Too good to be true

One would say that after more than 4 months of travelling, nothing can go wrong anymore: diarrhea should belong to the past, ordering food without understanding a character on a menu should become “normal” and ripoffs shouldn’t happen to us anymore. Well, the truth is different! Or lets say that “in Bangkok the truth is different”. ;-)

On our way to the “Bangkok Royal Palace” suddenly a guy stopped to speak to us: “Hello where are you from?” after telling him he said the next “standard phrases”: “How long have you been in Thailand?” and “How long are you planning on staying?”. We are used to these phrases as typical “I-want-to-rip-you-off-phrases” so our sensors turned orange on “alert”, but all of this turned out to be false alarms, because the guy was just a friendly passer-by who happily informed us that the Royal Palace was closed this morning because of some royal ceremony (very nice of him to tell us, we would have walked all the way for nothing), but he recommended us some interesting monasteries to visit and even organized us a “tuk-tuk” (a typical Thai vehicle like an auto-rickshaw) for a really good price to drive us around to all those sites! How nice! :-)

So we visited two temples and before heading to a third one, the driver proposed us to visit a “jewellery-exposition” he happened to know of. We really didn’t feel like this, but then we thought “Why not? We don’t have to buy anything…” (although we both know perfectly well by now that in this kind of situations normally 20 salesmen literally jump on you and it is very hard to say “no” as they are all working on a commission, so they have to sell…) so we agreed with the driver to take us there. He was kind though and first made us visit another temple telling us “to take our time” with his world-famous “Thai smile”.

While in the monastery, we don’t know if it was the silence or the spiritual atmosphere around us, but all of a sudden it all came to Jean-Christophe like a revelation that “it was too good to be true”. The whole thing! The “friendly” guy in the street, the “tuk-tuk”-driver who happened to drive by just when we needed him saying “yes” to our price-proposal a little too quickly, the fact that this same driver wanted to bring us to a jewellery-exposition he “happened to hear of”: it all seemed to fit perfectly! Quickly we got out our guidebook and there it was written: “Rule number 1: Never talk to strangers! The only strangers talking to you are the ones after your wallet. Especially beware of well-dressed ones that look like businessmen, but aren’t busy enough to be working elsewhere (effectively our “friendly” man had been very well dressed). Rule number 2: If you do talk to strangers have your alarms turning bright red and blinking when he tells you the following things: The place you want to go to happens to be closed (ihihihi, got it?? :-) ) but “he recommends you to visit some other sites he knows”. Rule number 3: Tuk-tuk drivers are the biggest “cheaters” around town. Beware especially of tuk-tuk drivers who take you on a tour around town. They will probably try to get you into some department store they “happen to know of” where they get a commission for every tourist they bring in (and hence you pay for that to make up for the “cheap tuk-tuk-ride” by buying overpriced articles). ”

Great! It looked as if we had fallen into tourist-scam number one! We, who have been travelling for more than 4 months now! Trapped in a beginners-scam! :-) Luckily we could laugh about it and we decided to play the game a bit, just to see how far it would go.
And far it went! When we got out of the temple, the tuk-tuk had been parked elsewhere, in a shadowy spot and he told us to wait while he had to go to the toilet. Next to the tuk-tuk a guy was sitting, speaking importantly into his phone. When he hung up he started to speak to us asking us the standard questions we introduced above. When we asked him if he was on holiday (he looked like the typical tourist, dressed in “light” clothes with sandals and seemingly relaxed) he told us that “he was on business” (dressed like that???). He turned out to be French and returned to Thailand every year. And then he told us the “juiciest” story we have ever heard (but one has to admit it’s a good one! :-) ): He returned to Thailand every year to buy jewellery, that he would then sell in France for double the price, in Paris, at the Place Vendome! It would work especially well because once a year, for one week only, the Thai government would take off all taxes for foreigners buying jewellery. And he recommended us highly to take advantage of that because (yeah you already guessed it) this was that exact week (how lucky we are!! ;-) )! And he had been buying some jewellery yesterday (he showed us the receipt) and a flight ticket of course, because now that he had the jewellery, he was sure to do good business in France, so his plain ticket was “for free”. :-) He said this business had really changed his life!

We thanked him for his good advice, getting back into the tuk-tuk, forcing ourselves to stay serious until we were out of view of the French “businessman” (who had told us just before leaving that his tuk-tuk had left him waiting, while he went to get some gas…) before we laughed out loud! It was all too beautiful! What an art! One cannot deny that this theater-play was definitely a master play! :-)

Corrupt tuk-tuk driver ;-)

On the way back in our tuk-tuk

The story ended very simple: we went into the store, many salesmen jumped on us, trying to sell us overpriced jewellery (and ugly ones, ugh!), but we managed to get out fairly soon where our driver was already waiting for us, expectation in his face when he asked “Did you buy something?”. When our answer was no, he tried to get us to another store, selling clothes apparently, but when we told him firmly that we wanted to go back, his face took a grim expression and in no-time he drove us back to our hotel, forgetting that he promised us another temple before we visited the store (but we figured it wiser not to ask for that anymore ;-) ).

