A scammer offering you a bath at Wat Inthawawihan
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I have been to Bangkok many times. I have heard people talk about all these scams but I have never once knowingly been scammed. The place where I parked the car on Sunday with our Steve was exactly where I have parked before. It is my base for exploring the area. I then either walk or go by tuk tuk. Never have I been approached by scam artists. I went there with Steve, we took about a dozen steps away from the car and then the vultures starting swooping in for the kill. As one guy was showing Steve places on the map, I could see other scammers circling in the distance. For the following three hours we just went from one scam to the next. It was relentless. So, why this sudden interest? Did we have a sign above our heads that said something like “fresh off the boat”? I of course blame our Steve. He was so dressed the part as a tourist. Cap, t-shirt, sunglasses, shorts and rucksack. But, I think the clincher was the map. I don’t think they would have approached us if Steve wasn’t holding a map. This was an essential prop to their scam. They needed to give us suggestions of different places we could visit. The only thing that we didn’t have was a piece of paper. For some reason all of them wanted to write these destinations down for us.
Recently, Steve gave us a rundown of The Great Tuk Tuk Scam. What I will do today is give you some of the side-scams. The first one was at Wat Inthawawihan. This has a large 32 metre high Standing Buddha. The scammers call this place the Big Buddha. I hadn’t been to that place for a long time. Although the Buddha image was beautiful (and around the back there was an interesting row of Buddhas for each day of the week) I will now boycott this temple. Why? Because it is a scammers temple. Take a look at the sign in the top picture. Release the birds in the cage for 90 baht. He must be joking. At the most it should be 20 baht. But, that is beside the point. If you ever go to a temple, please do not pay money to release birds or fish. This is cruelty to the highest extreme. Many abbots of temples have banned these people from their grounds. This is not a Buddhist practice. You are supposed to be making merit by releasing the birds. But, by doing so, you are encouraging this vendor to catch and cage more wild animals. The abbot of Wat Inthawaihan should be ashamed of himself. Not only allowing this vendor to be on his grounds, but allowing this scam artist to trick foreigners into paying 90 baht. I am sorry, but I feel very strongly on this matter.
No Photo, I am the Security Guard – Wat Sitaram
Not far from the Golden Mount, there is a temple hidden away that goes by the name of Wat Sitaram. I was pleasantly surprised at the beauty of the Buddha images here. I was happily snapping away when this seedy little guy approached us. His English was quite good which is always a giveaway. SCAM ARTIST 100%. The second clue is that Thai people do not usually approach complete strangers in the street. He was quite friendly at first and explained a few rules. He said he was the security guard and that as we weren’t Buddhists we weren’t allowed to take any photos. I was perplexed and said to him that I have never been to a temple where you weren’t allowed to take photos in the temple grounds. I said, where does it say you cannot take a photo? He then pointed to a sign behind me. Now, I have taken pictures of hundreds of signs for our LearningThai.com website. I have seen many signs that say “no photos” in Thai. This one most definitely was not saying that. In fact it was talking about Dharma. So, I took a quick photo for later reference. Then the guy got angry and said, “I told you not to take pictures.”
I think by this time he realized there was something suspicious about us. We had deviated away from the script. This guy was supposed to befriend us and mention that by chance there was a one day sale at the local government run tailor/gem shop. “Oh really?”, we were supposed to reply. “What a coincidence, our tuk tuk driver was about to take us there. You know, at first we thought the tuk tuk guy was scamming us, but as you are saying the same thing then in must be true.” Then he would have said, “Well, you better not delay in this temple much longer taking pictures, you should rush to the government run tailor shop before they close. They are only open once a year.” I am sorry, but this guy was so extremely rude to us. I have never met anyone like him in my life. This guy was a scammer big time and this temple was his lair. If the abbot knows about this scammer then he should be ashamed of himself. I really want to go back to this temple, but I honestly think that the only way that I can avoid this guy is if I speak Thai to him.
The Bird Lady giving Steve the Victory Sign
For the first two hours, we were being scammed almost non-stop. Not only by the tuk tuk driver with his broken promises and outright lies, but scam artists that we met along the way. And amongst them I do include the tailor shop and the jewelry shop that we visited. Scammers the whole lot of them. They all should be ashamed. Anyway, we finally managed to persuade the guy to take us to the Grand Palace. The last time I came here from the place where I parked my car it was about 40 baht in a tuk tuk. Today it cost only 10 baht. Of course, we had a slight deviation away from the route which took us two hours. But, along the way we visited two temples, had some refreshments (we could have had a cold beer apparently), and had the run of some really nice toilet facilities. Not so bad, until we later found out that we were scammed. Another tuk tuk driver later offered the same “scam tour” for only 5 baht! Of course, they probably would have done it for free as they were only interested in getting their fat commission for taking us to these shops.
Anyway, moving on. I was a bit tired by this time and wanted a break before the next scam. I think we walked literally two steps before we were thrown into the middle of the next scam. This involved the Bird Lady. I think I was sill a little dazed from our previous scam so didn’t really understand why this fat lady kept thrusting half empty bags of bird food into my hands. She then gestured for me to feed the birds. I thought rather strange. Maybe this was a Thai custom of welcome to foreigners to the palace of His Majesty the King. So, I took her advice and scattered a few seeds on the floor. “More, more,” she encouraged us. Steve didn’t really want anything to do with her as she was getting really pushy. So, in the end, just to make her happy, I took the little plastic bags and threw the contents to her birds on the ground. I then gave back to her the bags and we started to walk on towards the Palace. “Twenty baht. You give me Twenty baht!” Oh what. You must be kidding. Can’t we at least have a short break between scams? The only way we got rid of her in the end was when I started taking pictures of her. That is when she started swearing at us in Thai. I would like to remind you again that all of this was happening in front of the Grand Palace.
