Scammed in Bangkok!
Yep…you read it right. We were scammed in Bangkok. And man we really, REALLY hate admitting that. In fact, we almost didn’t write this post because it’s quite humiliating. We were completely blindsided. The Thai smile got the best of us. But while we were tempted to save face and keep this shameful experience to ourselves, we know we wouldn’t be doing our blog justice if we didn’t make others aware of the situation and send a reminder that these scams are still alive and well, not only in Thailand, but happening in destinations all over the world. Even seasoned travelers and expats themselves are vulnerable to them. We thought we were pretty educated on the scams creeping around Bangkok but this time we let our guard down. Although embarrassed, we want to spread the word to save others from making the same mistake we did. So here’s what happened…
It was day 1 of my brother’s visit in Thailand and day 1 in Bangkok. We were making our way to the local water taxi to get to Wat Arun when we came across a large map on the street and stopped to have a look to figure out where we were. A clean-cut, well-dressed and well-spoken Thai man walked up and simply pointed on the map where we were and asked where we were headed and if we needed direction. He showed us on the map how to get there and then…this should have been our first clue…told us that it happened to be a Thai holiday and there was a ceremony going on for the King and certain areas around the river were blocked off. He said we probably wouldn’t be able to get into Wat Arun until 5:30 or 6 pm and then he recommended another route to go along the river to avoid any road closures. He didn’t pitch us anything. He spoke perfect English and was extremely kind.
We then began chatting casually. He asked about us living here and my brother visiting and then asked if we were doing a longtail boat ride on the river. We told him we hadn’t planned on it. He then recommended where we should go if we decided to do one to avoid the “tourist pier”. He said its the pier where mostly locals go and only 700 baht/person, rather than 1900 baht at the tourist pier. He pointed it out on the map and we asked him how to say it in Thai to so that we could tell a tuk tuk driver, which he then so kindly offered to wave one over (that just happened to be sitting nearby) and got us a ride for just 20 baht! He even told the driver “no suit shops. no jewelry shops. straight to the pier” saving us from another scam. Wow. This guy is GREAT! After a few “Khob khun ka(b)s”, we were excitedly on our way to the pier thinking we scored a great deal and telling Justin this is just another example of how wonderful Thai people are.
It was somewhere along the one hour boat ride when that uneasy feeling started to creep up. A Thai holiday? Well there are a lot of holidays in Thailand, but that is pretty typical of a scam. And the Wat/roads being closed? That sounds an awful lot like the Grand Palace scam (you know the one where they say the Palace is closed and they will bring you back after they drive you around town to the gem shops, etc?). Why didn’t that sound any alarms in my head when he first said that? I know better! And then I thought about how I never actually researched what the price of a one hour boat ride should be because we never planned on taking one…
I immediately dug my phone out of my purse, missing out on the scenery passing me by, and started a Google search. And then I quickly put my phone away. I knew that if I saw what I didn’t want to see, I would miss the ride. I knew that the boat ride only lasted one hour and, scammed or not, I should enjoy it and make the most of it. I didn’t want my experience to be ruined, and mostly, I didn’t want my brother’s experience to be ruined. So I tried to push it out of my mind and enjoy the rest of it. I really tried…
Turns out, they dropped us off at the tourist dock..you know, the one they told us to avoid because they charged so much more money? First thing we did? Asked the guy selling tickets the price for a one hour boat ride. The verdict? 400 baht…PER BOAT! We overpaid by 1700 baht.
Sure, in the grand scheme of things it might be only $50. But $50 goes a long ways in Thailand. But really its not even about the money. It’s feeling like a complete fool. Falling for someone’s charade. Wondering how people can blatantly lie and steal from others every day and still sleep at night? It’s mind boggling. To be quite honest, it put a huge damper on the rest of the day. We kept trying to not let it ruin our time, but it was difficult to put it out of our mind. And we hated that this was one of Justin’s first introductions to Thailand.
I’m sure there are many thinking “what idiots!”. Believe me…we sure felt like it. Talk about blow to the ego. But I think sometimes you just want see the good in people and you forget that sadly there are a lot of bad apples out there. We also should have done more research about the scams in Bangkok and the price of a longtail boat ride prior so we were prepared to deal with the situation. Regardless, it happened and its in the past and now we just want to make other travelers aware.
I hope this post in no way discourages travel to Thailand. As I mentioned before, these things happen all over the world. Its just important that you educate yourself when traveling and always keep your guard up. You can never be too cautious. Lesson learned.
Read up on these infamous Bangkok scams before you visit:
Here’s a recap of our 2 Days in Bangkok:
Have you ever been scammed while traveling? Share your story in the comments.