Lesson learned for us in several aspects:

  1. Indeed listen to our mothers’ lesson: Never talk to strangers! ;-)
  2. Thai are very good theatre players. ;-)
  3. In Thailand anything worth doing should have an element of “sanuk”, the Thai word for”fun”. This doesn’t mean the Thai don’t work, it just means that they approach tasks with a sense of playfulness which makes them less boring or painful. We consider ourselves actually quite happy having had the chance to “experience” sanuk on our first day in Bangkok. Because we had a good laugh about it and a smile on our face for the rest of the day thinking about it. :-)

Vera & Jean-Christophe


  1. mamma
    Posted December 17, 2007 at 21:28 | Permalink

    Vous mettez ma faible connaissance de l’anglais à rude épreuve, mes chers enfants. Mais je suis prête à tous les sacrifices pour pouvoir vous lire :-)

  2. Posted December 19, 2007 at 20:15 | Permalink

    Hallo Vera en Jean Christophe,
    Geniet van Bangkok en Thailand. Bangkok is zeer indrukwekkend, boedda’s, slapende, staande, zittende, hangende etc. Als je de kans hebben moeten jullie naar de drijvende markt gaan in Damnoen Saduak. Forget to visit Kanchanaburi, the Bridge over the river Kwai (Kwae Yai-river), it’s a waste of your time.
    But we enjoyed travelling to the North of Thailand, Golden triangle (sop ruak) and the Mekong delta and the city Chiang rai and Chiang Mai
    Best wishes
    Giel en Paul

  3. Posted December 21, 2007 at 19:57 | Permalink

    I normally don’t ask anything, but this is gnawing me…

    Was the Royal Palace really closed after all?

  4. Posted December 22, 2007 at 0:17 | Permalink

    Funny story, it really seems that Thai are good theatre players, lol. But what you made with this story is even better. Laughing about these actors and about yourselve too.

    It’s good that Jean-Christophe has Vera with him and it’s good that Vera has Jean-Christophe with her.

    Merry Christmas to you both and to all people all over the world!

  5. Vera
    Posted December 22, 2007 at 15:58 | Permalink

    @Joao: No, it was open of course! We just walked with each of our 4 big feet into a major tourist-scam! Hihihi! :-) But it least we had a funny story to tell afterwards! ;-)

  6. Posted December 24, 2007 at 15:19 | Permalink

    Hallo Vera en JC,

    Een prachtig verhaal, maar zo zie je maar weer, geloven is goed maar>>>>>

    Nu jullie in Bankok zijn, hebben jullie nog genoeg te doen en te zien (zie commentaar van Giel, maar ga vooral jullie eigen weg.

    Het is nu kerstavond en wij wensen jullie van harte mooie dagen en een mooie jaarwisseling met veel vuurwerk.

    Carla en Fon.

  7. Posted December 24, 2007 at 16:40 | Permalink

    Quelle expérience! Et quels changements après ces quelques semaines passées dans les montagnes et au milieu de personnes sincères! Je pense que vous en découvrirez d’autres à nouveau et je vous le souhaite.
    Le retour à la “civilisation” peut être un peu dur, mais c’est la réalité. Passez un excellent Noël! Bisous à tous les deux, on pense bien à vous, Jean-Daniel, Mireille et Loïc.

  8. Jean-Christophe
    Posted December 26, 2007 at 8:03 | Permalink

    @Jean-Daniel : Mis a part ce genre d’aventure, tellement theatrale qu’on en a bien rit, le retour a la civilisation est agreable. D’apres notre guide les Thailandais sont tres souriant, et cela semble vrai. Les gens sont agreables ici et nous profitons d’un pays qui a beaucoup a partager. Bisous a vous trois.

  9. Posted December 26, 2007 at 13:37 | Permalink

    Hey Vera en J.C. Toch maar ff reageren op het opgevoerde toneelstukje in Bangkok. Ongelooflijk verhaal zeg! Lijkt me wel lachen(als je het ‘spel’ doorziet). Ik zou er met er ongetwijfeld met open ogen ingetuind zijn, maar ja ik heb dan ook nooit naar mijn moeder geluisterd: ik praatte altijd met vreemden(die waren het meest interessant,hahahahaha). Nou vanaf nu weer regelmatig commentaar op jullie belevenissen. Een spetterende jaarwisseling en veeeeel plezier tijdens jullie worldtrip in 2008!!

  10. Posted December 28, 2007 at 17:23 | Permalink

    terrible! et ils donnent des cours de théâtre? ;-)

  11. Franz
    Posted December 29, 2007 at 21:47 | Permalink

    Weel done guys! I can not believe it: I was in Thailand between October and November and I also met those friendly people. No way the Royal Palace is closed!!!! :-))
    Well, good you took yourselves out of that. It was a funny experience in the end.
    I do not know where you are now, but if you are still in Thailand, check these out (the highlights of the trip)
    Great tour of the Kaho Yai NP. Lot of wild animals
    One day cooking course. Excellent.

  12. Posted December 30, 2007 at 18:28 | Permalink

    bentornati alla realta’ !!!
    bellissima storia , cosa vi avevo detto dei thailandesi ??? ma consolatevi , non avete visto i marocchini , o si ??
    approfitto per augurarvi un bellissimo 2008
    dove sarete ?? cosa farete ?? cosa vedrete ??? sono curiosissimooooooooo !!!! Rossano


  13. Posted January 1, 2008 at 9:52 | Permalink

    No, non ancora. Ma i thailandesi fanno un grande e bello cinema, era divertente alla fine ;-)
    Siamo stati in Chiang Mai per il cappo d’anno. Abbiamo mangiati in un buonissimo thailandeso/italiano ristorante e siamo usciti sulle strade e piazze della citta per fare la fiesta con i thailandesi. Era molto simpatico e divertente. Specialmente con lore “fuoco d’artifici”: sorto di ballone di aria calda che fanno constellazioni nel cielo! E voi, che avete fatto?