It doesn’t matter if you are an experienced traveler, or not. You can not help but trust the people that are part of this scam…How couldn’t you?! The first one we encountered was the pseudo guide at Wat Pho who recommends this wonderful temple where there is a Lucky Buddha. The temple not only opens until late but the entrance is also free! He also mentions something about a great sale at Thai Expo where they have a huge discount for foreigners… a sale that happens once a year and that you can not possibly miss, plus “today is the last day” he says… Who needs the Lucky Buddha, we are already so fortunate! So privileged! Even though at the moment you don’t feel like following the recommendation of a stranger on the street of going into a jewelry store, it stays in the back of your mind…Finally the guide offers to give instructions to the tuk-tuk driver to take us to the temple and we drive away with this warm fuzzy feeling of having met a great human being who’s only goal is to help travelers “in need”.
Then we arrived at the so called Lucky Buddha, we walked around and to be honest, we didn’t feel that lucky to be there, there was not much to see, but hey, you can’t complain, is free! Plus there are some friendly tourists there too! An American and a French man. And they are really talkative too. Well spoken, educated…the Lucky Buddha turns out not to be bad at all… Plus these tourists have been to Thailand in several opportunities so a couple of recommendations would hurt, would they? “The American is a Chef living in the USA”. He tells us about the story of the temple, the meaning of some of the colors, etc… Then he starts asking where do we come from, what do we do…And after having an lovely conversation with this great and interesting character, he says that Thailand is known for its gems and good priced jewelry (which we already knew)… and that we should take advantage of the last day of the Thai Expo! What a coincidence! …BOOM, the words from the guide resound and then we say…Hmm probably is a good sale, everybody is talking about it!!! Plus we were considering buying some pieces from the land of the blue sapphires, so why not go check this sale out… Plus the American reassures us by saying that he comes in every year for this special sale to buy jewelry of great quality and price. He gives his suggestions, but he is never pushy… these guys know it all!
We say goodbye to our new American “friend” and we go away on the tuk-tuk to our final destination. We arrived at the store and everything looked very normal. All the sales people were in uniforms, the display of the pieces was impeccable, there were other customers, how can anything go wrong? Well, everybody knows the rest of the story. We bought some over priced jewelry that was worth nothing…. But our story, fortunately, has a happy ending.
Luckily for us, we never kept the jewelry from the store. We paid 15% down and they put them in a safe until we were done with our traveling. We were supposed to pay the balance once we picked up the pieces….But before we went looking for the jewels, we read on La guide du Routard and on Lonely Planet, something about a gem scam… We started to get chills down our spine and a bit of a stomach ache to tell you the truth, when we started reading the exact same scenario ... We quickly went on the internet and “googled” the Blue Dragon and boom! All the stories unfolded on the screen! The friendly American, the French…the Lucky Buddha!!! AHHH… (By the way THANKS for having this space! You saved us lots of hard earned money! )
We quickly printed the stories from your website and gave it to the Blue Dragon staff and told them to give us our money back and to STOP robbing people. They agreed to give us a refund. That same day we called the credit card company and cancelled it to avoid the transactions from going through. I also had to report these transactions as fraud and attached copies of the stories published on your website as back up. Since we never received the pieces we were able to stop this entire nightmare before it was too late.
But this story doesn’t stop here! The day before leaving Bangkok we wanted to go for our last tour. We took the subway and then a taxi. We asked the driver to take us to one of the temples and he started to say “let’s go to a jewelry store, you don’t; have to buy anything but I get a free coupon for gas”. We politely said “no, please take us to the temple”, but he kept on arguing with us until he stopped the cab and told us to descend! In shock we said ok enough of the cab drivers for today…let’s take a tuk-tuk…big mistake! We spotted one not far away. The tuk-tuk driver seemed very friendly until he said: “Today is a national holiday here in Thailand, the temples are closed, but I can take you to the Lucky Buddha…. LUCKY BUDDHA!!!! We jumped out of the tuk-tuk and we manage to tell the tourists that were standing there not to take that tuk-tuk because the driver was part of a scam… We “saved” a couple of travelers, including one from India who shared the 2nd taxi of the day with us …but as we drove away and looked behind, a couple of travelers took the tuk-tuk and drove away…maybe they were heading to the Lucky Buddha, who knows….we just shook our heads.