The Indian Money Exchanger
There are three facts to life in Thailand…
Fact 1: One of the perils (there are many) of venturing down to the more salubrious bars here in Thailand and to having a girlfriend experience, is that it is inevitable that you will be considered a walking ATM machine and a sucker for the girls that hang around there… that is a given and doesn’t need repeating here.
Fact 2: As a tourist here (especially a green horn one – and yes you are very easy to spot) that you will be targeted as a walking cash cow for the locals, and despite the fact that your exchange rate from back home will give you a warm fuzzy feeling that things are very cheap here, everyone and everything will be lined up trying to get you to part with the lucrative contents of your wallet… this too should also be considered a given and could be a phenomena no matter where you are.
Fact 3: Foreigners who are living here will generally have a daily gripe that we are treated with some form of double pricing from the market sellers, temple entrances and vendors at large. The taxi drivers especially those in the more touristy locations will try to scam something out of you by feigning a broken meter, to taking you on a tour of souvenir shops and to claiming they don’t have the change for your 100 baht note. Mai bpen rai! It’s just one of those quirks of being here and although we sometimes cannot understand how the locals aren’t able to tell the difference between someone who lives and works here to one who is just a green horn straight off the banana boat, we do learn to live with it and just become a little more bare faced in our daily conflabs for getting cheaper prices. But it doesn’t just stop there because Thai’s and all too often, many foreigners who reside here will just about try it on any which way they can.
What follows is a series of submissions that will focus on some of the more memorable conversations and incidents that I have encountered here in the past 18 or so months and my first one will begin with an ‘Indian money lender’ who I encountered a couple of weeks ago.
Near Chidlom (2 weeks a go)
I was merrily walking down the road at my usual brisk pace heading towards Rangnam doing my usual hopping, dodging and weaving through the head in the air Thais as they aimlessly zig-zagged down the path when to my surprise I was stopped abruptly in my tracks by some Indian guy putting his hand on my shoulder and mumbling away at me.
“Brrrrrrup challa walla gup gup ding ding… Money exchange…”
To be honest I didn’t quite know what he said for the first part of the sentence. Well you know how it is with the Indians who always seem to have such a strong accent that you just have to tune your ears in for the first 20 seconds and I only managed to get the latter part of words through the universal Babel fish translator that I keep stuck in my ear as he quickly spoke to me.
Me: “Huh! Money exchange…” [I thought he was a tourist and my inert brain did not tune into the fact that an Indian trying to talk to me in Bangkok was unlikely to be a tourist, so I carried on regardless] “Oh, well I think if you take a walk down there and cross the road, keeping going straight and you will come to Big C on your left and the World Trade Centre on your right. I am not totally certain but I am sure there is one down there somewhere.”
I smile merrily at a job well done and start to turn away when my brain caught up after hearing the following words…
Indian Guy: “Oh! Have a good holiday sir! Brrrrup gup gup ding ding!”
It suddenly dawned on me that he must have been asking me if I wanted a money exchange in the first part of his sentence and that I didn’t quite understand. Now usually I would have just chuckled to myself and walked away, but my mischievous side decided to kick in…
Me: “Oh I’m sorry, I must have misheard you, was you asking me if I wanted some money exchanging?”
Indian Guy: “Brrrrup gup gup ding ding, yes sir that is correct…”
Me: [with a smirk and a twinkle in my eye] “Oh! Alrighty then, show me where it is, no harm in looking at your exchange rates…”
So off we trot, him merrily rubbing his hands, and me smirking like a Cheshire cat.
Indian Guy: “So how long do you stay here sir?”
Me: “Oh you know how it is I’ll be here for a few more days yet…”
We meander on down away from the main street through a few street hawker back alleys and then we come across a tailor shop. He invites me inside and straight away I think ‘uh oh, here we go, I am in for the usual hard sell for a suit by the Indian’ but instead he just leads me to a desk at the back of the shop and there on the wall was a board of exchange rates. He sits himself down and offers me a drink but I decline.
Indian Guy: [All smiles] “So, my friend, where are you from?”
Me: [Stifling down the urge to say Bangkok] “I’m from England”
Indian Guy: “ah cricket, man united, I love England, many of my relatives live there.”
I smile at him encouragingly and nod for him to continue. In the mean time I am thinking, ‘yeah don’t I bloody well know it…’
Indian Guy: “So do you like cricket?”
Me: “Not really, I don’t understand it and it bores me to tears…”
Indian Guy: “Oh. So you are a football fan then… Who do you support?”
Me: [I wanted to say my Thai wife but bit my lip] “oh I don’t really follow football, but I do like Rugby Union…”
Indian Guy: “Oh!”
He looks up at his board and decides that he better just get on with it. He also assumes that as I am English, that naturally I will have some GBP to exchange.
Indian Guy: “As you can see Sir, the rate for the British pound is 64 baht per pound at the moment, how much would you like to change into baht?”
I didn’t really care what the rate was but at 64 baht he was way off the rate which should be nearer 68 to 71 baht per pound.
Me: “oh I dunno, I have about 5,000 on me, that will be fine for my needs here this week”
Indian Guy: [looking up sharply] “What! 5,000 pounds! Brup gup gup ding ding, oh goodness gracious me, I’ll do you a very good rate for that…”
He starts thumping numbers into a calculator.
Me: [smirking] “I’m sure you would, but I meant 5,000 baht”
Indian Guy: [slightly deflated] “oh, well in that case 5000 baht will be 78 pounds worth…”
Me: [Interrupting] “No, no, I think you misunderstand… I’ll change my 5,000 baht for 5,000 baht please. You see my money got damaged in the wash the other day and when you offered to money exchange it for me, well I thought ‘what a great guy, very generous of you’… I also think you will find that the exchange rate should be 100% for baht versus baht.”
The Indian guy stares at me for several minutes. I can see a vein beginning to pulse away on his head, but you know how nice these Indians are, they are always trying to be polite even if they are a little aggressive sometimes.
Indian Guy: “oh I think you got me wrong sir… we only exchange foreign money here…”
Me: “Yes I know, but the Thai baht ‘is’ foreign money to me because I am originally from England… so can you exchange my foreign Thai money then?”
Indian Guy: “brrrup but but ding ding! I’m sorry sir, but I cannot help you… do you have any British pounds or dollars to change?” [He was being ever so hopeful and patient]
Me: “No sorry, I only seem to get paid in Thai baht these days so I only have Thai baht available to exchange…”
I smirk cheekily at him.
Indian Guy: “Oh! You live and work in Thailand?”
Me: [Grinning widely] “Afraid so mucker and that’ll teach you to blindly interrupt me in the street when I am minding my own business…”
The Indian guy loses his patience at this point: “You! You! You! Get out of my shop…”
Me: “Happy too Guvnor!”
And with that all three of me got up and went on my way.
Boy how I had been waiting so long to get one up on those bloody Indian tailors as well…
You've gotta laugh.