Tours & Tuk Tuks with extra stops, Bangkok
By my second day in Bangkok I had not formed a great impression of the Thai people, or rather any of them connected with the tourist industry. I was aware of the scams and had been vigilant but I still got sucked in. I guess they caught me off guard because of my tiredness after a rather long day.
I had been to see the Grand Palace attractions and wanted to go to the Chinatown area and was standing on the sidewalk at a far corner from the main entrance. The "hooker" turned up and started talking to me, he suggested I visit Chinatown, which is where I wanted to go anyway. Being tired it sounded like it'd make life easier for me. He said he could get me there cheaply. He had also suggested a good Buddha statue to visit and mentioned an "expo" with good deals that many tourists visit. He pretended to be just helping you out, a kind of local sharing his knowledge. Then he waved down a taxi, which looked real enough, so I thought, well, maybe it's okay. Before I knew it, I was in a scam.
To my knowledge, there were 4 "actors" involved, not counting staff at the jewellery shop, the final destination of the scam. I call these actors the "hooker," the "driver," the "funneler," and the "primer." It was very elaborate in terms of settings and plot; they had all the angles and details figured out, such as ways to ensure I didn't end up sitting in the front of the taxi next to the driver where I could hurt him.
This taxi is, in fact, driven by someone the hooker knows, although it doesn't seem that way. The front door is opened but the car is parked so that the door hits the curb. Some fuss is made of this, and it presents an excuse to make sure you are seated in the back. Now you are in the hands of the "driver," who takes you to the recommended temple or attraction. It was after I got in and went a little way that it clicked I was in a scam, but I decided to let it play out and see what happens.
Somewhere near the alleged Buddha or temple, the driver parked and waveed me in its supposed direction. As I walked in the direction I was waved, another kind of friendly stranger, who just happens to be there, points you on if you seem lost. This guy is what I call the "funneler," who directs you down a path leading to a clearing where another "scene" is set to take place. I came to a clearing and, just as they planned it, did not see a temple. So I was left looking around, at which point the "primer" appeared--another friendly stranger.
The primer engage me in more small talk "where are you from," etc., the standard opener. His job is to lead the conversation around to the "expo" that the hooker had mentioned earlier, to prime you for when you go there. He'll speak of the great deals and how he shops there. He'll also throw in some familiar expressions and place names to give you the impression that he's well travelled. I threw a few questions at this guy and he wasn't too smart at thinking outside of his script. He tripped up and awkwardly recovered, but I was already aware that he too was part of the scam and its group of actors.
I nodded at his sales pitch until I got a chance to ask directions to the temple. "It's closed," he said. Now that pissed me off. Even though I knew these guys were scamming, I thought I'd at least see the suggested temple. Of course, the idea is not to give you a tour, it's to get you to where they want you to be.
After returning to the driver, he took me to the so-called "expo," which turned out to be an ordinary backstreet shop. The windows were blackened, and I asked the driver whether or not it was actually open. This is when he became really nervy, insisting impatiently that I go inside. That may or may not have been part of the script. At this point, because of his slimy and cagey behavior, I started to feel pretty angry. He was getting a little too rude.
I got out and went to see what was inside. It was empty except for the shop attendants hanging around, and there were women inside who immediately scurried off with guilty looks. All I could see was standard tourist junk jewellery and clothing. I strolled about quickly brushing off staff attempts to engaged me in conversation. There was an atmosphere of intimidation but I think they could sense I wasn't going to take much *** from anyone. I'd had enough of the game by this time, and I told the shop assistant I had no interest in buying anything.
When I got outside I noticed that a mini bus was blocking in the taxi driver. It's driver saw me and moved to let the taxi out. How this fits into the plot I don't know. What was going on there? Was the taxi driver under some obligation? That would fit with his nervy behavior. I walk over to the taxi, seeing the driver vigorously and elaborate pick at his nose hair. I'd seen this disgusting and childish behavior in China when someone is unhappy with a tourist. If you're lucky enough to be treated to one of these spectacles, just be aware that it's all about trying to insult you and get back at you, not about personal hygiene.
I got in the taxi and told the driver to take me further into Chinatown. On the way, he continued to nose-hair pick and I continue to ignore it. I was soon in the main part of Chinatown a couple of blocks away and suggested that he drop me there and then, offering probably more than the fair would have added up to but not much more. He agreed and suddenly became concerned with my welfare in getting out of the taxi. I got out and treated him with politeness, saying thanks with as much sincerity as I could muster, in the hope that it would make him feel like crap.
