I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty smart person. I have three college degrees from accredited US institutions and led Soldiers as an officer in the United States Army. I always thought that I would be immune from the two-bit tourist scams that would be thrown at me whenever I travelled abroad. Unfortunately, I was ill prepared to deal with what I would face in Thailand.
To my detriment, I rarely do research before I travel to a country. Outside of the fact that I have borderline ADHD, I think going into a country knowing little about it not only lowers expectations but increases the excitement level. Had I done the appropriate research, I would have known Thailand was filled with sharks waiting to separate you from your hard-earned money. At the time of my trip, I was moving from Honolulu. I had decided to travel throughout the Indo China region of Southeast Asia while I waited for my stuff to be shipped across the Pacific Ocean. My first stop would be Thailand, specifically flying into Bangkok. My flight from Honolulu to Bangkok via Taiwan would take more than 16 hours. Despite the long flight and resulting jet lag, when I arrived into Bangkok at 1 PM, I was filled with adrenaline and not ready to settle down in my hotel room. I arrived at my hotel, Bangkok Centre Hotel, and checked into my room. After taking a quick shower, I decided that I wanted to at least walk around the immediate area and see what restaurants were around for dinner. As soon as I walked out of the hotel, I was approached by an elderly Thai gentleman who happened to speak perfect English. He asked me what sort of activities I was looking for. After declining his offer to provide me with local escorts, he showed me a book that had a map of all the temples in the immediate area, including the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. Intrigued, I asked for more information. He told me that for 350 Thai Baht ($7 USD) he could take me to a highly recommended tour place that would allow me to “see” all the temples from a Khlong boat. I accepted his offer and got in his “cab”, after literally driving in circles for 20 minutes we ended up at a dock. I got out the cab and he pointed to the pier. As soon as I started walking, he drove off.
I got to the pier where there was a family. I talked to the father, who spoke little English, and he informed me that his “company” provides tours to all the temples for $1500 Thai Baht ($46 USD). I ended up negotiating down to $1200 Thai Baht ($37 USD), which at the time I thought was a great deal. I got in the Khlong boat and realized I was the only customer. It was me, a young boy, and his grandmother. As we were going down the canal, I noticed we weren’t actually stopping at the temples. I asked the grandmother when we would be doing so, and she responded in broken English “you pay to see temples not go”. Unfortunately, I was on a boat in the middle of a canal when I realized I had been played. Less than two hours from arriving in Thailand, I had been swindled out of $50 USD. There was nothing I could do but to request to be dropped off at the closest temple (which happened to be Wat Pho). To make things worse, as I was walking up to the temple I noticed that the it actually cost $120 Thai Baht ($4 USD) to do the exact same tour that I just pay $1200 Thai Baht ($37 USD) for.
Losing the money wasn’t what upset me, because at the time, I had plenty of it to spend. It was the fact that I let myself be put in a position to be scammed. Fortunately, this experience has taught me to be more cognizant the motivations behind the people I interact with abroad. Regrettably, this has also caused me to be colder when dealing with the local population. I made the mistake of trying to do to much with too little rest. Had I been well rested, I would have probably seen the signs prior to getting on the boat. Another mistake is that I didn’t look up the exchange rate and the cost of similar activities. There is no way I would have paid the guy $1200 Thai Baht ($37 USD) if I had known that the actual tour cost $120 Thai Baht ($4 USD). Traveling is also about learning from your mistakes, and unfortunately, this was a costly mistake.