While passing by Bangkok’s center, I had noticed those guys driving around with the tuk-tuks, advertising themselves giving you a one-hour-long sightseeing tour for 40 baht. This price seemed to me in the beginning a bit too cheap to be true, as at times I happened to get any tuk-tuk for my actual transportation purposes, exploiting my bargaining skills in all their subtlety, I’d never get to pay that little for anything close to such a long drive. The other morning however, while ambling about with a friend, we decided to put these guys and their offer in test. It finally came out that it wasn’t quite true… as we made the tour, but instead of 40 baht we paid nothing… and here is how:
We first came across several guys who offered us the tour, but all of them turned out to be reluctant to take us when we insisted to be us choosing the itinerary. It was obvious they wanted to take us somewhere specific for their own interest, it wasn’t clear just yet where. Finally we came across that guy – Yong was his name – who after our persistence showed readiness to explain to us how the thing worked: He would drive us around to temples and stuff, and then, in the between, he would also bring us to some shops he was calling his “sponsors”. I made it to him perfectly clear that there was not any single chance in the entire universe we were going to even buy the shabbiest of things – and that I did because he was a good guy and I didn’t feel like duping him. He said it’s alright, we’d just need to get in the shop, stay for a few minuets and we only buy something if we want so. He also told me, after I made him the relevant question, that he’s going anyway to be given 300 baht from them, just for bringing us there, whether we buy or not. I definitely didn’t believe this one, but we proceeded anyways. I wouldn’t be the one feeling the qualms later, rather he would, for having too much confidence on the selling abilities of his “sponsors”.
We drove around for some time watching temples and stuff. We also stopped outside a couple of them for some short time, so we could go in to take a look at them while he’d be taking a nap outside. And finally we came to his first “sponsor”, whom I was expecting in a fervent curiosity to see. I would expect it to be many things, and nothing ranging from a souvenir-stand to a luxurious restaurant would surprise me, as I saw what it was about though, I was confessedly astonished and bewilder. That guy had brought to a fine textile tailor shop! I do not know what sort of a strange idea might had been that made him believe that we could be in need of a suit, but hope of imminent profit was glancing in his eyes.
We, anyway, proceeded into the shop. There we saw a bunch of young sellers (of the ambitious and greedy kind) waiting for us in readiness as vultures for they prey. They were all dressed up in the best silk costumes (not that I know anything about silk quality but it looked quite so), they wore golden watches on their wrists, and in such a way their appearance was in overall, that gave me the impression of every last of their brow-bristles being where it is calculatedly. For some strange reason they insisted they are Thais when I enquired relevantly, but they were not obviously. They were probably Nepalis or north Indians but they wanted to conceal it.
We spent some time bargaining on different textiles of different materials, many of them well exceeding 1000$. I was not going of course to buy any of them even if it for 10$, for the simple reason I’ve never worn a suit in my entire life nor I intend to, especially while traveling in Asia – or frankly… I’d probably get it for 10, I’d probably get it for any price guaranteeing a less than 10 minuets effort to resell it on the streets for a considerable profit. The whole thing was getting funnier and funnier, till they understood we were joking. The 10-20 minuets of staying in the shop we had agreed with Yong had passed away, so it was time to get going.
We drove around a bit more, we saw some more temples and stuff, and Yong then informed us that we were going to visit yet another of his “sponsors”. My amazement was great when he brought us to yet another Nepali-Hindi owned textile shop! That guy was indeed an optimist! What the heck did make him believe now, after having left the first place with empty hands, that we may buy something there? Anyway, we walked into that one also, where about the same story was taking place. The only difference here was that we did not need to stay long, nor do any bargaining. And that’s because they told us to come another time because they did not have any textile at the moment. Which actually meant that they just kicked us out of the shop straightforwardly – As you certainly cannot have a tailor shop and run out of textiles, and even if one could do so, wouldn’t have a multitude of them displayed on the wall.
The curious thing was: how they knew in advance that we were just going to joke around for a while and leave? Only one logical answer came to my head: Because they have open communication with the first place we were at. And if they have with that, then they should also have with all the many-many rest of the kind found all over Bangkok’s center. And if all of them do communicate with each other and cooperate, I conclude they most probably have a common administration as well. Which administration seems to be running a huge business! Generally there seems to be passing quite much traffic from all of them. And at least at the place we stayed at for 20 minuets, they made three sales while we were there, and they were proudly demonstrating to us cheques of several thousands of dollars value they had written earlier in the day.
Back to our tour now, after we left the second place Yong got quite disappointed this time. He just drove us to another temple, he let us there go see it, and when we came back, a few minuets later, he had disappeared without even caring to ask for his 40 baht. So that’s about how the only result of the whole story was to get free sightseeing tour.