Sunday, January 11, 2009

Wat Tramit, The Gem Scam

A stop by the Golden Buddha is something a tourist in Bangkok should not miss. However, while traveling you need to be aware of ripoff artists. If you're traveling to Bangkok Thailand you should be aware of a common scam. It's called the 'Gem Scam' in the Lonely Planet books.

Basically this is how the scam works:
You show up at a popular tourist attraction like a temple. Some local approaches you and tells you it's closed (when it's actually open) but he can take you to some place else where you can buy some extremely rare gems. You're then taken on a ride to a place you don't know so you're pretty much at their mercy. And of course the gems are not rare at all.

It doesn't always involve gems but the scam is similar. For example I once hailed a cab in Bangkok and the driver said I'll only charge you 50 Baht when other drivers were trying to get 300 Baht. He was only charging 50 Baht because he wanted to take me to another place where I would have to only window shop for 10 minutes. After that if I didn't want to buy anything he would take me to my destination. But what would happen if I did not want to buy anything? I assume there would have been immense pressure to buy and who knows, maybe I would have been stuck there if I did not purchase anything (probably at ripoff prices). I got out of the cab and got another.

Wat Tramit
Well, when I got to Wat Tramit, known for it's Golden Buddha, I was approached by a local who told me Wat Tramit was closed. I figured it was a scam so I ignored him and charged onwards. Well... it turns out it was indeed closed so I was not able to see the real Golden Buddha. I had to settle for taking pictures of the replica of the Golden Buddha. Hopefully if you're planning a trip it will be open by the time you get there.

The Wat Tramit Temple was built in 1882 and became a royal temple in 1952. The Buddha housed in this temple is named Sukhothai Tramit and is from the Sukhothai Period, presumably the reign of King Ramkhamhaeng The Great (1277-1317). The Golden Buddha is the world's largest solid gold Buddha statue. It is 15 feet tall and 5.5 tons. In the 1955 it was rediscovered. This Buddha had be completely covered in plaster (presumably in the 13th century) to protect it from thieves and this wasn't discovered until it was accidentally dropped, cracking the plaster and reveling the true statue, during a move.

Wat Tramit under construction

A replica of the Golden Buddha.

Ok, so not everyone's a scam artist in Bangkok... but a traveler should still keep their wits about. Remember the cab driver that tried a variation of the gem scam on me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Tourist Police are supporting the scammers.

The Tourist Mafia now controls most of the tourist destinations.