“You want to buy big lighter?” We’re asked by a man holding a ridiculously big lighter. We don’t, but if we did I think I know where we could get one…
“No thank you” I say pointing at my mouth, “no big cigarette” and then I turn away. The man stands next to us for a few minutes watching mine and Gemma’s conversation.
“You get big cigarette?”
We stare in disbelief, although you have to admire the hard sell sometimes.
We’re sat on blue chairs at a yellow table in the middle of the Kao San Road after an early morning enjoying the floating market. We’ve been trying to discuss the beauty of the market and how it’s reminiscent of a greener and more natural Venice but unfortunately all we’ve managed to talk about is what the best way to get rid of the persistent Kao San sellers is.
I’ll be honest, we only really came back to the Kao San for nostalgia’s sake, it’s much better to hang out (and stay) on the quieter and more attractive Soi Rambuttri around the corner. Nearly everyone ends up here though – just like an old man with sweets in his pockets, the Kao San Road lures you with it’s cheap trousers, beer and bright neon lights.
But it seems alots changed here over the last four years…
The last time I was here I haggled myself a few cheap t-shirts, some presents for the family and a new bag. They were all cheap, they were all crap and they all broke but I had a great time haggling the prices down. The experience alone was worth the disappointment of finding out that my new GENUINE Gucci watch had stopped working.
Today we found out that haggling is sadly a thing of the past on the Kao San. I asked a seller to lower the price of a pair of trousers and he told me to leave. He didn’t even toy with the idea, in fact, he just looked hurt that I would even suggest it. I later offered a lower amount for a fried scorpion (of all things) but instead of refusing my offer, or trying to compromise the vendor simply turned around and walked away.
What the hell has happened here? The sellers are ruder than ever and prices have really rocketed for just under half a decade.
“You buy?” a lady holding a green laser light asks Gemma.
“Maybe if I was 10 years old.”
“It’s good.” says the lady.
“We don’t want to buy anything” I try.
“What you do when you need a light?” the lady asks acting slightly aggressive but clearly not actually caring.
“I know a guy with a ridiculously big lighter” I tell her. The lady just stares, and I can’t blame her – why would I know a man with a big lighter? I don’t even have a big cigarette.
We’ve tried everything – ignorning them, being polite, even creating a fake language and holding lengthy conversations but nothing seems to work. The lady eventually moves to the group of girls next to us.
And that’s when it happens, we undstand why the Kao San Road has changed like it has. Suddenly this lady’s persistance isn’t quite as annoying. Since Gemma and I were last in Bangkok we’ve moved cities, got new jobs and then quit them again to travel. And now we’re back here, trying to haggle for our amusement, once again on holiday. But this lady would have been here every single day of those four years. This is her life.
So this decline in haggling has to be a good thing. Thailand’s an emerging economy which is visibly developing fast and the full time residents of the Kao San deserve to see the effects of the resulting inflation more than anyone. After years of day in and day out serving the ever cocky western travellers for whatever we chose to pay, it’s about time they have the upper hand. Maybe we should stop trying to haggle and just pay our way for once…
“You want? Only 150 Baht” says a man rubbing a small wooden frog with a stick making it croak.
“What would we do with it?” I ask, determined to listen to his pitch, eager to buy something for the full price, to show how I, a typical western traveller, understands the true value of his profession. But instead of replying verbally the man croaks the frog again and looks at me. I want to buy something from this man, I really do, but he’s selling absolute crap. I can’t help it, I just want him to go away.
“I’ll give you 10 Baht” I say. The man looks at me annoyed and walks away instantly.
And so that’s how you do it. In modern day Bangkok it seems the only way to get the unwanted street sellers to go away is to try to buy something from them.