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Posts Tagged ‘Wat Indrawiharn’

Bangkok infamous Grand Palace tuk-tuk Gem Scam

January 29th, 2010

The previous post, Places to visit and things to do in Bangkok – Part 2 mentioned about Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew.

The photos taken was actually the second trip to Grand Palace.

During the first trip, it was intercepted and I was diverted to somewhere else. Participated in Ocean’s 11 5.

One fine early morning, I walked to the Grand Palace and it appeared to be closed.

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Although my sixth sense told me I probably went to the wrong side and that the entrance should be somewhere else, a fine young man passed by and politely asked if I was visiting the Grand Palace and if I’m a Thai.

He said that usually the palace is open for visit from 8.30am but on that particular day, there was a ceremony and only Thai people are allowed to enter. I should come back at 12pm.

At the meantime, he recommended a few places nearby which are Standing Buddha temple, Sitting Buddha temple and a wholesale factory.

He also informed me that the Thai Tourism is running promotion for tourists, and Tuk-Tuk gets free gasoline from the government to bring tourists around at a mere 20 baht per hour!

He easily flagged a tuk-tuk that passed by and told him the places to visit and for three hours to charge me 60 baht only.

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At such a cheap fare, I hopped onto the tuk-tuk without any second thought! Thanking the ‘Good Samaritan’, the photo above shows him continuing his journey while I went on board for temple visits.

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First stop was the Standing Buddha temple, which is actually Wat Indrawiharn. There weren’t many visitors, a few European tourists and some locals too.
The tuk-tuk driver was still waiting outside when I got out.

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He then dropped me at a Sitting Buddha temple. I have no idea what is the actual name and this time, there weren’t any visitors in the temple, save for a ‘security person’ that take cares of the place. The temple actually consists of two sides with the Buddha statues in both of them. Each has a ‘security person’ and in short, both recommended a visit to the factory that sells jewellery. It is a wholesale or factory that is usually not open to the public.

It is now open to public for a seven day sale to attract visitors as the number of tourists to their country are diminishing through protest and bad economy. The sales are tax free and they are certified jewellers, and the goods can be refunded in foreign countries through Thai embassy.

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Since it wasn’t that all interesting to visit any other temples, I then told the tuk-tuk driver that I would like to pay the factory a visit. The driver acknowledges and drove straight to a gem store.

I had photos of the temple ‘security person’ with a wide smile, the tuk-tuk driver and the gem store entrance. However, I figure this time around I shouldn’t publish them.

Gem Store or Factory
Upon arriving the gem store, a sales person opened the door, invited me in and briefed that they are certified and their goods are meant for wholesale, usually sold to shops in shopping complex (MBK) and not to the public directly.
He asked what is my budget and I told him I was only looking around, but long story short, I selected some and swiped my credit card for them.
Their service is so good that the sales person offered to secure my purchase there for safekeeping and to send a driver to pick me up before my return flight to collect them.
He advised that I should not take tuk-tuk or taxi as they will be given commission if they send me there. I proceeded to seal and sign the envelope and then left the shop.

On the way back with the tuk-tuk, although I had some doubts about the purchase and the so-called promotion, I figured if it is a scam and the it started in the early morning from the first person I met at Grand Palace, that would be an Ocean’s 11 (ok, five only) type of scam.
Don’t you think so?

And I did told you earlier that I participated in the Ocean 5. Yes, it was an elaborate type of scam.
I cannot believe myself that they are all linked! A syndicate.

Reveal of the Scam
The turning point was when I went back to the hotel, I :
1) Asked the receptionist if there’s such thing as tuk-tuk promotion for tourists (they said no, and most likely is a taxi or tuk-tuk group that run such campaign)
2) Got into the room and called Grand Palace number, they said they are not closed in the morning and open everyday!
3) Search the internet with the gem store name and boom…. list of tourists asking if the Gem Store is legit and they got diverted in their tourist attraction and cheap tuk-tuk trips to temples just like what happened to me!

Realization
I am now CONFIRMED a fool.

Well, to my consolation, I did not take the goods earlier and I thought I could just cancel the transaction and everything will be fine.

Another PITA
I made a call to Maybank (long haul call, from Bangkok to Malaysia) gone through the automated voice system for ‘Credit Card’ and got waiting for 15 mins.
I got impatient as I knew it like the back of my hand that I will have to wait for cows to come home for calls to be attended to during working hours.
Next thing I did was I selected the Report Lost Card option and told them I got a fraud transaction and heck they transfer me to the ‘Credit Card’ department again. This time I waited for one whole freaking hour. 60 minutes to be exact!
I called Maybank and selected the Report Lost Card option again and started to raise my voice that I’m calling from Bangkok and I took one whole hour waiting without anybody attending to me. This time the customer service at the other end diverted me to the next available personnel for credit card and I was then attended to.
Unfortunately, the transaction has been posted. That’s quick considering some merchants only post the transaction at the end of the day or the next day. So the only way for me is to call the merchant requesting them to void the transaction. :-(
Just so you know, the calls to Maybank costed me more than 1000 baht, yeah, just to WAIT for them to attend to me, because the operators are STILL busy, and they will attend to me SHORTLY while all the operators are always STILL busy, and I will be attended to SHORTLY….

So, the next most important thing to do is to call the Gem Store requesting them to void my transaction. This is tricky. How do you get back to the person who made such a elaborate scam to get your money and then for them to refund you back?
Do or die.
They did ask me what was the problem and I just said I need my credit back into my card, and since the goods are still with them, I wouldn’t be travelling over to the store get a refund.
Luckily, the second call to them was successful and the guy at the other end confirmed that the transaction has been voided.

I did a check with Maybank again (only successful the next early morning around 6am) to verify that the transaction doesn’t exist anymore.

Beware
So I’d just like to share my foolishness to you, as a lesson for all, that while you do search for places to visit on the internet, try searching with SCAM keyword too.

Apparently, this Grand Palace and Gem scam has been dated as old as 2003! I only have myself to blame.

When I Googled for the scam stories, it seems that many had fallen into such scams and some even had more trouble getting their money back. I should be considered fortunate.

Some of those worth reading:
Top 10 Scams in Thailand
Bangkok Tourist Traps
Bangkok Warnings
The Great Tuk-Tuk Scam!
Bangkok and the gems set up…
This Ain’t No Magic Carpet Ride…

I have learnt my lesson, please do not fall into the same trap. :-)

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