The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market Scam

damnoen saduak floating market

or how we got scammed in Thailand and ways to avoid it

I have vague memories of people being scammed at the Damnoen Saduak floating market in Bangkok but never really researched it. Thus, when our taxi driver offered to take us on a full day tour for just THB 1,200 (RM 120), I didn’t bargain and thought it was a pretty good deal.

boat tour

I didn’t want the extras, I just wanted to cram in two floating markets (Tha Kha and Damnoen Saduak) for the day. It takes about 40 minutes to an hour to reach the latter and there’s a reason the taxi driver gave a lot of excuses not to go to Tha Kha (it’s too small, you won’t like it, etc).

floating market

Damnoen Saduak floating market is basically a well known tourist trap. It’s what you see on the postcards and has lost it’s original meaning of being a floating market for locals but rather a scam to bring tourists there for the same trinkets and souvenirs you’ll find on the streets of Bangkok.

tha kha floating market

Tha Kha floating market is the one that locals go to.

scam floating market
Unhappy tourists who were conned before us

Anyway, the way the scam works is that taxi drivers offer you a really good price for a day’s tour (you can hire the cab to go anywhere for the day) and bring you to a pier where you’re forced to take a boat tour. Our driver kept insisting that there isn’t a way to go to the big Damnoen Saduak pier, which isn’t true as we found out.

salt farm

It took us an hour and you can see lots of salt flats where they farm salts on the way to Damnoen Saduak floating market. It’s quite interesting to see the locals harvest salt and sell it in bulk by the roadside.

damnoen saduak scam

We got shuttled to Shang 2 Pier. I later found out that there are heaps of “private piers” like this one – they arrange a commission with the cab drivers to bring tourists here. A woman immediately approached us as we pulled in and told us it’s THB 3,000 per person or THB 5,000 per boat for a 1 hour boat tour of Damnoen Saduak floating market.

That’s RM 500 for the boat!

floating market scam

I said no way and walked back to the taxi driver and told him to bring us straight to the Damnoen Saduak floating market pier. He kept insisting that there’s no roads to go there except by boat. His English was pretty bad but I told him I don’t want a boat tour and finally the woman (who followed us over) said she’ll do it for THB 2,000 (about RM 200) per person.

That’s a ridiculous price and not knowing if there’s actually a way to the pier of the Damnoen Saduak floating market, I finally bargained with the woman and got us a covered motorized boat for a 1 hour tour for THB 1,700 (RM 170) per boat.

private pier

I realized later that we could have gotten it for much cheaper had we bargained more but there’s no way out of this scam, the driver will just drive you to different “private piers” which are just fronts for scamming people into expensive boat tours.

boat vendors

The driver of the longboat to Damnoen Saduak floating market was nice though and even helped us take a photo (which we learned some other less scrupulous drivers will charge you for).

damnoen saduak us

Damnoen Saduak floating market is a tourist trap but it’s worth a visit for the experience if you don’t mind paying the over-inflated price. It’s like the Venice of Asia with the canals and waterways. The shops are right beside the canal – it’s now concrete after the tsunami and floods but still interesting to see shops where you literally have to row up to.

coconut sugar farm

There are also various boats selling food and a coconut sugar farm inside.

coconut sugar

I liked the coconut sugar – it’s exactly like those brown sweets from primary school except this is a large, hot wok and the taste straight from the paddle is incredibly sweet and nostalgic. They also offer a tour of the coconut factory but we didn’t go for that one.

It’s quite a nice experience sitting in a boat while traversing the waterways of Damnoen Saduak floating market but getting scammed into the boat tour took some of the fun out of it. You can get a (much) cheaper boat hire by getting to the Damnoen Saduak floating market pier itself. The pier bit in that last sentence is the most vital part – that’s where the regular boats depart.

floating market stalls

I hear it is near impossible to get a taxi to go to the pier itself since they have lucrative deals to scam tourists into the private piers for the commission (the lady consulted with our taxi driver on the THB 1,700 price before agreeing). There are also tours which scam you into the private piers so be careful of that.

damnoen saduak pier

My suggestion is to go to a floating market that the locals actually use e.g. Tha Kha floating market and take a boat to Damnoen Saduak floating market from there. I got quoted THB 200 an hour per boat for a tour (RM 20) departing from Tha Kha before bargaining.

floating markets

That’s a huge difference from THB 1,700 and closer to the real price. Tha Kha is more of a pier and not the postcard picture perfect floating market you think of but it’s a nice market where practically no one speaks English and meant more for locals. It’ll be hard to convince a taxi driver to go there though.

grilled bananas

Ours didn’t want to go to Tha Kha at all until much coercion and asked for THB 100 for lunch which I absolutely refused to give after the scam he pulled. I only gave it to him when he said it’ll come out of the THB 1,200 price we agreed upon (e.g. I’ll just pay THB 1,100) coz he didn’t have any money for lunch.

damnoen saduak

When it was time to go back, our taxi driver put the meter on so I thought he wanted to scam us again (it’s THB 2,000 from Damnoen Saduak floating market to Bangkok if you follow the meter) but I was quite hostile to him and paid just THB 1,100 and left.

damnoen saduak photo

The Damnoen Saduak floating market scam is pretty well documented. Be careful of the private piers and go straight to the Damnoen Saduak pier. If you want a more local experience, get a taxi that’ll bring you straight to Tha Kha and head to Damnoen Saduak floating market from there, which will cost just THB 200 (RM 20) per boat.

