After 3 days of no sleep in my travels to Bangkok I was in no shape to deal with what happened in the first hour of my trip to Bangkok.
After getting off the train in the center of Bangkok, I decided a long walk to my hostel would be more enjoyable than taking a taxi. It was a long walk and with a 50 lb pack, an even longer walk. Twenty minutes in a seemingly very nice, very polite, gentleman stopped me. Not knowing any better I stopped to talk to him.
He asked me about my trip and where I was from. He asked if he could recommend some places for me to visit. We found a nearby place to sit and chat. His English wasn’t very good. He asked for some paper to write on so I could understand him. He suggested places I should go visit and places to avoid, but as he talked, red flags began to pop up. He mentioned things like festivals and temples that were only open today. Ill willed locals use these gimmicks to trick tourists into a variety of scams.
He finished his spiel and then the offer came to take me to these places on his tuk-tuk, a moped taxi of sorts. I politely declined and that’s when things escalated out of no where.
The man pulled my notebook out of my hands, ripped up several pages in the notebook and began shouting “Fook You! Fook You!” I waved him off as I picked up my notebook he had tossed away. As I stood up he curled back and then flung his head toward me so as to hurl a large wad of spit that hit me square in the chest. This guy just fucking spat on me! My hatred for Tuk Tuk drivers had begun.
The man walked away before I even had a chance to react. I was exhausted though and just wanted to get away. I picked up my bag and continued on. The rest of my walk I was constantly waved down by Tuk-tuk drivers. Trying to ignore them was near futile at first, but I eventually learned enough tricks to avoid being harassed for rides and offers to festivals and special places. At least for the most part.
1. Avoid Mornings. Especially in the tourist spots. You’re a captive audience and they’re more willing to chase you down when there isn’t another perhaps more gullible tourist behind you to take their attention.
2. Stay Off Your Phone. Yes your phone is how you’re navigating to that 4.7 star Pad Thai shop you want to go to but to these guys you look like you’re lost or don’t know where you are going. And they’d be happy to take you to “the right place”.
3. Be Stern. Be Unwavering. They seem very nice and you want to return the kindness but this just leads to a bigger issue sooner than later. Trust me after being spat on and having belongings ripped up, they don’t give a shit about niceties. They want your business and your money. You don’t have to be an asshole but a firm no or even just ignoring them often does the trick. Whatever you do don’t stop.
4. Don’t Admit It’s Your First Day. If you find yourself in a conversation with a random friendly local, don’t tell them it’s your first time in BKK. Tell them you have been visiting the area for years. They’re after fresh meat and won’t want to waste their time on someone who knows all their tricks.
5. Dark Sunglasses. They can’t make eye contact if they can’t see your eyes.
6. Have Thick Skin. No matter how well you follow these tips some of these guys are pros. They’ve been in the game a lot longer and in a way you have to respect that. Don’t let it ruin your trip. Remember there’s a lot of other great things you’re experiencing. If it gets to be too much, take a break. Sometimes you just need to take a break and have a beer or a coffee. It helps to get off the street and watch from inside a restaurant. You’ll have a new appreciation for the hussle when you are watching it from afar.
Some areas like Khao San Road are worse than others. If it gets to be too much try another area in the city. China town was better, and in Suhkumvit at most I get the occasional honk from a taxi.