Don’t tell anyone else, I can give you special price of only 1,000 baht each
We darted across the road and were immediately confronted by people selling oriental umbrellas. “400 baht. Only 400 baht for you Madame.” No thank, you. And anyway, I am not Madame, I am Mister. I smiled at her. “OK, I like your smile. For you, only 300 baht.” No, it is alright, I am really not interested. “Mister, I need to buy milk for my baby.” Then about 100 metres further down the road she said, “Alright, I give you special price Mister. 150 baht.” By this time I was tired and hungry. I said to Steve lets go and get something to eat near the pier. Two more steps and then “Boat mister, you want a boat. Only 1,000 baht each person.” As there were two of us, this meant 2,000 baht. As you know, I was here the other week with my brother and we paid 600 for the both of us. I told Steve that I wanted to check this out as for some reason the prices seemed much higher than what I had been told before. Maybe because we were still only speaking English. I said “no” to this guy and kept walking.
Up front I spotted another women that seemed to be herding us towards the right hand side of the pier. She hadn’t actually approached us yet, but as she kept glancing back I knew she was a scammer. I whispered to Steve to quickly do a left turn to see what she would do. “Mister, mister, you cannot go that way!” I thought she must be joking. There were two entrances to the pier. I could choose either. “You no go that way. That is one way.” That was absolute rubbish and a complete lie. She just wanted to stop us going to a rival boat owner. I had enough by this time. There were too many scams one after the other. Each one was very much in our faces. I told Steve that we need to break cover if only for a lunch break. So, we found a nice little food shop near the pier, and Steve, in perfect colloquial Thai, ordered us some lunch. I asked how much for two dishes ove the rice and we were told “30 baht”. That sounded about right. At last we could relax. We really needed to recharge our batteries as we were about to walk the complete perimeter of the Grand Palace.
The Grand Palace is closed at the moment, I will take you to these other places first and then when you come back at 3 p.m. you will see that the Grand Palace is free!
Now, before I continue, I just want to pause and say that not all Thai people here are scam artists. In two different locations I asked a couple of vendors in English how much a bottle of water was. They both said “10 baht” which is a fair price. There is hope left. Now let’s continue with the scams. We were first approached near the exit to the Grand Palace. As the scammer was busy telling Steve that the Grand Palace was closed today I snapped a few photos of a sign next to him that said in English and Thai: “Don’t trust strangers. The Grand Palace is open every day.” He then proceeded to tell us about the Big Buddha and the Lucky Buddha. He said he could arrange for 40 baht to take us there and then bring us back here at 3 p.m. when the Grand Palace would be opened for free! Wow! We carried on walking. Fifty steps later and we had another similar offer. This was right in front of the palace. Hey dude, I am not blind, I can see people going inside! Do you think we look stupid or something? We carried on walking because Steve was trying to find a jewelry scam guy.
The third and fourth scammer said much the same. Apparently we were in luck because the Big Buddha is only open this one day of the year. We declined all of their offers because they wanted to take us to the same places we had just been to. We were now walking down the east side of the Grand Palace towards Wat Pho. In the distance Steve spotted a smart guy in a shirt and tie. This looked like the gem shop scammer. As we approached him Steve got out his map hoping to get a bite. No luck. It then dawned on us. We were the wrong kind of tourists. We were too shabbily dressed. This guy was only looking for big spenders for the gem shops. Not backpackers. When we rounded the corner of the Grand Palace, the story of the scammers changed slightly. “Today Wat Pho closed for special ceremony. You go to Lucky Buddha. It is only open this one day.” We kept on walking around the next corner and back towards our starting point. The first scammer on this side pointed to a closed door and said “Look see the Grand Palace is closed today.” Yeah right. This is the private entrance.
I think by this time we were both really annoyed by the utter contempt and lies that were spewing out of the mouths of these guys. They called themselves Thais but were lying about the palace of their revered King. Did they not have any respect for H.M. The King? Shame on them all. At this last one, in the picture above, I whispered to Steve to keep this guy busy while I went and had a chat in Thai with the soldier on guard duty. I asked him if the Grand Palace was really closed today. He said no, it is open. Then I said, why is that guy over there saying that it is closed? Is he lying? Then for some treason he started getting nervous and changed his story. The Grand Palace is closed today, he said. Are you sure? Then he told me to go and speak to his supervisor. However, by that time the scammer knew the game was up and had already departed. Steve said that he had spotted me talking to the guard and quickly changed his tact to being a helpful stranger who was just giving directions. Shame on that soldier for not stopping what was so obviously a scam.
This is not a new phenomenon. These exact scams have been going on here for many years. Everyone knows about it. The Tourist Authority of Thailand knows about it. But the soldiers on duty and the TAT allow it to continue. Shame on them all. I feel so sorry for the tourists who come here on their last day only to be told that the Grand Palace is closed. And then they are taken on a wild ride to some shameful temples and scamming shops. I am sorry, but this day was so distressing and overpowering. None of these so called Thai people had any respect for H.M. The King. How dare they stand in front and lie to tourists that his Grand Palace is closed. Something must be done. Will it? Sadly, it is very doubtful.
** Report your scams at our new website: BangkokScams.com