Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Travelogue: A scam!

Coins galore
The air conditioner in the Textile Museum was a welcome relief – till that point we were pretty much roaming in the hot sun. For lunch we opted to play safe – we saw a Subway sandwich shop; the rates were pretty similar to India; only the choices were different – there were no paneer items and no veg. option. Our veggie friend watched us eating and planned to get some fruits from the roadside vendors. It was past noon and this was check-in time; our expert took directions from us and headed to the hotel because there was no way he could have roamed with us for the remainder of the day without sleep.
Our next stop was the Temple of the Reclining Buddha which was within walking distance. Along the way we picked up a water bottle (Nestle is quite popular) - cost about Rs.20. On the way towards the temple there were plenty of roadside shops – displaying their items on the footpath itself or on a table. Most of these were small antique items, stamps, coins, etc. Some customers looked like professionals with the way they examined these tiny items using a magnifying glass that could be fit on one eye. And it was not just one shop selling coins but a row of shops with similar stuff – almost like what we see in India in crowded shopping areas.
The scam           
After ten minutes of walking we crossed a pretty Indian couple – the lady looked a little frustrated. The guy asked us, “Have you gone to Wat Pho?”
“No,” I replied.
“They are saying it is closed today,” the guy said while raising both his arms in dismay. The lady seemed visibly upset.
There were two temples pending on our list: Wat Pho and Wat Arun but I wasn’t sure which one was the one with the reclining Buddha. Just as I was about to speak, a local Thai guy interrupted us saying, “Today Wat Pho close. It is special Buddha day; it comes once in one year and Buddha temples closed.”
The Indian man nodded his head in agreement and disappointment. I was eager to pull the guy aside to warn him but the local fellow was yapping away.
“Don’t go. I take you to another temple,” he said but we didn’t listen to him. The three of us moved on while he kept talking with the Indian couple.
A few minutes later we were at the entrance of Wat Pho – the Temple of the Reclining Buddha and it was open!
This is a very common scam that happens in Thailand – and we had read about it otherwise we might also have returned; unfortunately we couldn’t warn the couple about it. Some guys (maybe Thai or from some neighbouring country), will tell tourists that a particular spot is closed for the day. They will instead offer to take you to some other location. The alternate place might be a gem shop – more on that in another edition. The exact same thing happened earlier in the day before we took the bus for Grand Palace – we enquired for a tuk-tuk (this is the local auto-rickshaw) and the driver said Grand Palace is closed today! 
So beware!

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