Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Bangkok has proven to be a hugely popular destination for tourists and expatriates for many years now. However occasionally people visit Bangkok and find themselves getting a bit more than they had bargained for and not in the positive sense.

Whilst the vast majority of Thais are overwhelmingly friendly and happy, (in fact they are world famous for this) there are of course, as in any country a minority that can and will attempt to take advantage of you. Why would they do so? Well, Thailand is still a developing country and whilst Bangkok is highly developed in many areas it is still a developing country and the mindset of the people occasionally reflects this. Many Thais come to Bangkok from the countryside looking for work and the salaries in Bangkok do not really providea satisfactory level of living, even for qualified individuals. Indeed it is said that even to flip burgers in MacDonald's you need to have been to University, which is often an expense a family can ill afford.

The need for money is also exacerbated slightly by the type of family structure that exists whereby once children become adults it is deemed it is now their turn to repay their parents for looking after them during their childhood by providing them with a good standard of living, namely by giving them money. Caring for their parents is often seen as the number one goal for their lives, being more important than anything else! Often the Thai persons drive to provide for their parents is fiercely overwhelming and can on occasion make them do things they would otherwise not do. Again it must be emphasized this is far from the norm, but does these things do happen.

These factors of course provide impetus for all sorts of different money making activities. A few common methods for unscrupulous people to extract money from foreigners, ranging from simple rip-offs to intricate scams are as follows:

a) Taxi drivers, these can spot a newbie from a mile off, they will gladly take you where you want to go via all the shops that they are given commission at. These are often suit shops, gem shops, massage parlours, gold shops and so on. Also you had better ask for them to switch on the meter or you could end up paying a much higher price than necessary. A aimple rule of thumb, if they refuse to put the meter on, get out of the cab! There will be plenty more. An easy solution to this problem is to walk a block away from the tourist area and you will normally find a taxi driver unused to taking tourists and very happy to turn on the meter (without you asking) and take you wherever you wish, no questions asked.

b) Card scams. At some point you maybe approached by a foreigner seemingly quite incidentally. Maybe you are looking at your map and a friendly stranger offers you help. You may then be asked normal everyday questions such as where you are from. Do not be surprised to hear an answer such as 'Really, my sister is due to go and study there next month.' this will open a lead of conversation to get you to meet their sister. Yes this is a real account reported on numerous occasions. If you are suitabley gullible or willing they will very hospitably lead you to a house somewhere in the suburbs where they may offer you food and drink. The sister will probably not appear but another person may do and so the introduction of card games becomes reality whilst awaiting for the sister to arrive. Whilst the story sounds implausible these people do this for a living and are very slick and excellent confidence tricksters. For a tourist caught off their guard by dis-orientation, fatigue, alcohol, excitement or whatever this can lead to considerable loss of money and dangerous situations. Be warned.

c) Simply not knowing the prices. Do not buy from the first place you see. You may be offered a bag for 1000 baht and whilst you know you are supposed to negotiate a lower price you settle on 600 thinking you have got a bargain, however wander around the corner and you may only be asked for 300 and be able to get this down to 180 baht. A few words of advice, negotiate with a smile and yes whilst you can get the same price as a local, prices in Bangkok are more based on the ability to pay as opposed what the price is. In their eyes you may be a rich foreigner therefore it is only fair that you pay more than a local. Whatever you do though, do it with a smile, it will go a long way!

d) Collecting change. It is common in night clubs in Bangkok for the waiters to be on as little as 3,000-6,000 baht per month (100 pounds sterling or 200 US dollar per month), it is possible for them to just about live on this, however if someone who has had a couple of beers pays for a drink with a thousand baht note and there are a couple of hundred notes missing in the change, don't be surprised! Always check, even ask the name of the person collecting the money beforehand and point out that you are giving them a thousand baht note as opposed to a 100 or 500 baht note at the time of paying.

The above are just a few helpful hints on what to look out for. If you should ever find yourself in trouble the tourist police are used to dealing with these type of complaints in their own inimitable way. Furthermore if you did find yourself losing all your money it is possible for a family member to transfer money overseas to you using a money transfer service, these are quick and simple services that can get you out of trouble fast. Having said all this Thai people are fantastic and you will be very unfortunate indeed to encounter the above situations, so relax and enjoy yourself in the Land of Smiles.

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