In Bangkok at 12 o’clock they foam at the mouth and run
But mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. – Noel Coward
5/7 – After a month in northern Thailand where it’s pretty darn hot, we’re now in southern Thailand where it’s REALLY hot. Bangkok is a big city, known for its canals, (the Venice of the East), Buddhist temples and for scamming Farang (Westerners). Although we’ve been traveling for a while and consider ourselves fairly savvy, we got scammed here on our first day! Here’s our cautionary tale.
As we walked toward the Amulet Market early in the morning (trying to beat the heat, but it was already 85 and climbing) a distinguished looking and well-spoken gentlemen stepped up to advise us that today was a holiday and the markets were closed. Another man in a security uniform confirmed this. The nice gentleman, who said he was a college professor, went on to tell us that if we needed something to do instead, he would suggest a wonderful boat ride through the canals of Bangkok that could be had for a special price during the holiday (the King’s birthday!) He warned us not to use a tuk-tuk with red or blue numbers, which would overcharge us, but only ones with a white and yellow sign. As he said this, a tuk-tuk with a white and yellow sign pulled up to the curb, and the gentleman told the driver to take us to the dock for 20 baht (60 cents). As you are reading this, you must smell a fish, but he was so smooth and it happened so quickly, we just went along. He wanted no money, didn’t seem to be selling anything, and who could argue with the price of the taxi?
At the dock, the driver got out (another red flag we missed – when does a cab driver ever leave his cab?) and introduced us to another gentleman who walked us down to the water’s edge just as a gondola (just like in Venice!) pulled up. Quick as you can say Bob’s your uncle, we were motoring away on a private gondola, our wallet lighter by 2000 baht (about $60.00). There was no coercion, and we could have refused to get in the boat. We did get a very nice hour-long tour of the canals, but found out when we disembarked that a) it was not the King’s birthday, b) all the markets were indeed open, and c) we paid double what we should have for the boat ride. Poor dumb Farang! Here are our expensive canal pix: Our gondola
Walking back to our hotel, an English couple stopped us and asked if the Royal Palace was closed for the holiday. They had been persuaded by the same gentleman, but had sense enough to walk away. As we passed the spot where we had encountered him earlier, he was speaking earnestly with a French couple. When we approached and told the couple not to listen to him, the security guards ran up and tried to shoo us off – everyone gets a cut of this deal!
Of course when we returned to our room and googled Bangkok Scams, the first one that came up was “the __________ is closed for the holiday.” Variations are used to sell fake gems, overpriced taxi rides, extract extra money for visas, and who knows what else. Shame on us for not doing our research before setting out. A smooth operation – at least we got to see the canals!