My first Tuk Tuk ride and the Lucky Buddha scam

Last night I was too tired to continue writing, so I’m continuing today… and today I meant to brag about my first ever TukTuk ride and how happy I was and what a nice experience that was (ok, except for a short stop at the “Silk factory outlet”) and how I donated a flower wreath to the “Lucky Buddha”, which will bring me luck and prosperity…

Yeah, right. Lucky Buddha my ass. Yesterday I lost the city map which I have been using, so today at breakfast I wanted to look up in Internet the location of that Lucky Buddha temple I visited yesterday. WTF?! First few Google search results for the keywords “Lucky Buddha” were actually blog posts about the “Lucky Buddha scam” (for example this one: Lucky Buddha Scam). Oh, no. ๐Ÿ˜” But, go on, read for yourself. Here’s the full story…

Lucky Buddha scam

Yesterday, after the marvelous Khon show, I decided to walk back to where I started, instead of taking the shuttle bus. I was loosely headed towards the Grand Palace and Wat Pho area but I didn’t really have any set itinerary for the day.

Don’t trust young students on the streets of Bangkok

I was walking down the street for a while, when this nice friendly young guy approached me on the the Charoen Krung Rd. He seemed really nice and so we started chit-chatting about everything and anything. His english was really good, he introduced himself as a student, studying Engineering here in Bangkok. At some point he asked me where I was going. I’m not sure now what I answered, but he went on saying “you know, the temple is closed now, because of the Buddhist holiday”. I never bothered to ask to which temple he was referring to and before I knew it, he said: “You should go and donate a flower to the Lucky Buddha today. Today is a special day! This will bring you luck and prosperity”. Fak, yeah! That’s exactly what I need – luck and prosperity. And I knew today was some big day for Buddhists, as the Emerald Buddha Temple was closed for public today. “Ok, dude”, I thought to myself, “keep on talkin’.” “Do you have a map?” he asked. Of course I had a map. I’m a genuine tourist. So I handed over the map and he encircled three locations on it:

  1. Lucky Buddha Temple
  2. Silk factory outlet
  3. Tall Buddha (Standing Buddha)

“Did you watch the news yesterday?” he asked. “No, there’s no TV in my hostel”, I replied. “You know, today is the last day of factory sales in Thailand. During one week in a year, Thai government waives the taxes on garment sales so that people can buy clothes tax-free.” Now, I’m not a shopper, but if I could find some nice summer pants, I would perhaps buy those…

“Let me get you a TukTuk”, he added. What? “No, man. Thanks. I prefer walking”, I replied. He asked: “Why would you wanna walk all this way, when you can take a TukTuk for 150 baht?” My spontneous reaction was: “150?!? WTF?!” He saw that, so he quickly corrected himself: “Ok, 100 baht”. I was like: “Cannot the driver just take me to the first place for 30 baht and I’ll continue from there?” He looked at me as if I was crazy. “Why?” he asked. “Because I love walking around” and I proudly took out my iPhone and showed him my Health app with yesterday’s 32.911 steps.

He looked at me again, he was not sure if I’m crazy or he is. “C’mon, 100 baht” – and he quickly hailed a TukTuk which was just passing by (or so it seemed to me at the moment :-), not waiting for my reaction. “100 baht” went through my head. “This is less than 3 EUR.” And since I never took the TukTuk before, this was my chance. “Yeah, man. Let’s go!” I said to myself and jumped on the TukTuk. “YOU’LL REMEMBER ME!” I heard him shout while I was riding away in the back seat of the TukTuk for the first time of my life…

My very first TukTuk ride

And, boy was I happy at that moment! I was off to donate a flower to Lucky Buddha, filming my TukTuk ride from every possible angle and chatting with the driver, who -by the way- spoke some basic english, too. Just imagine how cool this experience is for a first timer: relaxing in the back of the TukTuk, warm smelly air of Bangkok boulevards blowing through my hair (and nostrils). Me sitting there and smiling as if I just reached the ultimate Ananda (= state of bliss or happiness in Hindu philosophy, rem. NewLifeGuru). The ride took somewhat longer than expected and when we finally arrived at a small temple, he parked his TukTuk in the shade of the inner yard. It struck me that the Lucky Buddha temple was really small, but I didn’t give it much thought. Dudes, I was about to “get lucky” (well, in a different way), so I didn’t care for anything else at this moment.

