" Welcome to culturally rich and colourful Thailand. After enjoying a sumptuous American breakfast at your hotel, you will embark on a pleasant and scintillating journey back to Bangkok where we will take you on a free temple and city tour to experience another side to Bangkok that's rewarding, intriguing, memorable and waiting for you to discover it. Thailand is home to more than 26,000 Wats (Buddhist temples). This vacation, let us take you to some of Bangkok's most distinguished Wats, such as Wat Traimit, (Temple of the Golden Buddha), the largest solid gold Buddha shrine in the world."
I have to admit that I copied the above verbatim from a brochure of one of India's leading package tour operators to Thailand. What kind of an expectation is created in the minds of the customer ? Now here is the reality...
The client is given an itinerary that says he has to be in the lobby at 8 am. Imagine after his first taste of Bangkok's sumptuous nightlife that he is going to wake up in time for the city tour ! Assuming the client is a determined sort of fellow and wakes up at the ungodly hour of 6 am, rubs his bleary red eyes, gets to the breakfast room at 7 am, showels cornflakes or eggs down the hatch and then goes to keep his appointment at 8 am for the seat in coach free city and Bangkok Temples tour of Bangkok.
Surprise no. 1: The tour guide and van do not turn up at 8 am but 8.45 am as the guide had to pick up another Indian client first (who were not as punctual as our brave warrior). An argument erupts in the van and the guide explained to the brave warrior that he had to pick up the Indian family first and since they were still having breakfast, that delayed the tour. In the next few moments, tickets could be sold for a Muay Thai boxing match as the guide struggles to separate the brave warrior from the gentleman with the slick black hair and the handlebar moustache.
Surprise no. 2: The guide breaks the bad news...they still have to pick up one more Indian bachellor from the Soi Nana area of Bangkok. The brave warrior could not believe his ears. Nobody told him that this city tour was shared or seat in coach (SIC). What...another pickup ? 45 minutes later they reach the bachellor's hotel, the Ibis Nana only to find that the gentleman has not been a gentleman and has decided after confirming to his agent the previous night that he wanted the city tour, has now decided that his warm bed beckons more than the fascinating free city and temples tour. Besides his agent cannot charge him cancellation on something that is so obviously free. Now both the gentleman with the slick black hair and handlebar moustache and our brave warrior take the same side and look for a scapegoat. Not finding an immediate one, they pounce upon the Thai tourist guide and he faces the brunt of their frustration and anger on the way to the Golden Buddha.
Surprise no. 3: Once peace has been restored, the gentleman with the slick black hair and handlebar moustache has an idea. He believes that since Lord Buddha was born on the Indian subcontinent, that India would have much better temples than Bangkok. He believes that the tour can be avoided and that instead of visiting the Golden Buddha, the party should visit the MBK shopping mall or Indra Market. At this point, the driver of the tour bus has to wear earplugs as the volume in the van takes on an Indian bazaar like pitch. Muay Thai looks like the order of the day and the guide needs to use all his persuasive power to prevent the brave warrior from disembowling the intestines of the gentleman with the slick black hair which he was threatening to do. The van finally reaches the golden buddha and the brave warrior explodes out of the van onto the pavement.
Surprise no. 4: Only the brave warrior climbs up the 100 plus stairs all the way to the pavillion housing the Golden Buddha. The gentleman with the slick black hair is still nursing his bruised ego and gulping for air and breath when another idea occurs to him. Why not tell his travel agent that he did not go to the Golden Buddha and ask for a refund for the city tour. Some great Thai Buddhist Amulets are also available.Besides the van was not dropping him to MBK or Indra Market so what was the point of hurrying himself and his family of 4 through the breakfast ?
Surprise no. 5: After the party finish the temples, and the gentleman with the slick black hair is looking forward to finally making it to MBK or Indra Market with his family, the tour guide announces that they have reached a gem store in Bangkok (they provided the van for the free city tour and a stop there is compulsary).
By this time the brave warrior and the gentleman with the slick black hair are resigned to their fate and walk through the store buying nothing. The Gems store is frustrated but still continues to offer the free city tour (though there are rumours that they will discontinue it in 2013), the Thai DMC's see no value to this tour but still offer it out of habit and their inability to convince the Indian agents that this city tour is a waste of time and client's precious time in Bangkok is better served by setting them free.
This same scenario is played out every day in a hundred different locations in Bangkok.
Also check out this great read about Culture Thailand.