That time I got scammed in Thailand (true story)

It was my first trip to this country and I had only been here a couple of days. It wasn't the best way to begin my first adventure at backpacking but I tried to not let it leave a sour taste in my mouth. It must not have because I ended up moving here a few years after this event and have been here ever since.


Keep in mind that this scam is not specific to Bangkok or even Thailand. It exists in some capacity or another in just about every tourist destination so please don't think I am trying to talk trash about this country because I am not. It was the first time I had ever been done-over abroad and well, maybe you should keep it in mind not just for visiting here but for traveling abroad just in a general sense.

Phase one: I was lost

This probably isn't as much of a factor today thanks to the fact that all of us have a computer in our pockets these day complete with very advanced map programs. However, this was the early 2000's and smartphones were not a thing. I was wandering around away from my guesthouse on Koh Sahn Road in Bangkok (this seems to be the starting point for everyone on their first trip to this country as a backpacker) and I wandered a bit too far.

I was still feeling good and had the whole day ahead of me so rather than flag down a taxi I just decided to walk around a bit. A lot of the areas of Bangkok are just like any other big city in that it was busy, rather featureless, and really not much reason for a tourist to be there. Then I heard a voice - it was friendly and the dude was speaking English.


In the shade, sat on some plastic chairs on the side of the road there was a middle-aged man drinking a beer. He was nicely dressed and spoke excellent English. He asked me if I wanted a beer. Being a fan of day-drinking (a tradition that carries on to this day) I said "sure."

Phase two: Gain their trust

He told me how he was a university professor and we talked about where I was from, talked about my experiences traveling etc. It wasn't anything major... it just seemed like a normal conversation that you would have with anyone that you just met. It was nice. We had a couple of rounds and he paid for each of them. This was starting to make me feel like a cheapskate so I offered to get the next one. I think in con-artist school the first thing you have to do to your mark is gain their trust, and he had mine.

Phase three: Move to the con spot

We were having a lot of laughs and at one point he said "my friend has a great restaurant nearby here, it's authentic Thai food - do you want to come and join?" (something like that.) I, like almost all backpackers, didn't have a plan for that or really any of my other days so i figured "why not?"

it wasn't this restaurant, but something similar

True to his word, the restaurant was nearby, and he paid for the taxi. When we went inside it did seem genuine in the way that I would never go into a place like this because it didn't have the appeal that tourists are looking for. We were given menus and none of it was in English - my new "pal" took over and asked me questions about "what do i like" etc. We ended up getting a normal amount of food and beers and I had no reason at this point to really suspect anything was wrong. I would find that out a bit later.

The food was really good too. I was having a great 2nd day in Bangkok!

Phase four: Leave your mark high and dry

At one point, my companion got up to use the restroom and left me alone at the table. It took me about half an hour before I realized that he wasn't coming back. I didn't know what to think at this point but eventually I asked for the bill feeling as though "well this guy has already spent a bunch on all the beers and the taxi, this little shitty restaurant can't possibly be expensive."

But it was. It was very expensive


A meal of maybe 6 beers total combined with a fish, some soup and i don't know what else but it wasn't huge came to a grand total of around 5,000 Baht (at that point in time the USD was very strong so this was around $100.)

I want you to understand that it is almost impossible to spend this much money on a meal anywhere in Thailand unless it is seriously high-class and this place was definitely not that.

I had been conned. Next thing I know the chefs and other staff are all at attention, expecting me to try to run for it or to complain. I didn't really know the country very well at this point and did have that much money on me (I wonder if the con-artist checked out the contents of my wallet for the one round i was "allowed" to pay for previously at the roadside bar.)

This man made me want to avoid friendly Thai strangers for a long while after that and that might be the worst part. I was now on the defensive anytime anything was happening and I probably acted like a jerk in many situations where the people didn't deserve it (but maybe fended off a few con-artists too.)

I have often thought of going back to these situations now that i can speak and read Thai and see how the situation would pan out then... i'd probably get stabbed.

That was a really shitty way to begin my first ever trip to Thailand but the rest of the trip was so epic that I soon forgot about it and tried to just take it in stride and learn from it. However, I have never forgotten that day and I just wonder how many people this person has done that to.

The crazy thing in my mind was that this particular con took the guy like 2 and half hours to pull off.... for $100 that I presume he has to split with that shady restaurant. It doesn't seem like a very efficient system. I have seen a documentary about exactly this sort of scenario in Europe so I'm thinking it must be a worldwide thing. Would you have handled the situation differently?

