I could deal if this were simply a matter of a few (or several, I don’t know) dishonest scum walking this Earth seeking to rid honest trusting people of hard-earned money. I could deal with that. But in Thailand, scams are institutionalized, condoned and encouraged by those in authority.
Let me give you an example. Today I had a brutal transfer from Phang Nga to Chumphon via Surat Thani, as I missed the 9:00 AM direct bus. My own fault, I admit it. But the result was me being tired, hungry, thirsty, and very annoyed at the bumpy ride on the local bus when I arrived in Surat.
If you’ve never been, let me tell you: for a city that boasts itself as the gateway to Kou Samui and Kou Phangan, the bus terminal is pitiful. If anything, it’s just a few orange buses sandwiched between shops; the bigger double deckers have to find a place to park across the main street.
A lady ushered me onto a blue bus supposedly bound for Chumphon:
“Hello! You, Chumphon! Go now!”
Of course, I listened, threw my bags on board, then checked with the driver if this was indeed the right bus. It wasn’t. I did manage to locate the ticket office, and was told the blue bus was the right bus. I was escorted, by a police officer no less, to the same bus and pulled right back off as he realized his mistake.
At this point, I should have just realized it’s impossible to get any kind of decent customer service in Thailand, sucked it up, and stayed in Surat for the night. But I didn’t, as the officer himself told me minibuses would be going to Chumphon, and escorted me across the street, flagging down a tuk-tuk driver.
This was the first red flag, but I was too tired and miserable to argue, something I’m sure the people of Surat take advantage of in fellow travelers. As I said, I wouldn’t mind if it were just a few obviously untrustworthy tuk-tuk drivers trying to scam people. What I mind is the police officer taking me from the official ticket office to one of them and telling me this is the right way to go. The bus driver took me to his tour office, where I was overcharged by 200 Baht for a minibus to Chumphon.
All I had to do was locate the minibus terminal on my own and know the right fare (150 Baht). But I didn’t, because I hadn’t planned on transferring in Surat. As a result, I was scammed by people whose job it should be to instill trust in travelers. Congratulations, Thailand, you did it again.
I’d still recommend visiting the country, but I have to admit I take a little satisfaction out of knowing that somewhere out there, someone is reading this article and others like it and not planning a trip. Because of your incessant attempts to scam travelers out of a few dollars, Thailand, we bloggers are potentially denying you thousands. Well done. How’s that 200 Baht feel now?
As you imagine from my tone, I’m very bitter at the moment. It’s only a matter of time before I just explode at a guy asking me if I want to buy a suit. I haven’t traveled to Vietnam or Egypt, but Thailand has the most aggressive tourist industry I’ve ever encountered in my travels. It just drains you after a while.
Thailand, I hate you for making me hate you. I hate you for being a place where services I should be able to take for granted (this is not a cultural thing, otherwise Thais would be scammed as well) are just opportunities for you to get more Baht out of foreign hands. I hate you for not shutting up and just letting me look at things in shops. I hate you for assuming you know where I’m going and what I’m going to do when I get there. I hate you for thinking all foreigners are sickos who enjoy ping-pong shows and buying women. I hate you for who you are outside of small towns.
It’s not me, it’s you.