tuk tuk scam ride in Thailand

The Thai Tuk-Tuk Adventure to Sapphire Macarons

Why does it happen to me?  Perhaps because “gullible smiling tourist” is pinned to my forehead.

It all started so well. En route to Koh Samui airport – which is more like entering Disneyland’s main boulevard – we savoured the lushness of the island’s greenery: the pineapples, papayas, and these enormous banana flowers.

A couple of hours later in Bangkok, we quickly realised that our lazy island pace needed some acceleration.  Just the thought made us crave an energising plate of noodles.  Where could we get the best Pad Thai noodles and fast?

No big deal: just take the ferry boat across the river and in 10 minutes you’re there, said the Concierge. The Chao Phraya river is awash with bobbing, bustling boats bombing up its main diluted hot chocolate-looking artery; and with its canals going through the city, you can see why it’s called the Venice of the East.

Pad Thai Noodles served in a banana leaf boat

At Mazzaro restaurant (just off New Road between the Shangri-La Hotel), we couldn’t fault they were one of the best pad thai in the city.  What a beautiful presentation, served in a banana flower boat. It was spicy but by now, the children were into the heat.

They were also into,”We don’t want the kids’ menu!” No wonder when you tasted this mango and sticky coconut rice dessert. We parted with Antoine, who had to work but us girls carried on walking around to soak in the atmosphere.

Stalls of fruits and vegetables were jam-packed at the sides of the street and on each corner you could take in the bewildering aromas of seafood, satays, pickles, pastes, and all kinds of Thai dishes being prepared on the spot for passers-by.

Durian fruit were also being prepared at many stalls. Despite its popularity it does have a particular smell. Suddenly we turned the corner and we focused on the tuk-tuks.  They were everywhere, zooming in and out of taxis and buses with their familiar tuk-tuk motor.

Was this driver sleeping or was he just recovering after smelling that durian?

First impressions can be deceiving

After crashing out ourselves, next day it was time to visit some of Bangkok’s sights.  We were ready for an adventure. Luckily the concierge warned us of the riverboat cost, otherwise we would have ended up paying three times the tarif if we didn’t buy the ticket directly on the boat.  Goody.  That one was cracked.

Temple of Dawn

Leaving the high-rise modern buildings behind us, we chugged past the famous Temple of Dawn and Chinatown, aware we shouldn’t miss our stop with all these sights so close.

Get me to the palace!

We were heading for the Grand Palace, dodging sellers touting their wares before the entrance. Then, halt!

A perfectly normal, kind-looking gentleman in a suit came up to warn us that our sleeves or my trousers weren’t long enough. Did you know that only one part of the palace was open to the public this morning since the monks were using the rest? Come back later at 2pm and in the meantime you have to see a remarkable sight.  Today is a special day in Thailand: we give rubies to our wives for good luck. The government is hosting a once-in-a-lifetime event at the actual factory and there are great bargains.  Bargain?  Don’t forget I said I was gullible.

tuk tuk in Thailand

Lucie holding on to her monkey, Coconut, for dear life

And before you could say, “My boss will take you there and wherever you want for 100 baht” we were in that tuk-tuk, knocking knees wondering what on earth had happened. Mum?

This had to be worth shortening our lives by a week, inhaling the exhaust fumes from the bus right in front of us. My youngest had a ball – we’re on a tuk-tuk!  My eldest should have done the talking at the palace, on reflection.

You can tell I was shaking for the next part – I didn’t know what was coming next …

Taken briefly around the tiny room of craftsmen at the Royal Lapidary factory, we were led in to the labyrinth of cases displaying their rubies and sapphires.  It’s surprising how the special government initiative wasn’t known. TaDa!  We were shown this beauty.

Never Thai-tired of sapphires

After feeling in long denial, I opted for a pricey little souvenir of Thailand: a miniscule version of this one. Why not?  Well you try and get out of there without buying anything.  Do you have any tricks on squirming your way out of that one?  I’d love to know your tactics.

Back in the tuk-tuk, we were on to their game.  We wanted dropped off at Siam Centre but somehow he talked about stopping for gasoline.  Aha.  A tailor’s shop.  You buy a suit and I get free gasoline.  OK.  That’s it.  Just take us to Siam square.