Do you have a story about being conned? I don't know why but i consider these sorts of stories to be interesting and would like to hear about it in the comments

Comments 18

Had a similar experience at a strip club In London. A group of us went for a few drinks and they tried to pull a fast one by charging prices that were 5 times what they were. I was lucky to be much bigger than the bouncers and we just walked out and I was prepared to fight. I didn't pay anything for the drinks in the end and told them to shove it. Terrible when it happens and you have to stand your ground if you can.

08.10.2019 15:41

I suspect that is why this guy was near the tourist area. We are the least likely to kick up a fuss. In retrospect I would have liked to have done a lot differently...

08.10.2019 19:01

Lol. Especially as you have been having some extra training and they could end up fighting off more than they could chew with you. It does piss me off how low some people will go to make a buck.

08.10.2019 19:05

Ouch, sorry to hear about your troubles. Hope the rest of your time was memorable for better reasons. - resteemed for ya. :)

08.10.2019 15:42

It sucked.... But I got over it and had a good enough time that I ended up moving to Thailand for better or worse. I like to think that I am far more aware of my surroundings now.

08.10.2019 18:37

I am not really one for small talk so I probably would have either never sat down with the guy or I would have been looking for a way to get out after the first beer. I have never been in a situation where I was alone in a strange place though, so I can't really say how I would react. At least it was a relatively small con for the most part. I agree with you, it doesn't really seem like it is worth the time or effort.

08.10.2019 15:46

then... i'd probably get stabbed.

That's why instead of dealing with these situations and people, you should just be the first one to pull out a knife and stab them first. Then after they're dead, you take over their con business, and bam, profit, baby.

08.10.2019 16:00

Wish you had used the #truestories tag, but as I follow you I saw this anyway. Funny, you should post this, I wrote up one myself earlier today. Different than yours but we have all been there.

08.10.2019 16:02

I'll add the tag now. Thanks for the tip. I'll check out your story as they tend to be more interesting than my own

08.10.2019 18:26

I'll check out your story as they tend to be more interesting than my own

Not so fast!, I haven't posted it yet, its still in draft.

I did one a few days ago though. I think we all have a lot of things to tell, but few want to spill the beans. Good on you for doing so, and it wasn't boring at all.

08.10.2019 18:31

Saw that. I did read barn part two.... A winner!

08.10.2019 18:53

Thanks, I noticed! :)

The barn, that was so long ago. Some things don't leave your head easily.. such as your expensive bill!

It seemed coincidental that I wrote one earlier.., well one half.. it's too long for a single post.

08.10.2019 18:57

I feel like this one was too long for a single post as well. Well, maybe right on the cusp.

09.10.2019 03:59

Thanks for share this story.

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08.10.2019 16:39

Wow, what a pain in the ass. But in my 20s I ran into so many scammers in my travels. It kind of sucks because I used to be much more open and friendly with strangers but now I am more suspicious of everyone. I kind of hate that I feel that way now.

To be fair, even in my current 'suspicious' state, I am still more trusting than most people so I have to be careful.

Did you ever come across those guys in the 90s who used to pull up to you in a van acting all freaked out trying to sell speakers that were supposedly overstock that their boss didn't know about? They got me once.. I paid them like 200 bucks for some studio speakers. But to be honest, I didn't mind too much because I used them for years.

08.10.2019 19:35

your speakers story didn't end like i thought it would. In a twist of fate a Thai friend of mine went to the U.K. and got sold a notebook computer that was swapped out at the last minute for a bag filled with potatoes using some sleight of hand by some "students" in a car on the side of the road.

This is why i am not saying Thailand is evil because of this... they clearly targeted my friend because he was Asian.

It depends on the speakers but i guess what was going on there was these guys had stolen merch and needed a backstory?

I think a certain amount of paranoia is a good thing but we gotta find balance!

09.10.2019 03:53

Ah, so the speaker scam turned out to be a really weird thing. It ended up being on the news.

So there was actually a real speaker company that had a gimmick going on. They bought a bunch of white vans and stocked them with loads of new boxed speakers. The speakers were branded with some unknown label that sounded expensive. I can't remember what it was, but I assume they were made in China or somewhere like that.

They would hire 2 guys for each van. They would then drive the van around town and pull up next to you in a parking lot, jump out looking around like they are watching out for cops or something. They'd walk up to you all on the down low and say something like

'Hey, man - We went to pick up a load of high end $2k speakers for the boss and they put too many on the van. We are trying to sell them before we get back to the office.. We'll give them to you for ... idunno 300 bucks'

Then you'd either buy the speakers or haggle with them for a minute. Either way, you leave thinking you got $2000 speakers for like 200 bucks. In reality, they were just selling their own knock off speakers street style.

09.10.2019 04:20

I would certainly come back a few days later a petrol bomb that place!

09.10.2019 09:10