Tuk Tuk driver with Tequila Carmel

SCAMMED IN THAILAND

We are not seasoned travellers…. yet…. but when we enter a new country or city we make sure we research the most common scams in the area. Most times this has worked, we got through Mexico, America and China un-scammed, had a small tasting in Fiji which we picked up on very quickly, but here in Thailand…. THEY ARE GOOD…. I mean Academy Award stuff. We read up on all the common scams, many of them identical on different blog sites, but still we got well and truly scammed. Heres what happened…

SCAM 1.
We took ourselves on a boat trip down the river to go to the Grand Palace… 40 Baht, Good start. When we arrived at the port and started walking toward the Grand Palace we noticed hundreds of Thai people walking the same way dressed in black. As we got half way down the street there was an impeccably dressed Thai man sitting on his equally nice motorbike who called out to us, “ Where you going, Grand Palace closed today, only Thai allowed, national day or mourning” SCAM 1. Now of course we believed him, all these people dressed in black it had to be true. Then the conversation started, where you from, have you been here before, where you going. He even added that he spent his honeymoon in Melbourne (thats after he established that we were from Sydney)

SCAM 2.
“Come with me I will show you a short cut back to ferry”. The walk down the alleyway was just long enough for him to continue the conversation and build trust. From the corner of my eye I saw him beckon with his hand to a near by Tuk Tuk. He casually suggested another temple just as the Tuk Tuk appeared and quickly organised a special price for us.. only 40 Baht.

Tuk Tuk driver with Tequila Carmel
Our friendly Tuk Tuk driver

SCAM 3.
Now that we were in the nice mans chosen Tuk Tuk he drove us to the giant 40 meter Buddha and told us to take our time, it didnt take us long as there was nothing to see there, when we got back our driver said, “I just go to toilet” and suddenly a new player arrived… SCAM 3. Another perfectly dressed Thai man with perfect English. “Hey buddy where you from?” he then went on to tell us that he was a school teacher at the school that we were conveniently parked in front of. Now this guy pulled out a number of scams. He showed us photos of him dressed in an Armani suit, and he told us he could take us to his taylor, he then went on to tell us that school finishes for 4 weeks tomorrow and all Thai people head to Chiangmai…. I wonder how he knew we where going there. He told us he could tell the driver to take us to the Thailand Tourism Visitors Centre to help us book our accommodation…. We politely declined.

Thailand Scam with Tequila Carmel
The map that the nice man circled for us

SCAM 4.
Back in the Tuk Tuk. After declining his constant badgering to go to Gem shop or Taylor, he suggested we go to the floating markets…. Great idea, YES please…SCAM 4. He showed us photos of the floating markets and the long tails, yes thats what we wanted. “ok I take you to Thai wharf so you get Thai price.” What a nice guy!!!!! He told the man at the wharf that we were good friends and give us the special Thai price. We paid him 200 baht instead of 40 suggested by the motorbike guy and he left us at the wharf. Now I had researched and knew that to take a private tour of the floating markets was going to cost roughly 3000 Baht, so when we got him down to 2000 baht we thought we had done well.

longtail

SCAM 5.
Our tour of the floating markets…. what a scam. The 1 hour tour took us to 1 lady on 1 boat that was selling trinkets. She told us that everyone has left we are to late…. at 10am in the morning. When we would not buy any of her wares she talked us into an overpriced warm can of Chang at 100baht…. not to mention the other Chang she talked us into buying for the driver, which she switched to a coke when she thought we were not looking. So after our 1 floating trinket seller we were dropped off at China Town.

So there you have it….. a snowball of scams. As we sat down to a hot bowl of Pad Thai a little later and analysed our day we had an OMG we got scammed moment, its easy to think your not being scammed or you won’t be scammed, but trust me these guys are good. Lesson learned.


SINGAPORE IN 4 DAYS

Spending 4 days in Singapore was just the right amount of time to explore the City.

Singapore by day

We arrived from Sydney Australia at 10pm and had pre-booked a night at the Airport Crowne Plaza using rewards points. Well it was definitely worth it. What a great way to start our holiday, with a soundproof room, a gorgeously comfortable bed, and even a soft lavender room spray to help you relax, which it did!!! Check out was at 12 noon and with breakfast included, nothing is rushed, although we were very excited to get a start so we left early.

Watching a plane land from hotel

Singapore can be very expensive, but the first Taxi driver we had gave us some great advise….. get out of the city. Singapore has been rated as the 6th most expensive city in the world, but manage Singapore well & it won’t cost you the Earth. Of course the City Centre is very expensive, with a Tiger Beer costing $15 to $20 and cocktails $17 to $35. The Currency rate is virtually $ for $.

We quickly discovered that supermarket’s don’t exist here, well not around the city centre anyway. They are called “The Market Place” which would be very similar to Thomas Dux in Australia or Bristol Farms in America. Beer is slightly cheaper here if you wish to take away, but still out does any price I have ever paid for one back home.

