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I’m inspired to travel when I hear other people share stories of their adventures. So here’s the next installment of our weekly series where the Million Mile Secrets team shares their travel successes (and failures) with you!
Jason: A few years ago my wife and I visited Thailand on our honeymoon. It was the first big trip we booked together with miles & points.
Southeast Asia is a great place to visit because you can enjoy Big Travel with Small Money beyond just using miles & points to save on airfare and hotels. Everything there is cheap! So I was in deal hunting mode before the plane hit the ground!
We enjoyed our time traveling through Southeast Asia. But we had an interesting experience with a tuk-tuk driver that I want to share. Our story might help you avoid a similar situation!
We Were Lucky to Visit Bangkok During “National Sales Week!”
After getting a good night’s sleep at the Millennium Hilton Bangkok, and grabbing some inexpensive Pad Thai, we were ready for to go shopping. I wanted to see if I could purchase a cheap Thai-Pod at the Pantip Plaza electronics mall.
My wife, Jessica, and I were looking at map trying to figure out the best way to get to the mall when a friendly gentlemen approached us. He made some small talk asking us where we were from, what we did, and where we were going. At the time, I was a teacher. And coincidentally, he was a teacher too!
He gave us some tips on sights to see, which were mostly locations of Buddha statues. And he let us know that we picked the perfect week to visit because there was a national expo going on with great sales! He let us know that we could find better deals if we didn’t go to the mall.
And we found out that tuk-tuks with a certain color license plates were officially certified and would charge us less. So we could get a ride to the deals and tourist sites for only 10 Baht per person (~30 cents each)!
Our new “friend” waived a tuk-tuk over. We got in after our friend negotiated a cheap fare with our driver. Just like that, we were off to see a giant Buddha in our first tuk-tuk ride!
While visiting Buddha sites wasn’t on our original itinerary, we were on vacation and enjoyed the unexpected side trip. Plus, I was excited to visit the national expo.
After the first Buddha site, we stopped at a dinky tailor shop in a random neighborhood. We went inside and talked to the tailor for ~5 minutes. Our conversation consisted of him explaining my options for custom clothing and me telling him that I wasn’t interested. When we left, the tailor appeared angry with the tuk-tuk driver.
It was a strange detour, but we got back on the road and ready to…see another Buddha. This one was a smiling Buddha. At this stop we met another friendly local who talked to us about the Buddha statue. He even mentioned that we were visiting Bangkok at the perfect time because of the national expo and the great sales they were having.
Enough With the Buddha Statues, Let’s Get to the Sales!
During our adventure, my wife and I discussed our good luck with the timing of our trip and the big sales in Thailand. Could it be destiny?
Our next stop was a jewelry shop, where our driver let us know he would get a ticket for a free tank of gas if we purchased something. Why? Because of the national sale!
I know nothing about jewelry and wasn’t interested in learning. So I didn’t buy anything and we were off to our next Buddha!
At our next stop, we spent some time walking around the grounds of a temple looking at Buddha statues. When we were out of sight of our tuk-tuk driver, my wife and I discussed finding a new ride to the electronics mall, but we didn’t really know where we were. Then, our driver found us and waived us down from the other side of the temple. He was very customer service oriented.
I asked our driver about the national expo and was expecting he’d take us to a giant convention center. Instead, he took us to a different tailor. While you can find get great deals on custom tailored suits in Southeast Asia, I wasn’t sure the work would be done before we left the country. And I wasn’t sure I could trust anyone involved in this “deal.”
I said to my wife that there must be a national expo somewhere! Everyone we met kept mentioning it. It would be hard to believe that everyone in Thailand would be involved in tricking tourists.
But before we could make sense of the situation, it was time to visit another Buddha.
After the last Buddha adventure, I was done with the search for the great sale. During our ride, the tuk-tuk driver had suggested different trips we could take around the country. And unfortunately, our last stop wasn’t a large convention center featuring big sales. It was a travel agency. At least it wasn’t another Buddha statue.
At this point, we refused to get out of the tuk-tuk, thanked our driver, and told him to take us to our hotel. He argued for a bit, but at this point “his check out the great sales” charade was over. He took us to the water taxi for our hotel and we paid him 20 Baht (~60 cents).
Scamming the Scammer
The first thing I did when we got back to the hotel was Google the details of our trip. And I found a travel blog post detailing someone else’s experience that was EXACTLY like ours. From the national expo to the friendly strangers at each stop confirming the great timing of our trip. As you’ve probably guessed by now, the driver and his team make money by getting kickbacks from the stores they take unsuspecting tourists to visit.
We felt the sweet kiss of shame that comes with realizing you’ve been had. And we followed that up with what most couples do when they’re embarrassed, we blamed each other for the experience.
Once we came to our senses, we settled on denial as the best method for handling the situation. After all, we totally scammed the scammer for a discounted 4-hour tour of every Buddha in Bangkok for the rock bottom price of 60 cents!
Team member Jason took a wonderful honeymoon trip to Southeast Asia! Even though it’s a cheap place to visit, it’s always good to pay attention for “deals” that are too good to be true.
In Bangok, Jason and his wife were taken on a 4-hour journey to countless Buddha statues and boutique shops by a less than honest tuk-tuk driver and his team. These scammers make money from the kickbacks shop owners pay them if you make a purchase.
Have you ever experienced this type of scam? Let me know in the comments!