I am telling you, I have to be the most naive and gullible person in the world to have not seen this one coming. Even after having read about it so many times in blogs and books, I still fell for the Tuk-Tuk scam :s
The Tuk-Tuk scam was just the latest one in a list of scams I have gotten myself into. Some harmless ones, like the time I was given change back which ultimately ended up being old out-of-circulation money, or the many times a taxi driver has given me a non-requested private tour of the city while the meter was still running.
On the other hand, some are quite a pain-in-the-ass and make you lose all faith in humanity.
What is different about the Tuk-Tuk scam is that it is so easy to fall prey to it, at a moment where you have absolutely no idea where you are!
This is day one…ONE!!!…in Thailand. Coming from a place as quiet as Canada, the traffic and noise of Bangkok were quite overwhelming. HONK HONK HONK everywhere!!! But Bangkok had nothing on me…”I’m from South America and I have seen it all!!!” I told myself to make me feel better prepared.
After many attempts to cross the street and not getting killed by traffic in 30º C, I get to Hualamphong station where I hope to catch a bus to the Grand Palace. But this Tuk-Tuk cuts me off and after my initial “DUDE!!!” and my total confusion was over, the driver offers to take me for 15THB. I remember thinking, “$0.50!!! Score!!!”
After what seemed like the most dangerous ride in the world, almost getting hit by a truck and many burnt red lights, we made it to the palace in one piece. When it came time to pay the driver asked me for 150THB.
“What the hell man??? You said 15!!!“.
He then starts arguing that he said 150 in crear engrish, and all of a sudden 5 other Tuk-Tuk drivers parked nearby start walking towards me. Seeing potential trouble I resignedly gave the driver the 150 Bath and saw him in bewilderment drive away with my money. I remember thinking, “motherfucker!”
There are some days that you shouldn’t get out of bed, and today was that day for me. First I couldn’t make it inside the Grand Palace as I wasn’t wearing “proper attire” (shorts). Once back outside my lack of brilliance makes me pull my ridiculously HUGE map that simply screams “TOURIST!”, and of course suddenly a regular looking guy wearing a suit approaches me and asks if I was looking for a place in particular.
He marks certain areas of interest on my map, and calls over this Tuk-Tuk which was conveniently parked 3 ft. from us. The two guys speak in Thai, and the driver says he will take me to all the points marked on the map. Maybe my luck was starting to turn around I thought.
The driver himself was very nice and tried to make conversation as much as he could. On the way to the first temple he then asks if I liked jewelry (what?). As I answer with a probably non-confident, “not really”, he pulls over to this building and parks. At first I wonder what the hell, not wanting to go inside between not wanting to waste my time and fear of the movie Hostel, but as I see other tourists come out, I decide to humor him and go inside for a minute. 5 minutes later I walk out and off we go to finally see a temple.
While on the way to the second temple the driver asks, “do you wear suits?”.
Seeing him coming a mile away, I’m thinking of a clever way to politely tell him off when all of sudden I hear myself say, “yes, for work”.
I could’ve punched myself right there and then, but while bitching at myself the driver pulls over to what seemed to be a tailor shop. Where we even on the way to see another temple??? I would never know. I asked the driver what this was, and he told me to go take a look inside, where they made “cheap Armani suits, take measure you buy!”
What a freaking day! I told the driver I’d be right out…but to my surprise there were plenty of people taking measurements and purchasing clothes, of course all of them tourists. Without any sense of self-awareness, I start looking at shirts and without realizing it, I have this guy taking measurements of my arms and neck…when did this even start??? What is worst, my cheap side takes over and I start comparing the prices here and the ones at home, and they were so cheap that I decided to go for it and throw in a $50.00 deposit for a full suit, which I’d have to pick up on my last day to Bangkok. Little did I know that I would have so little time between my connecting flights on my last day, that this was the last time I would see those $50.00.
So I leave actually THANKING the driver for having taking me there for such a bargain, and my confidence was fully restored in this guy. We make way for the 3rd and final sight, after which I’m all conversation and good humor (guard completely down). As he’s on his way to drop me off, he asks where I’m going after Bangkok. As I tell him that the plan is to head to Chiang-Mai, he pulls over a tourist office (a very non-official-looking tourist office) so I can ask price. I am greeted by this aggressive salesman, who is already throwing prices my way for different bus routes from Bangkok.
I tell him that I’m only here to humor my driver and that I only want to know the price so I can buy the ticket later. This guy then loses it and throws me out of his office, saying that he “don’t waste time” and to go “ask price yourself!”
On the way back, I can’t contain myself…I needed to know. So finally I ask the driver what that back-and-forth that cost me half my day was all about. Well, drivers get a commission for taking tourists to each of those places, whether in the form of gas coupons or cold hard cash. While I thought that it was more inconvenience than cost for me, I stare at a bag of souvenirs purchased at the first store, and think of the $50.00 deposit at the tailor shop.
On my last day in Bangkok prior to leaving for Chiang-Mai, I decide to take it easy and take a Tuk-Tuk to the zoo. All is fine and well when all of a sudden the driver asks “do you wear suits?”. Knowing very well where this is going, I tell him clearly and somewhat aggressively that I’m NOT interested in visiting a tailor shop. He says, “OK”. As we continue the streets look awfully familiar…this dude was taking me to the tailor again!!! As I tell him I didn’t want to go, he keeps repeating “just one minute, you go in, you buy”. He parks the tuk-tuk and I get off while telling him to, well, play with himself aggressively, and that I wouldn’t pay him…and I see about 5 tuk-tuk drivers (which were parked at the same shop, probably waiting for their victims) coming my way. So I take out a 50 Baht out of my pocket and resignedly hand it to the driver. Motherfucker…