Sunday, 31 July 2005

Inept scammers

Decided to go for a run today. Asked at the guesthouse where a nearby park was and the one they recommended was a little small so decided to go to Lumpini Park, near where the Muay Thai boxing was the other night. A tuk tuk driver approached and asked me where I wanted to go and after I said where he told me that the park was closed at the moment (???) but it would be open at 3 and because today was a special tax-free government day (he couldn't believe that I didn't know that) he would take me to a couple of wats (temples) and also show me some bargains in the meantime. This was the prelude to the infamous gem scam (look up Lonely Planet for more details) and Bert and Lise who I met yesterday had actually been got by this. I was a bit apprehensive as whilst I knew what was going on I thought there was a chance I could be strong-armed into relieving myself of my dwindling bhat. But he offered a very cheap tour of the city and a promise of taking me to the park at 3 so I decided to go along. After a few temples we came to the Lucky Buddha and he went off to the toilet and I entered. The guy at the entrance told me 5m but I could wait. I went to sit down and a very ugly man with some very beautiful rings told me about the once a year tax-free day and suggested that I should buy some jewellery and sell it when I returned to Australia at a very handsome profit. While I considered this a wastrel of an Englishman approached me and asked me what was going on with the wait for the Lucky Buddha, I didn't know but then he told me that he financed his frequent trips to thailand with jewellery selling. What a coincidence .. I was then told that the buddha wouldn't be available until 3 so I should come back. Next stop was a jewellery shop with some very slimy salesman .. When they realised I wasn't going to buy anything they told me that they were shutting the shop for a coffee break. The driver then told me he was going to take me to a suit shop where they would give him a petrol coupon if I pretended to feign interest for a little while. I was offered a very good deal on said item but as I plan to delay any suit wearing for as long as possible I regretfully declined. Then he took me to the giant buddha (very nice actually), I looked around for a while then returned to find my friendly tuk tuk driver has abandoned me in the middle of Bangkok. Eventually got myself to lumpini park where I did a few laps (possibly the most exhausting run i've ever done ... The heat was insane) before bussing it back to Khao San. Tomorrow off to the Ancient city, Bangkok is amazing but a little calustrophobic.
Ps - last night met a very nice young Canadian with his Korean girlfriend and we had a few drinks bfore she went off for a walk and never came back. Spent 2 hours looking for her before giving up ... She was very nice but methinks she's the type who wanders ... I felt a little sorry for the guy but what ar you going to do.
Well, i've had my first adventure which turned out to be a lot less scay than I thought it would be. The scammers were just going through t he motiions and I had to bite my tongue to stop laughing when they went through their spiel. it seems the tuk tuk drivers get their petrol supplied by the shops and they just want us to stay for a few minutes and pretend to be interested ... Bizarro world but the system seems to work and if anyone is silly enough to think they can become a suave interntational jewel trader from this city then they probably deserve to be parted with their money ... I think there's a saying about that.

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