The “Lucky Buddha”

We got off the TukTuk and my driver led me to a store, where I dropped 20 baht to a donation box. We took 3 incense sticks and a beautiful Marigold garland (wreath of soft yellow flowers) and we went over to the “Lucky Buddha”, where he showed me how to burn incense sticks and donate the flower to the Buddha. “Normally”, he said – “people use only one incense stick”, but since it’s a special holiday today, “three incense sticks should be used.” Boy, was I lucky that I happened to be in Thailand exactly on this important day…

He then sent me inside the chapel to pray to the Buddha. So I took off my shoes, opened the sliding door and went in. I was alone in the chapel in front of this beautiful golden Buddha statue. Actually, there was three of them, so I wasn’t really sure which one is THE Lucky Buddha. Anyways, I previously read somewhere how to properly sit in front of the Buddha and how your feet must be showing backwards and must never be turned towards the Buddha. I’m not an overly religious person, but I try to respect that sort of things. So I was sitting there on the carpet with my feet tucked behind my lucky ass, admiring the divine aura of the golden Buddha statue(s)… look, I’m not a Buddhist – but merely a Tourist, so I did what we tourists do best – I took some photos of the Buddha and the chapel and left…

After I finished “praying”, my friendly driver took me to another small chapel in the back of the Temple, where I saw a small version of the “Reclining Buddha”. Like any good tourist, I took some more photos and since I had another few coins left in my pocket, I dropped those in the donation box.

When I finished here, my new friend showed me around the small temple some more. There were many Buddha statues in a row: Buddha for those born on Monday. And Tuesday. And Wednesday… and there was even one “for every day” (?!). There were also many school pupils around. He said that the temple is attached to the school and started elaborating on that topic in his basic english. Oh, dude. At that moment I had enough of the “Lucky Buddha” experience. I knew that my luck and happiness were anyway not going to come to me right there on the spot, but rather in the time to come, so I suggested that we move on…

A friendly stranger

The TukTuk was not parked in the same place where he left it when we came, so my nice driver led me to it around the corner. BTW, all this time I was in a total state of bliss, had my guard completely down. I just had my first ever TukTuk ride, had just donated a flower to the “Lucky Buddha” and enjoying the smell of incense in the shades of the temple’s inner yard. Is this life, or what? Had he led me to some dark corridor at that moment, I would have followed without a question. I felt totally safe and secure.

“Do you need to go to the toilet before we continue our tour?” my driver asked.

“No, thank you” I replied.

“Ok, but I do.” he added. “Please jump in the back seat and wait for me here. I’ll be right back.”

So he disappeared somewhere and I was left there waiting at the back of the TukTuk, reviewing the new photos on my mobile.

“Where are you from?” – the question came from a local guy sitting on a bench just a few feet away.

He was sitting there so relaxed, as if he had all the time in the world, his legs crossed and arms resting on the bench.

“From Serbia, Europe” I replied.

“Aaah, Serbia. Mmmh.” he acknowledged.

“You here on a horiday?”

“Yep.”

“How wong you stay?”

“Just four days. After that I’m taking the train to Malaysia.”

“Aah, ok. Maraysia. Beautifuw country”.

Then he went on saying that he’s just after making a donation to the Lucky Buddha. His wife is pregnant, he said while showing the “big stomach” with his hand. They want a boy, that’s why he was here to pray to the Buddha. “Aha, and now that you made a donation to the Buddha, you’re sitting here and chilling by yourself? Don’t you have to go back to work?! Or go and be there for your pregnant wife?” – that’s probably what any random suspecting policeman personality would have been asking themselves. But not me. I felt that – me too – I just donated to the Buddha, so we’re in the same boat, buddy. I could totally relate. His wife is pregnant and he’s praying for a boy. How neat is that?!

“You’re lucky that you’re here today”, he said. “Today is a big religious holiday.” A thought crossed my mind: “Yeah dude, I know this even without you telling me. The Emerald Buddha Temple was closed for public today and the place was full of monks.”

“And did you know that today is the last day of the one-week tax free sales, sponsored by the government?” Nah, I didn’t know that. Oh, wait – yeah, that guy on the street mentioned it.

“I’m not the kind of guy that wears suits”, I replied.

“You know where Armani suits are made?” he continued. “Here, in Thailand. And why? Because of cheap labour, good quality and low export tax”. “Export tax” yeah, right. But, at that point in time I was not listening anymore, as I really had enough of the “Lucky Buddha time” and I sure had enough of waiting in the back of the TukTuk.

“Yeah, I have that factory outlet on my itinerary for today” I told him.

“Ok, good!” he approved and continued with the story of his brother, who lives in New York and who is always using the chance to buy his Armani suits here in Thailand. “In New York, you would pay 2000 $ for the same suit you can buy here for 5 times less. For 300 – 400 $ you can get a tailor made suit here in Bangkok!”

“Man, I really don’t need a suit, but – do you think I can buy only pants at the factory outlet?” I asked because he seemed so friendly and I just wanted simple cotton or linen (not rayon!) summer pants.

“Yes, of course! You can buy only shirt or only pants, sure…” as the friendly stranger was finishing the sentence, my driver finally appeared. He jumped in the driver’s seat and we drove off to…

The “Silk Factory Outlet” and the Guy from the Outdoor Gym

After a relatively short ride, the driver parked in front of a fancy tailor suit store. “This sure don’t look like a huge governmental silk factory outlet store” I thought to myself. I looked at the driver: “Is this the silk factory outlet?” “Yes, yes, yes” he replied quickly while nodding. Hm. Ok. So I pushed the glas door and entered the fancy air conditioned tailor shop. I was greeted at the door by a somewhat short but sharp dressed gentleman with a slight Indian accent: “Welcome, Sir.”