When it came time to eat, we spent some big bucks around our immediate area, but the best we had was when we stumbled upon some little side streets that had rows of empty eateries and then one that was overflowing with people, that’s where we went. We found some amazing places by using this rule and had some fantastic meals that were cooked fresh right in front of us. I got hooked on home made curry puffs (certainly nothing like curry Puffs in Australia), we had a very messy and truly delicious Singapore Chilli crab (number 8 on my bucket list) at Greg’s cafe which cost $45 for the two of us, washed down with an expensive tiger beer $15 each.

curry puffs

Singapore Chilli Crab

At every street corner in Singapore is a shopping Centre, BIG shopping centres… Our local was the Raffles shopping centre, which had an array of gourmet eateries, chocolate shops & gorgeous cupcake shops, my favourite was “The toast box” the decor was as fantastic as the sweet food they served, definitely a few kilos gained here.

Marina Bay Sands, Marina bay Shopping Centre & Marina Bay Gardens were all nothing short of spectacular. Unfortunately you must be a guest to visit the infinity pool & bar. But for $28 we went to the top lookout & Bar, with a beer at a very reasonable (hear the sarcasm) $20 a beer, it is expensive but to be honest, it’s worth it, “when in Singapore right!!!” Just to sit and see all of this magnificent city at sunset was most definitely a highlight.

view from Marina Bay

Singapore Gardens

The shopping centres themselves consists of every designer shop there is, with matching Children’s designer shops – Gucci, Versace, Louis Vuitton and it goes on and on. The food court does not disappoint either, with an ice skating rink in the middle.

One of our favourite places to visit was Chinatown. As you find your way through the warren of alleyways you will find plenty to keep you occupied, Herbal Chinese medicine, eateries, souvenirs, beautiful buildings, music…. you name it. And a great place to try some authentic Asian street food.

Cinatown

We stayed at the Peninsula Excelsior Hotel and had a room that looked directly across to Marina Bay Sands. Actually the design of the room allowed you to even sit on the toilet and appreciate the view. We got refused entry to the roof top cocktail Bar, not because we had partied to much but because we were not dressed properly. So we got dressed up the next night and got in.

View from our room with a Singapore Sling

night view from our room

Taxi’s are surprisingly cheap in Singapore. The Airport to City Hall was $15 and about 30 minutes, and City Hall to Sentosa Island $10 + $5 entry toll. I highly recommend taking a Taxi to Sentosa, as it takes 10 minutes by Taxi and 1hr by public transport. Once your on Sentosa Island, there is a free Shuttle service that takes you to every attraction there is on the Island.

Sentosa is absolutely not to be missed, it may even be worth staying a couple of nights as there is no shortage of things to do. Take your $$$ when you go out and about in Sentosa as this will be the most expensive part of your stay in Singapore.

Zip line Sentosa

We ventured to adventure world, did rock climbing, went on the 500m long zip line, rode the numerous water slides, snorkelled on a reef full of beautiful fish and my favourite of all Adventure River where we rode a tube down a river through jungles, grottos and tunnels and encountered lots of marine life long the way.

Adventure Cove Sentosa

Now if you are cashed up you could choose to stay at one of the resort hotels around the Sentosa resort. My pick would be the Beach Villas Ocean Suites, the rooms have windows that look out onto the worlds largest ocean aquarium and charge you well for the privilege.

Ocean Beach Villas Sentosa

The Marina Bay gardens were truly incredible and immaculate, you can wonder the gardens for free or pay $8 to walk up to the sky bridge which we did and appreciated.

Marina Bay Sky Walk

The hop on hop off bus tours, although very touristy were worth the $43 per person, yes it’s expensive but again, worth it. Very informative and a great way to get your bearings and being able to hop off anywhere is a great way to get around.

NOW… The trick to beating the crowds is so simple. Go early, preferably at opening time. This is what we did, and we got to appreciate all activities without waiting at all. Apparently the busiest time to go anywhere is after 4pm where you may wait an hour to go on one ride. This is the same with markets, although Singapore does comes to life of an evening when it’s cooler so for market and street food experiences head out after dark.

Raffles Singapore Sling

Overall – I absolutely loved Singapore and felt safe the entire time. Four days enabled us total things slowly and really enjoy Singapore’s City centre. Next time we will head out of the city and hit the outer areas.

Essential to bring with you

Curash (for chafing), its hot and sweaty and lots of walking.
Insect repellent, not that we encountered any mosquitos at all, but with the latest warnings on the Zika Virus it is better to be safe.
Pocket tissues, theres no serviettes anywhere, so ordering spicy food, your nose will run like a tap.
Wet ones – to wipe the curry stains from your mouth!!!
Dressy outfit, you WILL be refused entry of an evening if you are not dressed appropriately.

So thats it, our 4 days in Singapore, it was expensive in comparison to the rest of Asia, but choose carefully and get local and it should help the funds a little.