5 weeks in Thailand

Thailand-Travelogue  |  Travel time: February / March 2002  |  by Martin O.

Specials: Scams

[Eddie: ] Scams seem to be a problem in every touristic country. Usually one loses a certain amount of money, sometimes more, sometimes less. Of course, a scam should be done in such a way that it works and that the work isn't in vain.
In Thailand scams seem to be very popular, not only for the Thai people, who earn their living with scams, but also for us, because the fun is guaranteed. Of course, one shouldn't approach a scam totally simple-minded (what, again, counts for both parties).

The relevant travel guides provide good information in advance (Beware! DuMont and Baedeker are not qualified for that purpose, they only give a wrong feeling of safety).
Since we are fearless adventurers we can do without these informations and approach the con artists totally unbiassed.

SCAM 1:
The IWillBringYouToAustraliaFor50Cents-WithAVeryShortStopInLosAngeles-AtMyIllBrother'sHouse-BeforeIShowYouSomethingReallyGreatOnAlphaCentauri-InTheConstellationOfLuckyBuddha-ButTheniWillBringYouToAustralia-IfYouWillOnlyHearMeOut-Really!!!-Scam

Our first ride on a tuk-tuk should bring us to Wat Pho, at a distance of about one mile. And, in fact, we get a "REALLY SPECIAL" price: "Unfortunately today is Lucky-Buddah-Day and therefore all temples, especially Wat Pho, are closed" speaks the tuk-tuk driver and in any case wants to bring us somewhere else.
We (as quick-witted as we think we are) now have to get there even more desperately, because suddenly it came to our minds that we absolutely have to meet some friends there. After all we've been in bangkok for more than three hours and know half the city...

One settles amicably on the price of 25 cents for the ride and agrees to first stop at a "SPECIAL" temple and then stop by at the "Export-Center", where our driver needs to pick up some very very important gas vouchers from the government. Of course everything lies en route.
The "SPECIAL" temple turns out to be very "SPECIAL" indeed, because it is closed. "By chance" we meet a nice gentleman in front of the temple, a Thai accountant, who works in London and (Oh Yeah!) a long-term friend of Mr. Schneider in Cologne. What a coincidence, well, it's a small world after all. This guard of the temple and assumed member of the board of some international Sizilian company, is very enthusiastic about us going to the "Government Export Center" with our tuk-tuk driver (who, by the way is waiting on the street). But he doesn't give out the important informations that easily, we really have to ASK for it: " You probably have read the paper, they were all full of it! Yesterday!!!" - Uhhhh, we are totally excited now - "and there was even more about it in the local telvision program!!!" - I catch myself drooling into my shoes - "Today is SPECIAL DAY at the Export Center, it's especially for the tourists. You can buy sapphires there, and in Germany they will be worth twice as much!" - I'm fingering for my wallet - "And with that money you will earn you can get back your money that you spent for your vacations!" - Martin is fingering for his VISA card. Wow, okay, let's get out of here, before all the sapphires are gone.
So we visit that sapphire shop, Martin thinks the diamonds are quite pretty - I've got the same opinion about the salesgirls - and then we are standing in a totally unknown part of the city, having no clue where we are and definitely no sapphires, but still our 25 cents.

And instead of going in to the sapphires and the girls again, we take a taxi to Wat Pho. I'm quite sure that the tuk-tuk driver didn't like us because after the sapphires we weren't interested anymore in his "SPECIAL"-government-promotion-wedding-dress-shop. Whatever.

[Martin: ]
SCAM 2:
The I-trust-you-because-you-look-like-a-good-person-Scam

Visiting our tailor in Bangkok we run into two (supposed) Liberians, Tony and Max, who think that we are so likeable, that they want to transfer 1.2 million US-Dollars to our account, so they can later invest the money in Germany. Sure. We always transfer money to total strangers, who wouldn't?
[Eddie: ] The story is in fact very convincing. It goes like that:
Point 1: In Liberia is war. Emotion: Shock.
Point 2: Tony's dad was owner of a big bank in Liberia. Emotion: Trust.
Point 3: Tony's dad has died recently. Emotion: Sympathy.
At the deathbed, Tony and his cousin Max (isn't that nice, these family bonds?) learned about the money underneath the mansion. And the father wants this money to be transfered to somebody abroad, who will be very important for the democracy, blah blah. And since they have smuggled out the money now, they only have to bring it to Germany, where everything is totally amazing. And they tell us something confusing about a supermarket, they want to open, but at that point I'm not really concentrated anymore. My mind wanders around all these endless possibilities where and with whom I could spend my fabulous wealth.
But for some reason I decide that it wouldn't be nice to rip off the poor Liberians:
[Martin: ] Eddie explains to them, that a German student is not allowed to have more than US$1000 on his account (otherwise the government would ask questions, search rooms, impound computers, etc.). Suddenly the two friendly boys with the millions of cash aren't so enthusiastic about us anymore, and set off to find a new victim.

[Eddie: ] Right after that encounter we have a long conversation with an American, who assumedly has watched us for a while. First I think, it might be the continuation of the scam, something like "SPECIAL government promotion". But this guy had a friend, who had spent a lot of money on the same scam.
The continuation of the scam would be simple: Max and Tony have smuggled the money in a briefcase to Thailand. Therefore they have painted the bills black. Now they need money for chemicals to cleanse the bills. And these chemicals are very expensive. They even have a bunch of black bills with them, enough to convince us. And after we have paid for the cleanser, they are gone. Thank god, we left the story after the previous paragraph...

SCAM 3:
The SCAM_1-and-SCAM_2-are-nothing-compared-to-this-scam -Scam

Since we didn't get neither sapphires nor wedding dresses, and neither didn't get 1.2 million dollars to buy sapphires and wedding dresses, we had to find other sources. And then we met this totally crazy guy, whose name is Bill Gates, and who wants to give US$ 1000 to anybody who leaves an entry in our guestbook. And to us, too!

Here the Tourist Police warns of SCAM 1 and SCAM 2. 
SCAM 3 isn't that problematic.

Here the Tourist Police warns of SCAM 1 and SCAM 2.
SCAM 3 isn't that problematic.

© Martin O., 2002
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The trip
 
Description:
Winter 2002 - we didn't have a good start: after a little accident with a drunken dancer one day before our departure my finger has to get sewed with five stitches. The stitches I gonna have to take out by myself. And although it is clear to us that the risk of malaria is existent in Thailand, ... ... it wasn't maybe clear enough.
Details:
Start of journey: Feb 17, 2002
Duration: 5 weeks
End of journey: Mar 25, 2002
Travelled countries: Thailand
The Author
 
Martin O. is an active author on break-fresh-ground. since 16 years.
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