AKA How to Avoid Being Scammed on Your One-and-Only Day in Bangkok
We had only one day to spend in the incredible city of Bangkok and almost missed out on it all…
“Sensory overload” is an understatement when describing the city of Bangkok. It is one of those cities that could take weeks to properly explore. Because of our work schedule – having to return to our teaching jobs in Korea for the dreaded “English Winter Camp” – we had just one day. Wow. Looks like we’d have to do Bangkok, blitzkrieg style.
Time was against us. And so was the weather. Bangkok in the winter still means temperatures in the high 90s with the most oppressive humidity. But, determined to see it all, we set out into the polluted steam bath.
The rush to see it all was overwhelming, or maybe it was just the muggy heat. As we made our way to the Grand Palace, we were quickly sidetracked by two spectacular temples that we assumed were the palace. This is a city with so much spectacular architecture that these unbelievably gorgeous buildings didn’t even merit a small dot on our city map.
Soon in the distance we could see a small forest of brightly colored pagodas. We pulled out our map to make sure that somewhere behind this ornate compound, there wasn’t some larger, grander palace. As we confirmed our location, a friendly Thai man began to talk with us. He asked the usual questions about where we were from, how long we were staying, what we wanted to see. We told him we were just heading to the Grand Palace. He looked at us, and said, “Oh, but don’t you know? The palace is closed this morning. It is Lucky Buddha Day!” He looked at our map ,then charted out a path to take us to some of the city’s other treasures. Our companion recommended we go by tuk tuk, a kind of motorized rickshaw, and told us not to pay more than 60 baht ($2) for a ride. “If they try to charge you more, you tell them, ‘I have Thai friend and he tell me not to pay more than 60 baht!'” The previous night, it had cost us 200 baht to get back to the hotel from our restaurant.
Just as the man smiled and walked away, a tuk tuk driver rumbled up to us, like a perfectly choreographed dance. The driver told us again that the Palace was closed, then looked at the route our new Thai friend had marked for us. “For this, I charge you only 60 baht!”
At this point, some alarm bells started going off. Why was he charging us such a reasonable rate, after what we had paid the night before, without even haggling? I was getting uncomfortable with the bit of pressure to get in his rickshaw. And, Lucky Buddha Day? We had celebrated Buddha’s birthday in Seoul in April of the previous year. It was now January. Even with the lunar calendar year, it wouldn’t come around again so soon. I also noted our new Thai “friend” had stopped to stare meaningfully at us. I looked at my boyfriend and could tell he had the same growing distrust. “So,” I told the driver, “we’re just going to go look at the Palace and take some pictures.” We walked off, without any intention of coming back.
As we walked along the palace perimeter, the driver followed us for a bit but finally withdrew. Even as he retreated, the other rickshaw drivers lined up all around the palace shouted at us: “No palace! Is Lucky Buddha Day today!” “Palace is closed! Come to my tuk tuk.” We listened to them all the way up to the Palace entrance and muttered to each other, “Wouldn’t it be hysterical if the palace wasn’t actually closed?”
As we got closer, a random lady in a baseball hat tried to sell us a ticket to the allegedly-closed palace.
With bated breath, we finally reached the entrance and the ticket booth. It was packed with tourists and most decidedly not closed. Looks like it was a Lucky Buddha day for us after all.
Have you fallen for a Lucky Buddha Day scam in your travels? Share your travel stories in the comments section!