Now as I recall / We tried a million times

A few years back, on my first adult vis­it to Bangkok, we were hit by the nor­mal scam mer­chants – the ones they now warn you about just about every­where. On our first day, we went up-riv­er to the Palace/Wat Po com­plex, as most tourists tend to. We were approached by a guy just off the boat. He was well dressed, charm­ing, and very help­ful.

The palace is closed today.… it’s the King’s birth­day and you can­not go in.

Back then, there weren’t the mul­ti­tude of signs every­where warn­ing you about the scams and the sea­soned guys who do this as a con. Now they say things like:

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Indeed.

But back then we lis­tened, and he drew nota­tions and cir­cles on our maps.

You need to go to the this tem­ple instead, and maybe to this place, where they’ve got a mas­sive sale on gems. Oh look, here’s a Tuk­tuk – this guy will take you for 10 Baht…

I may be the sort of guy who’ll buy a long play­ing album off any­one who tells me it’s a must-have instant clas­sic (and yes, I know you own it already, but it’s remas­tered, ok?), but I’m not anyone’s ran­dom tuk­tuk pas­sen­ger, so we declined. The next guy down the road told us it was open but we were inap­pro­pri­ate­ly dressed, the next guy said it was closed after mid­day, and so on.…

The next day a very friend­ly, slight­ly over­weight woman approached us in Siam Square – closed till 11 am said she, flash­ing her Tourist Police ID, the sort we were to dis­cov­er you can buy any­where in Khao San Rd – and sug­gest­ed we go in a friend­ly taxi else­where until it opened.

The scam, of course, then devel­ops in one of sev­er­al direc­tions, many of which involve fake gems or angry sales­men. Some involve doped drinks with removed wal­lets and pass­ports, and so on.

The Thai police most­ly have a pol­i­cy of warn­ing and then going ‘stu­pid bloody farangs’ if you don’t pay atten­tion.

I won­der what the near future held for this hap­py cou­ple, far below the Sky­train con­course we were on near Chit Lom Sta­tion last week. This extra­or­di­nar­i­ly help­ful busi­ness­man (don’t you ask why they’re so help­ful?) spent the best part of ten min­utes draw­ing on their tourist map, point­ing in direc­tions before send­ing them on their way. By the looks of their ‘we’re in the trop­ics now’ dress and man­ner, they’d just arrived on a long saved for hol­i­day after a trip to the city from whichev­er coun­try town in Aus­tralia or New Zealand they lived in (note the very snatch­able purse over her shoul­ders). The grand­chil­dren and the extend­ed fam­i­ly had all seen them off for the big OE.

And what an adven­ture was in store.

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Short­ly after leav­ing Mr. Help­ful, the two, no doubt com­ment­ing to each oth­er as to their luck in meet­ing such a decent, and thor­ough­ly gen­er­ous guy, like­ly a busi­ness­man out for a cof­fee, hap­py to assist a cou­ple of Bangkok novices, con­ve­nient­ly bumped into anoth­er help­ful local (gosh, they’re every­where) – the woman in the pho­to below:

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And oh yes, a lit­tle old­er, and a lit­tle chub­bier, but it was her – the nice lady from the ‘Tourist Police’ a few years back, still help­ing out con­fused look­ing tourists. A few min­utes after this shot was tak­en, she hailed a con­ve­nient cab, and sent these two on their way, to either – if they’re lucky – a) real­is­ing that the gems they bought are rather over­priced bits of glass, or, b) if they are less for­tu­nate, wak­ing up 24 hours lat­er with emp­ty pock­ets and maxxed out cred­it cards.

There was lit­tle we could do beyond wave and hope.

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