The Grand Palace scam most certainly deserves its own post. It's so elaborate and cheeky, the nerve and low-level these guys sink to is quite something.
But don't let this scam ruin what should be a visit to one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture you'll see in your life…
…So there we were, fully stuffed from breakfast and just about over the fact that my newly arrived friend had been overcharged on a taxi meter by around 750 Baht.
“No worries”, he said, “Onwards and upwards”. We jumped in the taxi and headed over to the Grand Palace, which I was sure would lift his spirits.
We pulled up, jumped out and avoided the immediate onslaught of touts babbling the usual “Where you go” lyrics.
In truth, I had forgotten which way the palace gate was, and ended up walking the long way around. And if it's one thing about Bangkok that immediately lands tourists in front of the scammer radar is not having a clue where they are going.
You become an instant target for scams, like the one I am about to reveal.
We were approached by a few guides along the way, all of whom spoke very good English and seemed like nice guys (ahem). Don’t be fooled I thought, this is tourist Thailand now, not your friendly local shopkeeper in Nakhon Nowhere.
One guy approached us in a very cool manner and said, “The entrance is over there, but you can’t get in now. The Palace not open until 3pm because monk are praying. But you can go to….”
He then proceeded to reel off the name of some other historical landmarks and something about getting a Tuk-Tuk.
I was very skeptical, a little curious…but we kept walking because I just had that feeling…
…On the way to the Palace we were approached by three more Thai guys telling us the Palace was closed. It would have been believable if the story hadn't evolved to “It’s only for Thai people until 3pm. After 3pm you go inside, but now you go to….”.
Even a security (sort of) guard outside the Palace tried to stop us just yards from the door. It was of course all bull****, yet very convincing for the unsuspecting tourists who were falling for it left, right and centre in front of our eyes, and no doubt missing the Palace visit altogether because it really does close at 3.30pm.
Had it not been for the variation between stories, it is very possible that we may have fallen for the scam, particularly because so many people were saying the same thing.
When we finally got inside the Palace and hired our long trousers, I spoke to one of the staff and explained the con that was going on outside. Typically, she laughed and said, “Yes, it’s not true”. “I know that now I'm in here, but you really should do something about it,” I said in a firm voice.
It was at that point my mind cast itself back to a time when two friends had visited last year. I remember them saying to me, “Oh, we missed the Palace because it was closed until 3pm today, but a Tuk-Tuk took us to see some other stuff and a gem shop”.
Wow, I thought, the scam has been going on for some time.
Take care out there folks. And in the meantime, check out these pictures of the Grand Palace while you plan your trip.