12/21/09: Bangkok, Thailand
[Continued from yesterday.]
After some hours of Googling before we went to bed last night (“Bangkok scams,” “Bangkok tailor scams,” “TAT Bangkok travel agencies”), I fell asleep a sadder but wiser Zhou, thinking that though we had overpaid for our tickets, we at least HAD bus tickets that would eventually take us safely to Chiang Mai and later on, Siem Reap. Kevin, on the other hand, woke up at 4am wondering how his fantasy football team was doing (losing badly, partly due to the fact that he traded away Miles Austin – see Kevin, I do listen to you). Then, since he couldn’t fall back asleep, he spent the rest of the wee hours of the morning reading about how all buses from Bangkok to Siem Reap are scams.
He then woke me up at 7am.
K: All buses from Bangkok to Siem Reap are scams!
K: They’re ALL scams! We have to go get our money back!
Z: Can I brush my teeth first?
Teeth brushed, we headed out bright and early to the travel agency we had been driven to yesterday. On the 45-minute walk from the nearest BTS station to the travel agency, we formulated a plan of attack. I like to think I masterminded the plan, but I was very much distracted from our conversation by two thoughts: 1) How on earth is it possible that ALL BUSES from Bangkok to Siem Reap are scams? Shouldn’t someone have done something about this by now? and 2) Ohmigod, we’re not going to be able to find this travel agency! This is a fake business card with a fake address and we’ll have lost $220, and we won’t be able to go to Chiang Mai and stay in the really nice hotel that Kevin’s parents got us for a Christmas present!
Really, my fear wasn’t totally unfounded, as the map on the back of the business card was almost all in Thai, and we had to ask seven or eight people for directions before we finally found the little road the travel agency was on.
On our walk over, we had decided that Kevin would be the main talker and point-maker, while I would jump in with comments when needed and just stand behind him looking stern and immovable. We decided this because Kevin is bigger and scarier looking than me (though I am shriller) and because I have a tendency to cry in high-emotion situations. Not because I’m sad, mainly just because I have overactive tear ducts.
We walked into the agency, and Nicky greeted us with a huge smile. (I did NOT smile back, though it was a bit hard because I am by nature such a sweet and friendly person – and isn’t it just instinctive to smile back at someone who smiles at you?) When he saw the looks on our faces, his smile quickly faded away. I, forgetting my job of looking stern and immovable, sat down and relaxed in one of the comfy leather chairs in the corner and then listened to the following conversation.
K: We want a refund.
K: We changed our plans, and we don’t want to do this anymore, so we need a refund.
N: Ok, I give you 60% refund.
K: No, you give us a 100% refund.
N: No, impossible.
K: No, it’s not impossible. Just give us our money back.
N: No, I did nothing wrong. I give you 80% refund. If I did something wrong, then, ok, but I did nothing wrong.
Now, Kevin turns into someone I don’t recognize – a loud, shout-y person who jabs his finger wildly and randomly at things with each point he makes.
K: You lied to us! Jabs finger at Nicky. You told us we couldn’t get to Siem Reap from Koh Chang! Jabs finger in the air. You made us change our plans so that we would stay with your guesthouse in Chiang Mai! Jabs finger at Nicky’s desk. You lied to us, and we want our money back! Jabs finger vindictively at nothing in particular.
For the next five or ten minutes Kevin and Nicky bicker about whether or not it is possible to get to Siem Reap from Koh Chang, with Nicky eventually changing his tune and saying it IS possible, but not with the timetable that we gave him (at one point, he, without even a trace of irony, offers to book the bus from Koh Chang to Siem Reap for us). While all this is going on, I am still sitting in my corner, not saying anything or helping out at all, but at least by this point I have remembered that my job is to look stern and immovable and so I have arranged my eyebrows appropriately. Continuing…
K: I’ll go the tourist police and the TAT headquarters if that’s what you want.
N: Fine, go! I did nothing wrong.
K: Look, you’re going to have a lot of people coming in today, with a lot bigger plans than us. Give us our money back and we won’t make a big deal out of it.
Dun dun dun! I just wanted to warn you that my big moment is coming up, so pay attention. Here’s where I finally jump in with my one line.
Z: I will sit here ALL DAY and tell anyone who comes in here that you are a liar and convince them to leave. Is that what you want?
Then Nicky looked at us for a second, no doubt scared by my stern and immovable face. I think he was probably wondering what the odds were that we actually meant what we said (100%, we even brought some books with us in case we had to come to this preplanned last resort and it ended up being a few hours before Kevin came back with the tourist police). In the end, we must have looked convincing enough (and I think it helped that I was already comfortably seated in the leather chair), because he nastily replied (we are a family blog so I can’t say what was said exactly), “@%&^@$^#%. Fine. I get your money.” When Kevin made a motion to follow him, he jabbed his finger at Kevin and said angrily, “Sit down! Sit down!” Kevin hastily sat down in the other leather chair beside me, and we looked at each other, both trying not to grin. Nicky came back with all of our money. Then there was a really awkward kind of dance, with Kevin holding out the bus vouchers and Nicky holding out our money and neither of them wanting to give the other one anything without having gotten what they wanted first. I had this strong desire to laugh, but I thought it might be inappropriate under the circumstances so I managed to contain myself. Eventually, Kevin gave Nicky the vouchers, and Nicky handed us our money back, all the while yelling at us to get out. We practically ran the two feet to the door and out onto the sidewalk. Nicky’s parting shout to us was, “That way to hell!”
We quickly walked away from the travel agency, high on adrenaline and the amazing smell of 7,400 baht. As we were walking away, grinning from ear to ear over having un-scammed ourselves, I looked over at Kevin and said, “New rule: NO getting ushered into vehicles. It causes too much trouble.”
Thought of the Day: A lot of things don’t taste good right after brushing your teeth, but I kinda like the way milk tastes right after brushing. Nice and minty.
Picture of the Day: Kevin says he put this picture in the blog earlier, but I don’t think he gave it the prominence it deserves. I beat Kevin straight up in a game of bowling for the second time EVER!