Suddenly the tuk-tuk accelerated.  We were in a James Bond movie with Jaws at the wheel. This thing careered down hills, over bridges, screeching past taxis, as we tried to see the sights. While he was wailing, “I didn’t get gasoline”, I was wailing at the kids to keep their fingers and arms inside as they pointed out buildings.  Look Mum!  A palace.

Jaws soon accelerated wailing, “No gasoline..!”

He literally dropped us in Siam square, the shopping mall paradise where the girls and I celebrated our new souvenir investment and tuk-tuk experience with the sweetest, synthetic ice creams.  Back at the hotel I needed something a little stronger since I couldn’t stop kicking myself.  That was it: a long island ice tea.  That can surely pack a punch.  You must be kidding.  My forehead stamp must not have rubbed off yet.  Amongst the ice was some ice tea without the punchy long island bit.

I learned my lesson: I should have been dressed like our friend here, with LONG sleeves and trousers that cover the ankles.  I need to return to Bangkok and feast on the delights of the temples.  After all, with around 450 Buddhist temples, it surely can’t be that difficult to visit one. The next time, I won’t have “easy target” stamped on me and I’ll pretend to speak Norwegian.

blueberry macarons like sapphires

Sapphire Blueberry macarons

Believe me. I shall never look at sapphires in the same light again. And next time I bite into a blueberry sapphire macaron, I’ll consider it an adventure.  Tuk-tuk!

See recipe for Crispy Papaya with Prawns.


Note: This was not a sponsored trip. It was our private family holiday but I just wanted to share this touristic experience, so you can be wiser to the situation!

 

44 replies
  1. Parsley Sage
    Parsley Sage says:

    OH NOOOOOO! They tried to pull this on us too but luckily my Fodors book told me all about this scam. I’m so sorry you got roped into it. And you can rent clothes at all the temples for free or a small donation…they’re just shameless there! Next time, you’ll be ready 🙂

    Reply
    • Jill
      Jill says:

      THanks, Carsley. I knew about renting the clothes but I didn’t get as far as the door to get them. These guys work fast. Next time I buy a guidebook :-)) I’ll be ready next time to visit all the beautiful places you did. Loved your post!

      Reply
  2. Theeta
    Theeta says:

    Hi Jill, sounds like u had a fun adventure in BKK! SO bad i saw this post a little bit late, otherwise I would ask you to bring me some of your yummy macarons and I would be your tour guide in BKK free of charge 🙂
    I’m your big fan. Bought your book for quite sometimes and what i love most is your creativity for the filling 😉

    I also love your idea of using thai green curry as a macaron’s filling. Haven’t had a chance to try making it though. I like to make french pastry with a thai twist. Used to try pandan macaron (with ganache filling made of pandan essence water, white chocolate, and coconut flakes) but it turned out a bit too sweet 😛

    Anyway, i just wanna say hi and tell that i’m glad u had a good time in Thailand, especially Samui. Hope you will visit us again!

    Reply
    • Jill
      Jill says:

      Oh my! I can’t believe we missed each other. So good to hear from you. Perhaps another time. Glad you love the macarons. Your pandan and coconut macarons sound wonderful!

      Reply
  3. Amy
    Amy says:

    Jill you always seem to have the most interesting adventures! Love all of your photos :)! The blueberry sapphire macaroons sound amazing and are so beautiful! Once again you have created something unique and delicious looking :)!

    Reply
  4. June S
    June S says:

    What a wonderful story but I’m so glad you are all back in one piece. Maybe your mother didn’t warn you about situations like that. We even have tuk tuks in Edinburgh at Festival time so I think it will be safer to ride in one here. Having said that I do want to go to Thailand at some point but right now I’ll have to settle for the King and I in the Festival Theatre at Christmas.

    Reply
  5. Kim - Liv Life
    Kim - Liv Life says:

    Oh, Jill! I’m with you!! I’m gullible as well and would have done exactly as you did. What a fun day you had though! The food looks simply divine.
    A few years ago we were in St. Lucia, and I implored the kids not to take anything from anyone. On our tour, I saw a small boy talking to our guide and he then walked over and handed me a piece of coconut. I didn’t really want it but figured it was part of the tour. Not so!! I took a small nibble to be polite then he said “That will be three dollars miss! My kids just rolled their eyes and laughed.
    So glad you all had a fun journey! Sounds like one you won’t forget!