The tailor shop looked just as fancy on the inside as it did on the outside. A few neat design models and fancy suit mannequins were displayed among the endless rolls of silk and cotton fabric. Honestly, I felt somewhat embarrased, being in a place like that, wearing beat up and dusty tracking shoes and a black polo shirt “decorated” all over by white traces of dried sweat. Yuk!

In the back of the shop, there was a group of fine young gentleman sitting on a leather couch and chatting. And among them I recognized my new acquaintance from Myanmar, whom I met a night before in the outdoor gym in the Rommaninat park. “Talking about a small world” briefly crossed my mind. I excused myself with the fine gentleman at the door for a moment and friendly waved to my new acquaintance. He stood up and came to greet me. The short guy was not pleased about how the situation developed. They exchanged a few words in some foreign language and the only thing I understood from their conversation was the “weight lifting” gestures my new ‘friend’ made.

My new acquaintance went back to his group on the couch and I turned to the short guy saying that I was trully sorry, as I landed here by mistake. I thanked him and said goodbye, then took his hand with both my hands and shook it, leaving him standing there in a state of shock. Ok, being a salesman indulging in tourist scams, probably he was not that shocked, but nevertheless…

The Tall Buddha

My friendly driver did not seem to be very surprised to see me coming out of the tailor shop so quickly. He was immediately ready and we moved on towards the Tall Buddha Temple. The entrance fee is 40 baht and inside one can admire the huge 32 m tall golden Buddha statue. Very cool, very tall but… honestly, I’ve had enough of this tour.

So I quickly left the temple just to find my driver slurping some chicken feet soup at a nearby hawker’s. I wasn’t hungry at all, otherwise I would probably have joined him. He quickly finished his soup, cleaned his mouth with one hand, paid for the soup and got back on the TukTuk to get me back to Grand palace area.

The actual Lucky Buddha Scam

All of the sudden I didn’t feel like going there anymore, so I asked the driver to drop me off at Dinso Rd., near my hostel. When we arrived there, I took out 100 baht, which was what we agreed for the ride and and another 100 baht as tip for being nice and friendly and showing me how to donate the flower to the “Lucky Buddha”, on my way to luck and prosperity.

I got off the TukTuk being as happy as a guy can be. Luck was bound to come my way and I paid only 200 baht for it altogether (that’s less than 6 EUR). Little did I know at that moment that it was all part of a scam scheme. What?!

Today morning while looking up the location of Lucky Buddha in Internet, the whole story revealed. The nice and friendly Engineering student, the TukTuk driver, the relaxed guy on the bench in the Lucky Buddha temple, the tailor shop – they were all part of the “Lucky Buddha scam”. What a disappointment. Not because of the 200 baht. Not at all. Actually, the whole experience was worth much more than that. It was even funny and exciting in a way.

What is most disappointing -besides the realisation that I was being totally naive- is that for a moment I actually thought lady luck might be coming my way for those 200 baht. I’ll have to try a bit harder next time, I guess… ๐Ÿ˜€

Bonus story about life, luck and happiness

This whole story reminds me of a guy who went to throw himself off a very high bridge into a deep and cold river. He climbed on the railing and was standing there for some time, sobbing and crying on that cold December night. “Hey, stop!” said a voice behind him. “What are you doing?”

He turned around and saw a guy, dressed as Santa, looking at him with his arm extended invitingly: “Please don’t jump. Don’t give up that easy. Come down, let’s talk”. Our guy steps down from the railing and asks Santa: “Who are you, man?” Santa replied: “I’m an Angel. This clothes are merely a disguise. You see, winter after winter so many people are taking their lives and this can be avoided. That’s why we Angels, we’re roaming the Earth and helping people and preventing suicides.”

“Yeah, right. How in the world will you be able to help me? Recently I lost my job and yesterday I caught my beloved wife cheating on me with another man. My kids don’t respect me at all and I’m probably the unluckiest and unhappiest person in the world” said the poor guy.

“No, no, no, it’s not all that bad! We angels can revert all that! Would you like that?” asked the Angel.

“Yes! Of course!” replied the man.

“Ok. We’ll undo all those negative things that you went through.” said the Angel. “After all, Christmas is coming in a few days and you should be with your beloved family, celebrating Christmas. But, you see, we Angels like to have fun, too.”

“Ok. So what can I do for you?” asked our guy.

“This will perhaps sound a bit weird, but – I want you to…” Angel whispered quietly in poor guys ear: “give me a nice BJ”.

“What?! No way I’m doing that!” said the guy.

“Ok, you don’t have to. But then I cannot help you. Sorry. I can see that you’re of the selfish kind and we Angels, we don’t like selfish people. Selfish people always expect to get something for nothing.” – Angel replied in his calm angel’s voice.

“Ok, ok. I’ll do it!” the guy said. And he got down to it…

After a while, Angel asked -while our guy was still busy doing the BJ- “I’m just being curious – how old are you?” Guy replied: “44”.

And the Angel then asked: “Seriously, dude, you’re 44 years old and you still believe in Angels?!?”

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