Anyone I've talked to about my experience in Thailand knows that I absolutely loved spending a month there and that it is one of my most favorite places in the world. Thailand's Buddhist religion highly influences their social and cultural values.
Their most important values are respect, self-control, and having a non-confrontational attitude. I have found the Thai people to be so kind, generous, and helpful. They have very harsh punishments for crime so their country is very safe. Every single country in the world however, has people who make their living by trying to scam tourists in popular hot spots. New York City, Paris, Egypt, Mumbai, Milan, Greece, name a country and you will read a story about an opportunist. Don't worry though, as long as you research where you are going and you know what to look out for and avoid, you will be safe from scams in any country!
We landed in Bangkok international airport and made our way to Chiang Mai. We spent about a week and a half here because it is home to the largest and best fruit market in the world. We ate the worlds most famous mango, jackfruit, dragon fruit, snake fruit, and so much more. We knew that Chiang Mai was home to amazing fruit and vegan restaurants which is why many vegan digital nomads and expats choose this city to live in for part or most of the year. Chiang Mai has some incredible temples so we visited a popular one in the middle of town.
This temple was just absolutely breathtaking! Everything appeared to be made out of gold with white and red details and monks were gracefully praying all over the property. It was so peaceful inside of the temple and I took a few moments to pray and acknowledge how grateful I was to be in such a beautiful place. It depends on when you visit, but when we went there were a lot of visitors and tourists outside of the temple walking around the unique property.
Here's where the scam happened. On our way out, a man came up to us who was Thai, but spoke almost perfect English. He asked where we were from and we said California because that is where we left from and were planning on returning to, and he said what a coincidence, he has family there. Everything that we said about ourselves, he had a response that related him to us, to build our trust.
He asked what our plans were for the rest of our trip and we told him that we wanted to visit a humane elephant sanctuary before we left and his eyes lit up. He said we had to come with him right now, to the place to book a tour and talked about 3 other tours we absolutely needed to do while we were there. We said we wanted to do more research before we booked anything. He said that he would get the best price in town for tours and was very very insistent that we went with him that moment to his good "friends" at the booking place.
Suddenly, he wasn't being very nice and kept following us as we tried to walk away insisting that we come with him immediately. Finally, we made it clear we were leaving and he gave up. I learned later that basically, he wanted to take us to book multiple tours through him and his "connections" so that he would get a kickback of the price we would pay which would be would be doubled or tripled the normal price. If we got into any vehicle with him, he might charge us a large fee for driving and could take us anywhere he chooses and demand money from us once we are not in a public place. We could tell that we wasn't being genuine and spoke nearly perfect rapid English, and was definitely a sales person with an agenda. I had researched some typical scams around the world and mostly read about pick pockets and gift sellers, but my intuitive alarm bells were going off with this man, so I'm glad we left.
Thailand is a beautiful and overall one of the safest places to visit in the world so don't let this story deter you from visiting. I just wanted to shed light on a tour guide scam that I later found out can happen not only there, but all over the world. It can be a "free" shoe shine in Rome, a lady "gifting" you a rose in Italy, or a "best price" tour guide. Their goal is to make money off of visiting tourists so keep an eye out for these types of people.
I believe in the spirit of giving and generosity immensely, I worked in the hospitality industry for years and I always over-tip. I give to charities and homeless individuals in the street. In Thailand, I would always tip extra because the exchange rate is in my favor at restaurants and fruit stands, even though they are not used to tipping culture there and always tried to give me my money back. There is a difference however, between giving because you feel called to intuitively from your heart and being swindled out of money because of a tourist scam. So if you want to avoid these types of encounters when you are traveling, just do some research beforehand of the country you are visiting, follow your intuition, and you'll be fine! :)