I wondered if they ever made any money out of this. What they got out of me, the taxi fare split up between all of the "players" amounted to very little even by Thai standards. The driver would have made more had he actual been doing an honest day's work. As for me, I figured the fare was payment for the experience and to see how the whole scam was played out.
Unique Suggestions: Don't talk to any strangers on the street no matter how friendly they may seem. Move away from them and stick to your original plan. Even if you are weary from sightseeing, don't accept any help or it could be a time wasting scam.
Fun Alternatives: I certainly wouldn't bother going back to the Thai mainland in a hurry. The big question in my mind while I was there was, What happened to the famous Thai smile? The only time I got genuine friendliness and a genuine smile was from young women or girls working in shops or restaurants. Otherwise, a smile was generally absent unless there was money on offer. The Thai males, except for a few exceptions, were a jaded lot and sometimes openly rude without cause.
An alternative? Maybe visit a Thai island and relax on a beach. Skip Bangkok all together!
All Tours whether private tours, small group and big bus tours of Bangkok go to the Gems Gallery International, but some Bangkok Tours also go by the Dusit Leather Company (only once did I was brought to this store but everytime I do bangkok tours, I was always brought to the Gems Gallery International.
This Leather Goods Store lies in a quiet area of the Dusit District Of Bangkok and you would see many big tour buses parked at the street outside this store. they sell assorted thai leather items ranging from leather wallets, leather messenger bags, leather travelling bags, purses, belts, ladies bags and a range of other leather knick knacks and are made from various animal leathers like cowhide, snakeskin, crocodile skin, stingray tails and more.
The prices here are on the high side but you can get 10% off prices as they give you free discount vouchers before you enter. Why did I place it on the tourist trap tips? well I don;t like going to many unscheduled stops as it eats the time you do for your tour activities.
address: 321/1 Ratchasima Khwang Dusit Khet Dusit Bangkok 10300
Working hour :
Open Daily 09:00-17:00
Unique Suggestions: you can just enter and make the obligatory look through the shop and then leave immediately. you can buy real leather items in other areas of Bangkok at Cheaper Prices (if you know how to look for genuine leather).
Fun Alternatives: again, just go inside and then look around for a minute and go out the exit door.
Even though I read all about it here on VT, I still ended up on a tuktuk tour. Basically we happened to be in Bangkok on a public holiday and because of this, when we were told the Grand Palace was closed, we had no reason to disbelieve (see my other Tourist Trap tips for more details). A random Thai man flagged down a tuktuk for us who said he'd take us on a tour of various cool places (the Marble Palace etc). Of course, along with the pretty palaces comes the silk and gem shops.
Unique Suggestions: Luckily for us, our tuktuk driver was very honest. He simply told us if we spent five minutes browsing then he would get his petrol voucher from the shop owner and we didn't have to buy anything. At our second stop we were told that we didn't spend long enough browsing so the tuktuk driver didn't get his petrol voucher. Our "punishment" for that was to be taken to a third shop. We could have hopped off the tuktuk but we had no idea where we were (some dodgy backstreet) but the third shop was the final and we did get to see things we wouldn't have otherwise seen (the palaces not the shops) so we just went along with it. When we eventually got to the Grand Palace we paid our driver 100 baht and he went on his way. No harm done.
Fun Alternatives: The alternative would be to go via taxi but if you do that make sure you negotiate a fare beforehand!
A tuk tuk driver will quote you 10 bahy for a trip somewhere, but will then stop at a tailor and a jeweller on the way. They get petrol vouchers for dropping tourists at these places
Unique Suggestions: If you use a tuk tuk, the way you go about it is to ask the price, but WITH NO STOPS. If this is the price they give you, they will take you right there with no problems, and it is a lot of fun. The price is also for the tuk tuk, and not per person, so ask in full, then you have no hassels, eg. " what is the price for the 2 of us to MBK, no stops"....The price you are then quoted has no Hidden agendas
Most of us Expats who have lived in BKK for a while don't use tuk tuks. Noisy, drivers are a _ _ holes, more expensive than taxis and you can't see out of them. However if you're new in town and are killing town take a 10 baht ride. visit the tailors, gem dealers and just have fun with them. Tell them all you'll be back tomorrow. You can see the city for 10 baht.
Unique Suggestions: give 'em the ooohhh ahhh, and shine 'em on. Promise you'll be back tomorrow.
