Friday, March 27, 2009

Now as I recall / We tried a million times

A few years back, on my first adult visit to Bangkok, we were hit by the normal scam merchants...the ones they now warn you about just about everywhere. On our first day we went up river to the Palace / Wat Po compex, as most tourists tend to. We were approached by a guy just off the boat. He was well dressed, charming, and very helpful.

The palace is closed's the King's birthday and you cannot go in.

Back then, there weren't the multitude of signs everywhere warning you about the scams and the seasoned guys who do this as a con. Now they say things like:



But back then we listened, and he drew notations and circles on our maps.

You need to go to the this temple instead, and maybe to this place, where they've got a massive sale on gems. Oh look, here's a Tuktuk...this guy will take you for 10 Baht...

I may be the sort of guy who'll buy a long playing album off anyone who tells me it's a must have instant classic (and yes, I know you own it already, but it's remastered, ok?), but I'm not anyone's random tuktuk passenger, so we declined. The next guy down the road told us it was open but we were inappropriately dressed, the next guy said it was closed after midday, and so on....

The next day a very friendly, slightly overweight woman approached us in Siam Square...closed till 11am said she, flashing her Tourist Police ID.... the sort we were to discover you can buy anywhere in Khao San Rd... and suggested we go in a friendly taxi elsewhere until it opened.

The scam, of course, then develops in one of several directions, many of which involve fake gems or angry salesmen. Some involve doped drinks with removed wallets and passports, and so on.

The Thai police mostly have a policy of warning and then going 'stupid bloody farangs' if you don't pay attention.

I wonder what the near future held for this happy couple, far below the Skytrain concourse we were on near Chit Lom Station last week. This extraordinarily helpful businessman (don't you ask why they're so helpful?) spent the best part of ten minutes drawing on their tourist map, pointing in directions before sending them on their way. By the looks of their 'we're in the tropics now' dress and manner, they'd just arrived on a long saved for holiday after a trip to the city from whichever country town in Australia or New Zealand they lived in (note the very snatchable purse over her shoulders). The grandchildren and the extended family had all seen them off for the big OE.

And what an adventure was in store.


Shortly after leaving Mr. Helpful, the two, no doubt commenting to each other as to their luck in meeting such a decent, and thoroughly generous guy, likely a businessman out for a coffee, happy to assist a couple of Bangkok novices, conveniently bumped into another helpful local (gosh, they're everywhere)-the woman in the photo below:


And oh yes, a little older, and a little chubbier, but it was her....the nice lady from the 'Tourist Police' a few years back, still helping out confused looking tourists. A few minutes after this shot was taken, she hailed a convenient cab, and sent these two on their either, if they're lucky, realising that the gems they bought are rather overpriced bits of glass, or, if they are less fortunate, waking up 24 hours later with empty pockets and maxxed out credit cards.

There was little we could do beyond wave and hope.