There’s something special about Bangkok – not only all the beautiful buddha temples, but also the many tuk tuks, the cute little means of transport which are funny to look at and funny to ride with. What many people might not know about it is the fact that there’s a professional and big mafia network behind it.
You have to know that I’m a little perfectionist and I do a lot of research before making a trip to a certain destination, so I also came across the information about the tuk tuk mafia. I was aware of all their scams and tricks – but in spite of all that, we turned into victims of the tuk tuk mafia in Bangkok.
HOW DID IT ALL BEGIN?
We just finished our visit in the “Wat Pho” and as we exited the temple we did it like 99% of all tourists that visit a city for the first time – we put out a map and searched for our next destination, in our case we wanted to go to “Wat Arun”. Suddenly a man appeared in front of us and asked us where we want to go – and that is basically when your alarm clock should start ringing! We actually never felt at any second that this man wanted us something bad – he was so kind, so likeable and so helpful, at least he seemed like that.
THE 3 SIGNS THAT INDICATE FRAUD
1. WHERE ARE YOU GOING?
That’s the first question a man or lady will ask you on the street if they see you with a map in your hands. The person won’t be a tuk tuk driver, it will be a person that appears like a local who is there by chance and just wants to be helpful.
2. WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
The person will act very interested and ask you questions like which country you are from. Keep on reading to find out why this question plays such an important role in their fraud.
3. THE TEMPLE IS CLOSED!
When you tell the person where you wanna go they will immediately tell you that this attraction is closed and opens only in two hours. He or she will tell you that there are many more nice places you can visit till the other temple will open. Now a tuk tuk driver will join the conversation and they both act as they wouldn’t know each other (but they do). The nice person will negotiate with the tuk tuk driver about the price so that he or she seems even more trustworthy. If you’re as naive as us you will be thankful for all this and enter the tuk tuk.
THE POINT WE GOT SCEPTICAL
The first place our tuk tuk driver stopped was a temple which was very small, unimpressive and abandoned, there were no other people there – except one local man who immediately began talking with us and was as friendly as the other person before. After talking about frivolous things he began talking about a clothing factory which has exclusively open for tourists this week and which has the best quality for the best prices. No, that actually wasn’t yet the point we got sceptical, although I ask myself now afterwards why the hell we didn’t find it weird that a stranger tells us to visit a clothing factory. We trusted our tuk tuk driver and told her (it was a young girl by the way) that she could bring us to the next stop. And the next stop was the clothing factory. I really don’t know why we entered it, we weren’t interested in buying something, but as soon as we were inside the factory (which was only a shop) we realized there’s something completely wrong.
The shop assistant asked us the typical questions (“Where are you from?”) and wanted to sell us dresses, shirts and suits in a slightly obtrusive way. He told us prices that were okay for european standards, but incredibly expensive for thai standards. And now we knew exactly why they kept asking us where we are from – they simply want to know how the standards and average prices in your country are. I’m sure there are people that really buy something, but thank god we didn’t.
WHY THE TUK TUK DRIVERS ARE ALSO VICTIMS
As we made clear that we don’t want to buy anything the shop assistant got slightly mad and suddenly very unfriendly. The only thing I wanted was exit this shop. When we got back to the tuk tuk our driver was very surprised about how short our visit in the “factory” was and she asked us: “Oh, didn’t you buy anything?” We suddenly were totally aware of that this is a criminal network and that we should immediately leave this place. We told our driver that we want to go straight to “Wat Arun” without any other stops between. She seemed very perplexed but said nothing and drove us away. After a few minutes she stopped and asked us if we could do one more stop in a jewellery store. We really didn’t want to go there and as we told her that she started crying and said if we don’t go to the store she won’t get fuel for her tuk tuk. I realized that the tuk tuk drivers are also victims of this ruthless network and I really felt sorry for her, but as we felt extremely uncomfortable we only wanted to go to “Wat Arun” and leave this tuk tuk.
Thank god we arrived there safely without any other problems, but the uncomfortable and strange feeling still lasted for a while.
In the evening I started researching in the internet again and read stories about how many people lost a lot of money and also how some tuk tuk drivers got very angry or even violent.
I personally would never do a tuk tuk tour again. If you still want to do it then please make sure that you tell the driver that he or she should bring you to the destination without any other stops in stores or whatever. Also negotiate the price before you enter the tuk tuk. You shouldn’t pay more than 70 to 100 Baht for two persons.
Be always careful and sceptical if a stranger is very friendly and helpful. We all should believe in the good, but in a big city like Bangkok fraud is unfortunately very common.