On our second day, on our way back from eating lunch at the Nang Leung market place. We were stopped by a man who told Jac he had cool tattoos. This happens a lot in Thailand as we had noticed already. FYI - sometimes they are genuinely interested in them but most of the time, they are trying to get you to buy something from them! This gentlemen seemed genuinely interested so we stopped to talk to him for a while. He started talking about his family in Krabi and then went on to ask who we were, how long we’d been here and what our plans were. Not thinking anything of it, we engaged in the conversation and told him everything (what a pair of suckers!). He went on to tell us that we were lucky as this week was a national holiday in Thailand. The governments idea is to help boost economy, therefore making it free for this week only to export suits and goods back to other countries. He went on to say that Tuk Tuk rides were only 60baht for the whole day because the government pay for their gasoline that week as part of the holiday. So as you may have guessed at this point, we couldn’t believe our luck to come across someone telling us all this - he had us hook, line and sinker!
The man said that you could only get a Thai Tuk Tuk and next thing you know a Thai Tuk Tuk driver pulls up (he pointed at Chinese one first – ‘can’t get a Chinese one’ apparently). He told the driver to take us to the Black Buddha Temple which is only open for tourists twice a year, the Thai Factory where they make suits, Big Buddha, the Grand Palace and anywhere else we wanted to go. Thinking we had an amazing deal for 60Baht, we jumped in!
At the Black Buddha Temple, we met a man on our way round who asked us how we knew that the temple was open today for tourists and if we lived in Bangkok. He had said we were lucky and was surprised we were told about the holiday. He then went on and on and on about going to buy a suit from the Thai factory. He said he had just bought one for his brother and himself that day as a wedding gift. We told him we didn’t actually need a suit as we’re travelling for 2 years… the only suits we’ll be needing is swimsuits! (Woo!). Although, we thought it would be cool to go and check the factory out anyway.
The Thai factory was actually just a shop that sold tailor-made suits… We were a little disappointed when we turned up as we thought it was going to be a huge manufacturing factory. We went in, told them we didn’t actually want to buy a suit and they told us to leave as we were ‘Cheapskate English’. Suit yourselves, ey! (Mind the pun). When we jumped back on the Tuk Tuk, the driver looked pretty moody with us and we couldn’t figure out why! We’re guessing now that it was because someone wasn’t getting their commission that day!
We went on to see the Golden Buddha, which cost 40Baht each to enter and was cool to look around. The driver then asked us where we wanted to go next, we didn’t know as it was only our second day so asked for his suggestion. He suggested the river tour so we said ‘Go for it’.
On getting there, he quoted 2000 Baht for the two of us which is around £45. Our jet-lagged/hungover brains calculated it wrong and thought it was around £20 for the two of us so we went for it. The tour was rubbish, it just featured a load of old houses on the river, and some woman even got dropped off at one of the stops. (We wouldn’t even recommend getting any sort of river tour as you can see most of these sites on a water bus, with the addition of getting a cultural experience and meeting local people – check out our Getting Lost in Bangkok blog where we do just this!)
After dropping off the random woman, we got dropped off at Wat Pho, which is a different location to where we got on! Straight away, we both felt sorry for our poor driver who was never going to be paid for taking us around Bangkok. To top it off, we were made to pay 30Baht to get off the boat we had just paid an extortionate price to get on! Wat Pho was shut so we decided to head home. We tried to flag a tuk tuk driver down, specifically looking for Thai ones, ‘not Chinese’ and were literally shouting to them saying that we knew about the national holiday and they have to take us home for 60Baht (We laugh about this part so much now!). None of them had a clue what we were on about. They all said no and some of them laughed at us!
Feeling very confused at this point, we used google maps to walk home – it was around 40 minutes but at least it was free! We walked through some pretty cool markets so that was a perk! I jumped on the bandwagon and bought a pair of those elephant hippie trousers - comfiest piece of clothing in the world, I can see some serious withdrawal symptoms coming along when I eventually have to put them in the wash!
To add to the hilarity of the story, we went out for dinner and were telling this older couple who’d actually bought a suit that day that they’ll be able to send it home for free!
We couldn’t remember the name of the holiday, so when we got back to the hostel we tried to google it. Low and behold… we came across a blog post on the “National Holiday Tuk Tuk Scam”. We found out that there is no holiday and that the idea of this scam is that Tuk Tuk drivers are in kahootz with the owners of the suit shops. They will tell you it’s a national holiday and that it is free to export a suit home, take you there and gain commission when you buy a suit from the store. We read numerous blog posts and forums about this part of the scam (luckily, we can’t tell you this from our own experience) and many people have sent suits home and ended up having to pay to do so. The Tuk Tuk drivers will ask you for your preferences on where you want to go, therefore not seeming pushy in the slightest. They know you are new to the country, therefore there is a high chance you will ask for a suggestion (This part is actually coming from experience!). Upon arriving at the boat tour, which in hindsight was 100% a water taxi that the scammers flagged down, the Tuk Tuk driver will receive commission for taking you there and leave when you get on the boat. You will be dropped off at a different location and end up having to find another way of getting home.
What we found unbelievable about this scam is the way that so many people were involved. The first gentleman was the instigator, the Tuk Tuk driver made his claims seem even more legit, then the man at the temple confirmed in our eyes that it was all true.
We literally cannot stop laughing about it all now. Whilst feeling a little bit silly with our naivety, we’ve learnt a big lesson and that is… Engage with the locals but keep your guard up, at any point they suggest spending money on something – you may be entering into a scam!
When we're free