This is my second visit to Bangkok, and it’s sad to say that both visits have constantly had me on edge from the number of attempted scams. Let me tell you a story about the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Scam.
After arriving in Bangkok, I was determined to visit the Floating Markets as I missed the chance on my last visit. I did my research and started asking for prices on the trip to the market. The price of course always start absurdly high and you barter your way down. The first quote was 1000 Baht, I played the game, laughed a little “too much, “I said. The game continued, “Okay, okay good price for you, how much you give me?” Finally, we reached 600 Baht, which I felt was a reasonable price for three people travelling nearly 2 hours away and then back. But the man became too pushy and I decided to find someone else.
Later that night we used the ‘Grab’ app (Asia’s version of Uber) which we had found was the cheapest way to get around Bangkok. I asked our driver for a price, “2000 Baht!” I laughed a little louder this time. There was no game play this time. “600 Baht” I said. He laughed back at me, yet 5 mins later he agreed and we organised to be picked up from our hotel at 6am.
6am arrived, Rowan and I met our driver out the front, (Dylan had drunk a few too many cocktails and decided not to come) the drive took just over one and a half hours, we drifted in and out of sleep from the late-night prior. Finally, we arrive at a place with a desk and a small café, there were no people which I knew was extremely odd for the popularity of this market, our driver pointed towards the desk, “You get boat from here.” A little confused I approached anyway. “Do you want to see Elephants or Tigers?” he asked, “No, just floating market I replied. “Okay 4000 Baht,” he said.
Rowan and I looked at each other confused, the little amount of sleep we had wasn’t helping the situation. “No” I said, “200 Baht for boat.” Like I mentioned, I had done my research, “I don’t want private tour, just 200 Baht for the boat.”
“Private much better, much more comfortable,” he continued. “No, no private, we will drive to market and get boat from there,” I replied. A lot of Thai speaking went back and forth between our driver and the boat man. “I give to you for 2000,” he came back with, “You cannot drive there, only by boat.” Rowan and I then noticed there was a foreigner price and local. “We live here,” I said, “We teach English, we are local.” (They want to scam me? I’ll take them for a ride!) They laughed, “No, you pay foreigner price.”
I knew this was wrong; a massive scam, I tried to look at a map to see how far the market was. I turned to our driver, “Keep driving.” He looks at me confused and shakes his head. “Drive down this road,” I wouldn’t take no for an answer. Finally, he agrees, mumbling things under his breath.
He drivers down the road that I point down and we see an archway welcoming you to the Floating Market, he pulls over again at a similar looking place. A lady that can speak better English comes to my window. And the same story again, except this time for 1100 Baht. I kept telling our driver to keep going but he wouldn’t listen. “Rowan, let’s just jump out and have a look, see what we can see.”
I look down the canal where the boats are waiting to take you to the floating market and notice a footpath all along the canal. I say that I want to walk but of course “You cannot.”
I see some tourists arriving back on the boat, so I head over to ask them how long it took to get there. They were Russian and couldn’t speak a word of English, the scam just seemed to grow.
I tried to ask the company how many minutes it takes for the boat to reach the floating market but they continued to reply with “very far.” I then noticed that all the boats had motors, there should be ones with only paddles. I knew we were close, “Rowan, let’s go, let’s just walk, I’ll figure it out.”
By this stage our taxi driver had completely disappeared, we had stood by the taxi for a while but he was not returning until we booked the boat and he got his cut for this scam. So we started to walk and the ladies came chasing, I became more stern with them and miraculously they start dropping the price, “okay 800 Baht.” We continued to walk and they continued to chase. I looked at the time it was 8.30am, from all the research I had done, people had said that after 9am it was hardly worth going. I turn to Rowan, “It’s nearly 9, I don’t want to miss it completely, we’re going to pay 200 Baht anyway, should we just pay 600 to get the hell out of this scam?”