Whenever you take a taxi from Bangkok, the first thing you will hear is that there is too much traffic and they either do not want to go or will quote an unearthly price. If the driver agrees on a lower price he will tell you in advance to spend about 10 -15 mins in a particular shop as he will get money for gasoline if you go there. Things are fine till then, but what happened with us for a step further. We asked the driver about places to shop and he offered to take us to Siolim instead of back to our hotel as according to him there will be a lot of traffic and siolim is a big market and we will get whatever we want there. We can shop there and then leave after peak hours for our hotel so that we will avoid traffic.
Well, we did end up in Siolim and he took us to one shop which was exorbitant and we ended up buying nothing and spending another 100 baht and half an hour trying to get a taxi to take us to our hotel.
Unique Suggestions: Never ask the taxi driver for a good place to shop
Even if he says good idea etc. dont listen to him and change your plan, stick to it
Fun Alternatives: If you are lucky, you might just end up at a fun place also!
A tour which has optional extras that you don't take - can have you left stranded at the side of the road.
My husband was dead keen to visit the Tiger Temple, near Kanchanaburi - and we found it relatively difficult to find a tour which went there. Thought we had jackpotted somewhat when we found one that encompassed River Kwai and tain ride plus tigers. However, we did not know that there were additional things which were juggled from the same vehicle. We were left at the side of the road near a swimming spot while others went off for elephant rides - and left there for over 90 minutes. Other stops and collections later, we were dropped off at the tigers. The day was much longer than needed.
Unique Suggestions: Just check all of the options on the tour, and check how the itinerary is arranged around the various choices.
These are a have to have 1 ride thing, but beware they are a trap.
They will tell you many things to get you to tailors, shops where they receive commission.
Unique Suggestions: Negoiate a price before the ride, and insist, straight there and straight back, no where else.
Some Tuk Tuk drivers are genuinely helpful, fairminded people. They are the exceptions to the rule, and the rule is that most Tuk Tuk drivers are out to get you. Tuk Tuks are not just a disproportionately expensive form of transport, they are a means of conveying you (often against your will) to a whole range of rip-off suppliers, including massively-overpriced seafood restaurants, fake jewellry shops and massage parlours. By all means take a short Tuk Tuk ride, just for the experience, and agree the price before the wheels start to move. But be warned, Tuk Tuks are always more expensive than regular Taxis and they are out to take you for a ride, one way or another!
Unique Suggestions: Everyone likes to try something new and Tuk Tuks can be fun. But never even get into a Tuk Tuk without first fixing a price that is acceptable to you. And be sure that the driver knows that you know precisely where you want to go.
Secondly, be advised that many of the drivers are on amphetamines, it's the only way that some of them can keep going, work long hours and support their families. Look into the eyes of the driver and you will know if he's high or not.
Fun Alternatives: Unlike Tuk Tuks, taxis have metres. Sure, even with a metred taxi you can still be taken for a ride. But usually they are pretty good and take you the most direct route to where you want to go. And knowing where you want to go is the key. Be sure to refer to your map, or get your hotel to write in Thai language where you are going.
If your offered a tuk-tuk for under 20Baht to anywhere in the city its usually a scam. You'll end up at some silk or diamond shop, placed under pressure to buy something.
Normal fares are around 50-70B for Tuk-Tuks, don't be too GREEDY!!! remember its only pennies for us!
Unique Suggestions: Agree a price higher
or say to the tuk-tuk driver
Fun Alternatives: wave down a tuk tuk
1. Tuk Tuk driver quotes some ridiculous price
2. Agrees reluctuntaly to a more reasonable fare...
3.`Ah- today the Grand Palce and Wat Arun are closed- theres a ceremony that the King will attend'
4-Sujjestion- `let me take u to an alternate place- a gem store, sitting buddha, sleeping buddha, marble buddha, old buddha, young buddah'........... ooof
5- Me - `No way - just take me to those places i asked for. After much debate- he says this to me frankly- `come with me to the gem store, they give me 5 litres of fuel for every customer i bring' i didnt have to buy anything he also added...
6- First instinct- no!! Then perhaps it was curiousity, or just the frank talk, or maybe some kind of a journalist curiousity- i said ok.
7- Job done- he is waiting outside- smiling.
8- At the Palace, theres another man waiting to pounce and tell me the very same stuff, Palace closed etc- go here instead- i walk on
9- Soon, another guy - same thing.
10- I decide to take a Tuk Tuk to the ferry terminal to try and get a ride, plus Wat Arun is on the other side.
