Hopscotch, Hopscotch, Hop Your Way to the Entrance.

Hopscotch, Hopscotch, Hop Your Way to the Entrance.

Have you ever played hopscotch, the game where you throw a stone into the hopscotch box and then hop on every square, avoiding the one with the stone? This trip was like this childhood game where when the stone tossed lands on the wrong box,  and you’d loose a turn.


travel alert, reaching delphi
Which way shall I hop?

Visit to the ancient royal cities of Sukhothai, Lopburi, and Ayutthaya? Check! Travel health-check status? Green! No missed trains? Bahts intact? Documents, cameras? Green! Learn about the different cultural influences and various kingdoms? You bet! Meditate under the Bodhi tree? Yes again! The game was going on well so far. Hopscotch!


travel alert, reaching delphi, temple
Meditate under the Bodhi tree?

After several days of head-hitting rides of the roof of the cushionless tuk-tuks, I was relieved to hear the familiar sounds of car honks and being stuck in hour-long city traffic. Don’t get me wrong here. Those ow-rides in the north earlier really helped keep me from dozing off during this history-appreciation trip to the older parts of this humble country, Thailand. Obstacles, hopscotch!


travel alert, Buddha, temple
Ancient royal city of Ayutthaya.

“Five hours to spare, Doc”. After that, it was time to head to Don Mueang airport to go home. By then, I was competent at managing vacation time. Our hotel was just a stone’s throw away from the airport, so there was no reason for us to scramble our way to get to immigration even if we were – and we were – an hour late.


sukhothai
Ancient royal city of Sukhothai.

Though Bangkok is only a short two-hour flight away for us, we didn’t travel there as much as we wanted to due to work commitments. So, we embraced the last five hours in Bangkok with the spirit of YOLO. I decided we should conclude this trip on two high notes: first, to pay our respects to Emerald Buddha at the beautiful Grand Palace Bangkok; and second, to have some old-fashion Thai coffee and watch the sunset over the Chao Phraya.

Doc hesitated but still went ahead and made the four-hour city travel booking at the hotel.

travel alert, Buddha, temple
Buddhas at at Sukhothai.

“Our best car and driver”, the hotel concierge told us. It was a well-used, but not a beaten-up, grey Toyota. We took down the license plate number and got into the car.

The jam was as expected, with cars crawling to reach their destination. After an hour, I began to notice people of different nationalities walking on the streets.

“We must be close by”, Doc said, looking at his watch again. There was no need to press that panic button Doc; we were well ahead of time.

“That’s the place”. I pointed to the beautiful roof peeking from behind the high white walls.

ReachingDelphi, grand palace, thailand
Peeking roofs.

“Wait”, the driver called out to us. Then he made a turn and another turn. When we reached the guarded entrance, he stopped the car. The gates were shut.

“Closed for lunch”, he continued. He put his palms on top of each other and repeated “closed”.

“Really, this looks unusual”, Doc said. “There was no mention of closing during lunch hours on the website.”

“Where do you get tickets?” I asked.

“Inside”, he pointed past the security guards.

We got out of the car to ask the guards questions, but they did not answer. Instead, the guards told the driver not to block the entrance. I tried to peep in but couldn’t see much. It did look closed to tourists, so there was no point pressing the guards further.


ReachingDelphi, grand palace, thailand
Outside the wrong entrance.

As we got in, the driver told us again that the palace was closed for lunch and suggested a free 10-stop ride to see various factories. He then readily pulled out a tourist guide, looked at me and pointed out a gem factory.

I wondered what made him think I’d want to get ruby and sapphire jewels.  I took his gesture as a compliment anyway.

“What time does the palace reopen?” I asked him, annoyed.


ReachingDelphi, grand palace, thailand
Now you hopped to the right box.

The driver offered a peace sign. Two was my guess. It was just about noon. Mmm … timing. Hopscotch!

Just then, looking at the mom-and-pop stores nearby, I remembered we hadn’t gotten any souvenir elephants on this trip. I took this as Buddha’s way of telling us to get out of the car. We renegotiated our deal and finally paid for two hours. Of course, neither of us were pleased, but we had to part ways at this point.

After picking up a couple of small elphies, we noticed people queuing up for mango and papaya salad around the corner. Glorious! We got ourselves a customised order without chilies and fish sauce. To complete the local delicacy experience, we got some piping-hot but sweet coffee.

ReachingDelphi, grand palace, thailand
Coffee, Coffee, Coffee.


“Where next?” Doc asked, looking at his watch. Another hour to go before the gates reopened. We were already roasting in the heat. Nevertheless, we ordered another hot cup of coffee.

The hour passed, but the gates still hadn’t open. Mistimed, loose a turn. Hopscotch!

“What time does the gate open”, I asked the cashier.

“Oh, this gate?” she replied casually. “This gate – it never opens. Not for tourists, no. The entrance to the palace is around the corner”.

Well, strike me pink! So, the driver cheated us. Watch out, keep your balance, hopscotch!

ReachingDelphi, grand palace entrance
Proud Uma! Found the right entrance.


“Why?” I was puzzled.

Since this wasn’t the time nor place to be upset, we thanked the nice lady and hurried to the correct entrance, got our entrance tickets, and we were off to see a boy clad in the green gem. Game on, hopscotch!

ReachingDelphi, grand palace, tickets
Inside, but first - get your ticket!!


What I Learnt

  • There are plenty of drivers like the one I described. Though ours did not rob us of any money, he stole our time. And time is money.
  • We might not have recognised this tourist bait if we had not been a hard-pressed-for-time tourist.
  • In some countries, drivers and tour operators earn a small commission for each visitor they bring over to a location. In other places, they get a commission when that visitor completes a purchase. 
This is not an uncommon agreement in the tourism industry, but it is good to be aware of this and not to be pressured into buying something you do not need while you are there. Just like in a game of hopscotch, toss your stone carefully, enjoy the moment, and hop on.

 

ReachingDelphi, thailand, tuk tuk
Fun on cushionless tuk-tuks.


  • If you are not comfortable with this arrangement, and your driver still insists on taking you to places you don’t wish to visit, be prepared to say goodbye. In all probability, with the experience you just had, the next driver will be a great companion.  
  • Take note of any venue’s opening and closing times. If you are using a mobile phone with data and Wi-Fi facilities, you can access this readily through the internet. 

ReachingDelphi, grand palace, thailand


Take your chances and play the game fairly. Just like this trip, every journey in life has its own challenge. The only way forward to hopscotch your way to solving them. I am glad we found the right entrance on that day. Hopscotch! 
Hopscotch! Hopscotch!


Note: The photographs posted in this post were all taken during this same trip. Enjoy the sights from the ancients cities of Sukhothai, Ayutthaya, Lopburi and the country's capital Bangkok.



Footnote:
Regardless of whether you are a business traveller or vacationer, a one-time or frequent traveller – if you travel, you are exposed to risks. It’s important to understand that some of us are easier targets than others.

This series is dedicated to Doc, SV, who constantly reminded me to 'Watch Out!. Doc was a sensible traveller, while I, quite the opposite. Through Watch Out! Travel Mishaps from Reaching Delphi Travellers Alert series, I will share some of our travel misadventures with you. My aim is to create an awareness of such incidents and some useful suggestions to reduce the occurrence of unpleasant events. 

Follow Coffee Trail – Counting Stars, Reaching Delphi for travel updates and tips.


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