They said no to 600 Baht, so we continued to walk and low and behold, “Okay 600.”
We climb upon our private motor boat for 600 Baht, (people pay 200 Baht p/p to jump onto a group boat so I didn’t feel too bad with the amount we had paid, I was just annoyed that we couldn’t see a way out of the scam) and make our way a few minutes down the river to reveal the floating markets right next to a road! We laughed, what’s the point in getting angry.
The markets were not full of tourists yet, which allowed some great opportunities to interact with the local venders, however there were a lot of floating shops that hadn’t even opened yet. Our ‘private tour’ was only for an hour and we were unable to get of the boat, So I decided I was going to make our driver drive us there.
We arrive back to the boat company and there is our driver waiting in his taxi, we clamber in. He mumbles about going home now. “No, you will drive us to the markets,” I said firmly. He looks at me surprised and shakes his head, mumbling about going home. “No, you lied to us, you said you could not drive there, you will drive us there now.” He replies, “Okay, you give me more money.” Rowan chimes in, “No we pay you to take us to the Floating market, you did not take us there.” The driver shakes his head, mumbles about money and going home and starts driving the car, turning the indicator on to head home. “NO!” I Yelled. “YOU TAKE US TO THE MARKETS RIGHT NOW OR WE WILL GET OUT.” No response, he continues to drive. “Let’s, get out, quick.”
With the car still moving we jump out and begin our walk in the other direction. He spins the car around and pulls up in front of us yelling for money. “I will give you 300, you only took us half way.” I directed. Absolutely fuming he agrees, we hand the 300 Baht ($12 for a two-hour journey he wouldn’t have even made a profit, and he sure as hell wouldn’t have received much of a cut from our 600 Baht private tour!) and he speeds off. We laugh and start walking. I wish we had of kept walking earlier but hey it’s made for a great story to tell you!
The walk took about 10-15mins, it was about 10am by now so we search for some breakfast from the carts. “120 Baht?! So, expensive,” said Rowan, and we continued to walk. The lady chased after us okay we do for 60 Baht (which is more or less a good price) so we shared a plate for breakfast. It was just becoming more and more noticeable how much of a massive tourist scam these markets were (which is what all the reviews say!) It’s all the same stuff you see for sale at every market, for double the price, but I’m still glad we came. It’s still interesting to watch the locals operate their floating venders and I think it was well worth it getting there before everyone else. After perusing around for a while we decided we should find a way home, I knew there was a bus back to Bangkok, and after asking a few people we found a small coffee vender selling tickets for 100 Baht p/p, perfect!
We waited an hour and jumped on the next bus, we fell asleep instantly and woke over an hour later, I checked my map, we were on the outskirts of Bangkok, probably another 45 minutes away. However just 10 minutes down the road he pulls over and yells, “Okay bus stop we are here.” I looked again at my map, we were nowhere near the Bangkok bus station that was agreed to be the destination, but off we hopped. (It just made it feel like the whole of Bangkok is a massive scam)
We started walking in the direction we needed, looking for a bus or train station. An old local bus pulls up beside us. “Let’s get on!” I said to Rowan. No one could speak any English, they giggled as I made attempts to communicate. From what I could gather this was a free shuttle bus going back and forth to the Golden Palace, so we hopped off there before the bus started heading back in the other direction.
Thousands upon thousands were mourning, all dressed in black and white. The Palace was closed to tourists so the Thai people could pay respect, however it has reached capacity and there were now people in groups outside waiting to go in.
We made our way back to our hotel laughing at the events of the day. In the end, we paid 550 Baht p/p to have a private car pick us up from our hotel, a private boat chauffer us around the markets and slept the whole journey back in our shared bus. People pay a lot more just to join a group tour! Even worse some people would have paid 2000 Baht for the taxi and 4000 Baht for the private boat, falling into the traps of a 6000 Baht scam! But none the less we were still scammed! It was a scam we couldn’t escape! But that’s a part traveling!