Readers' Submissions

Mr. Mouse Meets The Land Of Scams



Stepping off the plane I am quite intimidated by this massive airport with its myriad of corridors and causeways. It seems like only yesterday I was arriving at the same location and it was just a few terminals. Not today though, this mega giant tourist Mecca has become a giant processing center where people from all walks of life filter through, get categorized, and are stamped in. After what feels like forever I come to the other end of the visa line and I am here. My glorious vacation has begun and the welcoming wall of wet hot air reminds me that I am a long way from home.

It is a busy chaotic scene straight out of the Mos Eisley Cantina as creatures of all shapes and sizes bark out 100 different languages scurrying to find the taxi of choice. I make for the taxi that looks the most legit and I am greeted by a man I can barely understand. I rifle through my things to find the note I had carefully written back in my home with just a name and an address.

He tells me in a funny accent “This place no good, I’ll take you someplace better.”

To which I simply reply, “Please take me here!”

The taxi lurches forward. Only 30 minutes on the ground and already busted my first scam. My defenses are on high alert.

On the way to the hotel I reminisce about days gone by when the locals were the friendliest people you ever met. When I would walk down the street or stop to talk to people I was somebody because I was not from here. Now I am just another number; more meat for the machine. Oh how I long for the feeling I got the first trip to this curious country that millions now flock to. Sometimes I feel I would give anything just to step back about 30 years and experience the joy of that first glimpse of paradise. The taxi comes to an abrupt halt and I am at my hotel.

Checking in is inconsequential as is the trip to my room. The prices for these rooms have sky-rocketed up while the quality continues to sky-rocket down. I have to keep reminding myself this is just a stopping point to meet some associates before heading down for the long journey to the real fun.

After a quick shower and a few drinks I decide to try my hand at some of the local nightlife. It will get me loosened up and relaxed. I head out and quickly find a taxi and order him to take me to the nearest hot spot which I had skillfully made sure was not too far away from this temporary domicile. Arriving in the area I have always frequented on my brief stays in this area of the country I realize the quality of the nightlife has definitely changed for the worse. The women lack the luster and exotic charms their mothers and grandmothers did 30 years ago and the nightlife is more manufactured now. I sullenly drink my beers and watch the world go by. At least tomorrow is guaranteed to be better.

I wake up refreshed and early to meet my associates down in the lobby. They arrived early this morning and are chomping at the bit to head out. We have a few first timers in the crowd and I envy their bright eyed view of reality. We jump into a van and begin our trip laughing and joking the whole way. It is not long before our van driver decides he needs some gas (didn’t he think to fill up before we left) so of course we pull into a place meant for tourists. What a coincidence.

It isn’t long before one of my younger associates is being hassled to purchase some tickets to one of the many attractions at our destination. “Good price for you very cheap!” The man advertises proudly. He is not lying though; these are really great prices…if the tickets were real. I calmly explain the counterfeit ticket scam to my young associate. I can see in his eyes a piece of the magic dies as he ponders why someone would want to lie to an innocent tourist. It is better he learn this way than the alternative.

After we finish filling up on petrol we take an unexpected turn from the course I know. We are not heading towards the highway. Instead we are heading towards what appears to be a shopping district. Everywhere we look we see t-shirt stands with little funny sayings to commemorate our trip, “cheap” jewelry, handmade clothing, and assorted bastardized cultural goodies that only a tourist could love. Our driver goes right into his rehearsed monologue about the wonders we are passing by and how he would love to give us a shopping tour of this historic area. Wouldn’t you know it he even knows where to get cheap jewelry. I of course know this scam all too well and skillfully intercept the taxi driver leaping over a seat to emphatically tell him “Highway!” He flinches back at my outburst and just laughs about it all. He is headed back on course now which is the important thing. No cheap tourist trinkets for this crew. We are on a mission!

After what feels like an eternity, there it is. Almost like the sunrise we see our destination appear over the horizon. It is gorgeous and sprawling. It is the reason I always return to this land. I can’t help but smirk at the awe in my young compatriot’s eyes as they sit there with mouths agape staring at the beauty of it all. I even find myself becoming washed over with joy at arriving. Though this town is the scam capital of the world we made it here relatively unscathed.

“Where to begin?” we each say in our own way as we pile out of the van and look around like kids in a candy store. I know the way and take the fearless leader role leading my troops into battle. We head down the main thoroughfare and approach our gateway into happiness. Stopping for a brief moment we take a group picture. It will probably be the last time the entire gang is all together at one time. This place tends to send people into a frenzy and we want to be sure to commemorate our family trip to Disney World in Orlando, Florida before we lose our minds.

I feel a tug at my leg as we stand in line to purchase our tickets. My 10 year old asks me, “Dad, what does Florida Resident Discount mean?” I chuckle to myself and tell my son, “Just try to enjoy it for what it is, it isn’t a perfect place but it can be if you allow it to.” I guess that is the best way to explain double pricing to a 10 year old. It ain’t fair, but it is reality and we have to deal with it if we want to be here.

Over the next two weeks we were millionaires.

“Five dollars for a bottle of water? No problem!”

Epilogue:

I know this site is all about Thailand and SE Asia. I am a Florida native and lived there 20 years before moving on with life. I spent the entire 20 only about 10 miles from Disney World. Many times I read stories of LOS (Land of Scams) and had to chuckle because many times I could easily replace “Pattaya” with “Kissimmee.” I have been to LOS and have seen the scams. Some are the same old stuff any tourist town has and some are uniquely Thai, but scamming tourists is something that happens in every tourist town and is not unique to Thailand. My advice for people to avoid being scammed is this. “If it is too good to be true, it is because it is not true.”

So please don’t denigrate Thai culture or Thailand for having these scams. They are everywhere where you have a popular attraction. I think we as English speakers probably fall for Thai scams more readily then we would American scams because we lack the basic understanding of the language. I would imagine many Asian and South American tourists who lacked a good command of the English language could tell just as many horror stories about Disney World as we do about Thailand minus the pay for pleasure scene of course.

Although I did know a guy who lost $12,000 to a stripper in Orlando in almost an identical way as a Farang would to a bargirl, but that is a different story.

Stickman's thoughts:

You had me, you really had me. Very much enjoyed this submission!