    Reply
  6. Sue
    Sue says:

    What an adventure, and at least you have something to show for it! That sapphire is gorgeous and every time someone admires it you will definitely have a story to tell! Also on the plus side your words of wisdom will hopefully prevent the rest of us falling into this scam when we visit there. I am sure it must be on everyone’s places to go list after seeing all these lovely places and mouth watering food. Speaking of which, is durian fruit as amazing as they say? The smell certainly lives up to it’s reputation but I’ve never tasted it. We have seen them outside the supermarkets in London’s China Town but they are normally very expensive if they are priced and I’m not sure we would be allowed on the train with one. Strangely none of the restaurants ever have them on the menu!

    Reply
    • Jill
      Jill says:

      Thanks, Sue. These folk are so believable and pretty clever at what they do – what’s more it’s all too fast. Keep kicking myself: how on earth could I let that happen? Well it’s quite easy but you’re right: hopefully this won’t happen to anyone else. For the durian, tasted it but nothing fabulous. Seen dried versions of it which could be better in cooking or saving a seat to yourself on that train!

      Reply
  7. Visda
    Visda says:

    You made me lough a couple of times with this post… I love riding tuktuks and guess coming from a crazy city I’m used to crazy driving.;-) Your post took me totally in vacation mood and I wish i was in thailand now instead of sitting at computer and working. The only way to escape away is just buying some fresh mango and have it with sticky rice and feel I’m on vacation.:-)
    Your Sapphire inspired macaron is beautiful. Wish I had some here now.

    Reply
  8. Jacqueline
    Jacqueline says:

    Oh no! How horrible to be caught out like that. At least you are wiser for it! The smell of the durian fruit is quite overpowering isn’t it? I don’t remember being brave enough to taste it!

    Reply
  9. Paris Pastry
    Paris Pastry says:

    Haha that is the best story! I always try not to look like a tourist when I’m on vacation, but I doubt I ever fully accomplish that. Oh well :). At least you have drawn inspiration for your macarons, they (macarons & sapphire) look stunning!

    Reply
  10. Janice
    Janice says:

    OMG Durian, I remember them, totally disgusting! Banned on public transport they stink so much. Love your sapphire, so cool. Fun post, thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  11. Nami | Just One Cookbook
    Nami | Just One Cookbook says:

    What an adventure…well it’s hard when we don’t live there and don’t know what’s going on. But it looks like you had a good vacation there. I need to watch out when I visit (if we go in December). Beautiful sapphire and macarons!!!

    Reply
  12. parisbreakfast
    parisbreakfast says:

    WOW what an adventure!
    Love the Ruby holiday story!
    I have only been to the airport in Thailand en route to India – it was so humid you could cut it.
    Was it like that when you were there?
    The Pad Thai – 2 die 4!

    Reply
  13. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    When I saw sapphire in the title, my fav gem, even more so than diamonds, I couldn’t wait to see what you came up with (Im always checking out your gorgeous macarons) Little did I know I’d be treated to a virtual tour of Tuk-Tuk in Thailand, with gorgeous photos and food! Oh, and the macarons are a stunning sapphire blue, and love the blueberry curd, must make it soon!

    Reply
  14. Joshua Alan Burgin-Eaton
    Joshua Alan Burgin-Eaton says:

    Oh, Jill, what an experience! It reminds me of my adventures in Greece, haha! I absolutely adore that sapphire and am jealous of your trip. Also, i don’t think durian fruit can never be an acquired smell! Those things smell WAY too much for the sensory system to ever ignore. Great post, Jill! My/your macarons au chocolat were a hit here, btw!

    Reply
    • Jill
      Jill says:

      OK, if you had something like that in Greece, you must have a way to get round these people. Any ideas?
      Glad your chocolate macs were a success!

      Reply
  15. Three-Cookies
    Three-Cookies says:

    I didn’t quite follow – did you buy that or was it free? I was in Bangkok years ago and I also happened to be there on that special day as well!:) The tuk tuk drivers get petrol vouchers from the shops they take you to, its a very well coordinated scam.

    Reply
  16. Becky
    Becky says:

    Jill.
    What wonderful? travel adventure you had, Tuk, Tuk. Maybe you will be part of a future James Bond Movie? Your Sapphire Blueberry Macrons arI gorgeous, and worthy of your sapphire treasure. i gave you a shout out on my latest post.

    Reply

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