The other day I visited the Grand Palace and I will tell you more about that later. Today I want to give you some travel tips for that area in order to avoid the common scams. There are plenty of buses that take you to Sanam Luang and the Grand Palace area. I took my car but as there was an event going on at Sanam Luang I had trouble parking. So, I parked 10 minutes away and looked for a taxi to take me to the Grand Palace. The meter starts at 35 baht and I reckoned that it wouldn’t go above that much. Before I had a chance to hail a taxi, a tuk tuk driver shouted out “Where you go?” I don’t really trust these guys and I knew he would try and charge me 80 baht at least, even though it was a short trip. But, surprisingly, he started with 40 baht. I said “No” and carried on walking. He then replied “OK, 30 baht.” Too good to be true? I thought, why not? What could go wrong? So, I agreed and got in. He then turns around to me and says “For 30 baht I take you Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Big Buddha. Do you know Bg Buddha?” I just laughed because this is how the gem scam starts.
Normally they will tell you that the Grand Palace is closed and that they will take you to the Big Buddha instead. Then they take you to a gem store where you are pressued into buying fake or inferior gems. I told him in Thai that I just wanted to go to the Grand Palace. Which he eventually did. Of course, when we arrived he said that he didn’t have any change. So I said I would give him only 20 baht and started walking away. He then wanted me to buy some water in order to get change. I told him that I already had some water. Then he did a surprising thing. He jumped out and went off to buy something with the 20 baht note! He eventually bought an ice cream and gave me the 10 baht. I then gave him the second 20 baht note. I am sorry if all this sounds very harsh and petty. But, this guy was going to scam me and probably has scammed hundreds of tourists before. These guys need putting in their place. The gem scam is probably one of the biggest complaints tourists have. I am surprised that the Tourist Authority of Thailand (with their very large budget) don’t do anything about it. There is so much publicity about it these days (from websites not from TAT) that it is surprising that it is still going on.
I have actually tried to be scammed on purpose before in order to do research for the blog. However, I guess that I never dressed the part and they always left me alone. I have spoken to Steve about this and we are both planning to go to this area during the summer holidays and see if we can get ourselves scammed. Just need to make sure we are wearing appropriate clothes and the correct accessories. Maybe cap, a map and of course a water bottle. Though probably the most important thing is to look lost!
Update: You can now see our reports of how we were scammed at BangkokScams.com