As described in the movie, Bangkok Dangerous, it’s true that you need to be aware of the scams that often happen to tourists. Having the look like other Asian girls, and some people mistook us as locaIs doesn’t guarantee we would get away from the scams.
Beware when walking to Grand Palace area, you’ll be strolling through a park where some people with bunches of birds (pigeons) gather round and you’ll be forced to feed the birds – whether you like it or not – and forced to pay some money. Not really much amount (30-50 baht) compared to what I have had in Milan (50 euros), but still! For those allergic to birds or fear of birds (like me) better run through other ways further across the street!
When you finally manage to cross the street to the Grand Palace, there will be people (in our case, a nice gentle and polite man) who greeted you in much of politeness “please don’t cross here miss, there’s a zebra cross over there, much safer”. He introduced himself as one of officer who worked at the government and told us that the Palace was on a break at at the moment so please come back again in 2 more hours. Please always check the schedule of the place you want to visit, and bad for us, we didn’t know the Palace had break time.
He suggested us go to some temples (as he said to be not really touristic but very local and good) while waiting the Palace to be open again in 2 hours, and also bargain the Tuk-tuk in local language to take us there for only 50 bahts (he said, that’s the price for locals, if we bargained it ourselves we would pay more) – and we thanked him for it. We thought – Wow, there’s still a nice man in this world!
Then the tuk-tuk drove us to ‘the temples’, and when we arrived there, it was only small temple, really a local one, and I wasn’t really fascinated with the statues there (after having seen some, they all look the same to me), not to mention there was DOGS there. I hate dogs. We decided to walk out when greeted by a man who claimed to be Director of that temple (such small temple..) in local language and apologised when he knew we were tourists from Indonesia. (later on we realised maybe that was his trick to judge whether we were tourist or not). We had some discussion about the statues, then he also suggested us go to…gem factory. “You know that Thailand is really famous for its sapphire, you have to go this gem festival, it only happens every 25 years for a week!! You are very lucky to come at this dates!”. And we were naivettes and just gasped to imagine “the gem factory”, which each probably would only cost 100-300 bahts! He said the price started at 100 bahts, and visa accepted. Hm. What kind of factory accept visa..but probably because it’s big, and everyone will buy like crazy – and to bring cash is only attracting some pickpockets there – I started to rationalised that.
Then again, he showed the tuk –tuk driver to go to this place, which he pointed as “very near, only 15 minutes” – turned to be a hell of tuk-tuk journey with at least 35-40 minute ride. There were big demonstration in Bangkok when we were there, theThaksin-pro people (red shirts) vs. Incumbent-pro people (yellow shirts). And lucky we werenot wearing red since the red considered to be the brutal ones – said the locals. But our Tuk-tuk driver wore red, he was one of Thaksin fans, whom he adored to have populist policy by giving them money (suddenly I remember our own President…)
Anyway. The ‘Gem Factory’ here turned out to be just a small shops, and exclusive one, in residential area, with none of it costed less than 3000 bahts, and that was just a small piece. Indeed, you could always swipe your Visa here, because it wasn’t much of factory at all to my imagination. If the ‘factory’ was like that, you can magine then what the wholesaler looks like.
And the tuk-tuk driver insisted to take us to the wholesaler. Actually it was a nice place, and much bigger than the ‘factory-where there was festival that held in every 25 years to commemorate the King’, and we could just easily find ourselves drooling over the nice blue, yellow, red sapphire with silver or white gold. There was also the ‘small factory’ with some craftsmen and women made the custom-made ring or necklace or earings we order. Since the ring I eyed costed a fortune (around 29,000 bahts) (and when I was busy calculating with my brain in Indonesian, the beautiful saleswoman was on the ball and swift the numbers into Rupiah currency (she understood Indonesian!!) – we walked out of there with emptyhanded. 29K bahts equals the total cost of our trip in Indochine for the whole 2 weeks!
We were starved to death, and the tuk-tuk driver, again, brought us to exclusive restaurant. OMG. He didn’t know any good cheap food stalls??
And when we decided to go to Grand Palace, it was never on a break, and always open from 9 am to 5 pm, and there was a sign in front of the ticketing place written “DO NOT TALK TO STRANGER, THAT MAYBE A SCAM”. Oh, Thank you very much…!
This story, just doesn’t happen to me but also to other friends who visited Bangkok, the modus is similar, but maybe the improvisation is bit different, but the escorting to gem factory part is always the same thing. The players are : the man or woman (who tell us the Palace is closed), the tuk-tuk driver who gets commission from each places he takes us, the temple guy or director whatever, and also the gem place (well they take advantage of ‘forcing people’ to visit). For other cases, ou can check out the website : www.bangkokscams.com . Well not that you shouldn’t go there, Bangkok is still worth visiting, just put on extra cautions, tourists are always easy targets, wherever, on this planet J