Readers' Submissions

How Many Scams Does Thailand Have?

  • Written by Stick
  • August 6th, 2003
  • 6 min read


Anonymous Submission



First trip to Thailand and I was staying in a hotel in Pratunam and normally took the bus down toward Sanam Luang for touristy stuff. Everyday the hotel bellman asked me where I was going and warned me about talking to strangers. One day I got off the bus several stops early by mistake and figured I would just walk the rest of the way to the National Museum. I got a bit lost and was across a major road from the museum with no apparent place to cross so I just kept walking. Another pedestrian (Thai) eventually caught up with me and started a conversation. He told me the National Museum was closed for a Buddhist holiday but the royal barges were open and that is where he was headed. Being sceptical but also wanting to see the royal barges, I agreed to go there instead. Crossing the river and walking for quite a while, he continued to spin a tale which I did not believe but kept me occupied. The tale was that his father dealt in gems and he had to stop and make a pickup for his father. It was on the way and would I mind waiting. We stopped and the scam was on. They tried to appeal to a greed I do not have but being naive, it took me maybe 15-20 minutes to figure out it was a total scam and there was no royal barge tour on the schedule. Amazingly, when I forced my way out, my "friend" was gone. I was somewhere west of the river, did not speak Thai, and not quite sure where I was. I managed to walk back to the museum and, sure enough, it was open. Another scammer at the museum tried the same "I am a student and want to practise my English" intro but I basically told him to eat shit and leave me alone. On a positive note, the museum was huge and quite nice.

I was in Chiang Mai for several months and repeatedly took my clothes to a private laundry near the hotel. The lady seemed nice and did a good job. After several weeks of using the service, I went to pick up my clothes and found that my US made Levis were missing. "must have given them to a trekker who is now gone" was the answer. A friend of the laundry woman took me to a local store, operated by an Indian man. On entering the store, the owner asked me what I needed and I replied "jeans". Quietly he asked my escort "rakah Thai / rakah falang" (this means Thai price or farang priceStick). My escort mumbled "rakah falang" and I proceeded to find some jeans that fit. On asking the price, I was given the foreigner price. I told the owner that the laundry "lost" my pants and that I demanded the Thai price. After several iterations of negotiations, I bought the jeans at 1/2 the original quote. My escort pleaded ignorance and I avoided that laundry. I figured I could find my Levis at the night bazaar if I only knew the right vendor to look at!

Same trip I was in Chiang Mai and one day on leaving the hotel I was stopped by a man with a "hi, how are you?". This nice gentleman acted like he knew me and wanted me to join him for a poker game where he, as a professional dealer, would ensure that I won. Not being a gambler and now understanding that the better English a Thai speaks, the more to beware, I declined the offer. I later read about the same scam in the Lonely Planet guide.

Another trip to Thailand, I stayed one day in Bangkok and then headed for Chiang Mai. I booked a bus at a tour company and left Bangkok. The "stewardess" on the bus constantly looked at me and eyed the Sony Walkman (sow bow) that I was listening to. Eventually the bus stopped and everyone got off. I packed the Walkman in my bag and got off the bus. It was a feeding stop and the next thing I see is the bus pulling away with my bag on board. I was told it would come back (after gassing up) and after eating we all got back on board. I opened my bag and the Walkman was gone. I summoned the stewardess who told me she saw me leave it at the food stop. I asked for further help and was told by the bus driver's assistant that he too saw me leave it at the food stop. I waited until the stewardess was near the front of the bus and I went back to her "nest" in the back of the bus. Her jacket was there so I frisked it and sure enough my Walkman was tucked tightly into an inside pocket. I brought the jacket up to the Thai man sitting next to me and showed him the evidence. He proceeded to ream her out verbally in Thai and everyone on the bus gave her the stink eye. I got my Walkman back and also filed a theft report at the Chiang Mai police station.

Kind of a scam, but also a funny story: my first trip to Thailand I was told by everyone in Bangkok to go to Chiang Mai where it was cooler. I booked a tour bus and set off for Chiang Mai. After several hours, the bus stopped and the bus operators told me to get off. I was told in limited English that that was as far as the ticket I bought was good for. So I get off the bus and as it's pulling away I look a the destination sign at the front of the bus to try and decipher the description to look for on other busses. I remembered Thai script that kind of looked like the English letters "I U B V" and every bus that pulled in and had this script I tried to get aboard. Most were already filled and I was rejected. Finally a monk who spoke English spotted me and helped me out. At that point I committed myself to learning Thai. Thinking back, I think I was stranded in Lampang. Later I learned the script letters I saw were "sala E, chor chang, yor yak, ngor ngu", the "Chiang" in Chiang Mai. I guess I am lucky there were no busses going to Chiang-anything-else or I would have tried to get aboard and gotten further lost.


Stickman says:

It's a shame that there are so many scams in Thailand and it is an even greater shame that the Tourism Authority and the police are not doing enough to stop them. call em a cynic but there does seem to be a prevalent mentality amongst many concerned that the foreigners can afford to lose a little. It is interesting that if the perpetrator of any of the above crimes was a foreigner, he or she would be in deep shit if caught.