11- Ride complete- anothet man finds me- same dialogues. I take a Tuk Tuk again- to the Palace.
12- Before i know it- Tuk tuk driver is taking me someplace else- `sitting buddha' he says- then u will be back in time for palace opening- takes me some place- nothing there!! I ask him qeustions- his english speaking abilities have suddenly diminished- i threaten- he drops me to some place...
13- Reach the Palace- its open- had been open all day... 3 hours wasted- doing pretty much nothing!
14- People tell me thats a common thing- a well known scam to Bangkok people... hmmm
We hired a local tour guide to show us the important Buddhas and temples, etc. To show us the best of the city in 4 hours. Afterwards, she kept pushing us to see the Tailor, go the the gem store, etc. Since we were short on time, we had opted not to go to the tailor as orignally indicated. Everytime we changed our minds of where we were going, she kept making phone calls. (Telling them that we were/were not coming).
Apparently, the tailor is a really good deal where you can get custom suits in less than 24 hours. And she takes a cut of the price. She was selling HARD, but finally gave in re the tailor. Then there was the GEM store.
Upon arrival, they shove you in a little room to watch a poorly made video about gems in the region. We thought there subliminal messages embedded. Anyway, when you get to the buying floor, the sales people are shoving gems down your throat. The prices were very high (I live in LA and get get anything for cheaper at the jewelry district here). If I told her the pearls were too small and that I had pearls that size, she would puch the black pearls. I told her I had a pink sapphire, so she started pushing the blue sapphire. This went on and on....
So then we want to see some fake bags and watches. More phone calls. When we arrive at this secret location, the guide asks how I like the bag she is holding. She chats with the sales girl and leaves. Pays here no money for the bag. The scam is that whatever she takes, I end up paying for it when I buy my bags. They add her tab to my final bill.
Unique Suggestions: Don't tell anyone you are a newlywed. They dont understand that you spent tons of cash getting married and getting there. They think you have ENDLESS amounts of money and that your new husband will buy you anything bc you are just married.
Fun Alternatives: On your way back from Bangkok, stop in LA and hit the jewelry mart DT. Better prices and non agressive salespeople.
First time visitors to the Grand Palace will be filled with awed until some license guide will approach you and say that in order to get around the Grand Palace ..."you need a guide."
You can rent a "self audio tape recorder guide.
Unique Suggestions: If you really need extensive explanation of the Grand Palace, you may need a guide.
HOWEVER, you can rent a "self-audio tape recorder guide" for free adjacent to the ticketing counter.
Just provide your credit card details (as a securitiy for the recorder) and off you go ....on your self guide of the Grand Palace.
Its fun in a way coz you can re"start" the sections if its going too fast for you
I don't know whether this should be regarded as a tourist trap. First we supposed to go floating market in the morning. This tour is supposed to cost 850baht including afternoon rose garden. However, the tour guide will say that there is a lot of time in between and will take us to elephant ride and snake farm for 700baht extra. Actually, there is a tour inside the agency which cost 950baht total for all this (A 600baht extra per person!!!). It is hard to say no since the whole group seemed to be ignorant of the matter and all agree to go.
Tuk Tuks have been pretty well documented here but to summerise, Tuk Tuks should only be used if you have nothing better to do with your time and you really don't care where you go (this means places like talors shops or the Tourist Autharity of Thailand where pressure will be put on you to do business) and even if you dont get to your primary destination. They are not a legitmate form of transport like a taxi, their one and only purpose is to get tourists into places that will pay them commissions in return. I offered to pay my Tuk Tuk driver the commissions he would have been given from the shopkeepers if he would take me straight to the tourist attraction and avoid the commission places and strangely he refused, he wouldn't even negotiate, shortly after i paid him the price we agreed on at the start and got out and got in a taxi. Drivng away in the taxi i felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, no heated arguments about where to go, no more feeling like I was hijacked by the Tuk Tuk with no control over my destiny. It's up to the individual whether or not to use a Tuk Tuk, and some people may enjoy it but I personally could not do it again and could only discourage other people from riding in a Tuk Tuk. My experience left me really angry and feeling like I had been had, and the time wasted going to the commission paying places ran me out of time to see the things I had origionally planned on seeing.
Fun Alternatives: Alternative transport would be the Skytrain, Buses, Subway or Taxi. Taxi drivers can vary a bit to, some are very dishonest while others are excellent, make sure you reward the good ones with a tip.