go our separate ways for the afternoon and he’s actually surprised that I would suggest such a thing but quickly relents. As he walks away he complains about how hot the sun is, but of course it is, it’s 1:30 in the afternoon. Peak time for sun, what I was trying to avoid for his sake. Once he’s gone I dial up my best friend Andrew, to calm me down, who quick as a whip replies, “Wow, I’m surprised you haven’t shanked in his sleep yet!” After giving me a pep talk, Andrew simply advises, “Look, haven’t you been in this shit before? Keep it movin” and that exactly what I do!