One day in Bangkok!

bangkok

I applied for a debit card before I came here coz I always felt that having a debit card when you’re traveling is essential. I also thought that since I’m gonna be spending more often than I would while back home, it would be apt that I tried to win prizes every time I swipe my card. ;)

cash connect

Speaking of which, RHB is currently running a ‘Spend Small, Win Big’ contest, and the prizes up for grabs are pretty attractive:

  • 1 x Nissan Almera 1.5E(A)
  • 1 x Honda CBR250R Mugen
  • 3 x iPhone 5 (16GB)
  • 5 x Mini iPads (16GB)

I’m eyeing the iPhone 5 myself. I just needed to spend the equivalent of RM 30 to qualify for an entry – it’s all done automatically so you don’t even have to fill out any forms! I’ll have plenty of quirky places to do just that on my vacation so I figured it would be nice to bring it to Bangkok! :)

Jatujak Market

jatujak market

The place is heavily commercialized now but still fun to go to when you’re in Bangkok. Contrary to popular belief, this is no longer a “cash only” market – you can also use cards. I applied for the RHB Debit Cash-Connect MasterCard and put cash in it so that I can manage my spending.

jatujak

You know how hard it is to do that on vacations if you have a credit card. I figured it’ll be much safer to bring my RHB debit card instead of lots of cash and use that instead.

shop

I bought a couple of shirts and souvenirs here. There are boutique shops that will even customize attire for you! I spent THB 400 in just one shop (about RM 40) – it’s one of those witty t-shirt places and a bunch of Americans (I presume) were laughing loudly at all the funny words and pictures on the shirt.

Internet access

hotel

Our packaged tour got mixed up and we stayed at 3 different hotels over 5 days (!!!). The first one doesn’t have internet access so I bought a 24 hour net access card for THB 600.

pool

That’s around RM 60

net

…and the worst part was we shifted hotel right after I bought it. -_-

Oh well, at least that got me a contest entry.

Groceries at 7-Eleven

thai easter eggs

Now, the 7-Eleven in Bangkok has a lot of interesting stuff. I’ve mentioned it before on one of my posts. I only got the equivalent of RM 10 at the time but on the last trip (we went to 7-Eleven each night) I spent almost THB 500 (RM 50).

frozen pork burgers

I mostly got a lot of these microwave pork burgers to bring back home. :)

security

My check-in luggage got opened by customs – probably due to the suspicious package – so it’s a good thing I had a TSA lock (which allows customs to open your lock with their special key without damaging it).

Gourmet Market @ Siam Paragon

durian chips

This is an awesome place that first visited 7 years ago. Siam Paragon was a new mall then and the Gourmet Market was newly opened. It’s an import specialty shop.

hello kitty rice

We bought loads of stuff to bring back. Everything from Hello Kitty rice flavoring (it’s supposed to be sold only in Japan according of the label on the back)…

durians

…to durians!

hokkaido milk

I also got some awesome Hokkaido milk! The total cost was THB 857.50 – about RM 86.

Mango Sticky Rice Blizzard

dairy queen

You can only get this Blizzard at the Dairy Queen in Bangkok. :)

thailand dairy queen

It’s a country-specific specialty that goes for 690 baht (about RM 6.90) for the large version. It has a lot of sticky rice on top of mango ice cream and it tastes really good – a great twist on the street vendor version.

dairy queen mango bar

There’s also Mango Bars – only available in Thailand. I figured since we were going to freeze the pork burgers to bring back, we might as well try bringing this back too. The total amount on the bill was around 350 baht (RM 35) – bought an extra couple of sticks of ice cream to bring the total over RM 30.

dairy queen mango sticky rice

My RHB debit card also has a 0.5% unlimited cash back in addition to the contest. You just need to apply for the RHB Debit Cash-Connect MasterCard and tell them you’ll be traveling so the card will be activated for overseas spending. The best thing about the contest is that you only need to spend RM 30 and entry is automatic! No more filling in long and bothersome forms while you’re on vacation! :)

Eating Fried Insects in Bangkok: Beetles, grasshoppers, frogs, crickets, worms, red ants!

fried insects

It’s a veritable feast of creepy crawlies! The first thing I think of when I see, say, a spider, is to throw a shoe at it. The Thais go about it in a completely different way. The immediate thought seems to be “I’ll fry and eat it!”. smirk

fried insect stall

I found this street vendor selling all sorts of deep fried insects on the streets of Bangkok. Okay, frog is not actually an insect but she also had grasshoppers (huge and small ones), crickets (not the sport), beetles (which I am secretly scared of) and even red ants! Deep fried red ants! Imagine that!

deep fried insects

I bought a pack of large grasshoppers for 20 THB and a mixed bag of every single insect she had for 30 THB (RM 5 total). The street vendor laughed and complied with my request – a deep fried cricket here, a sprinkling of deep fried red ants there. There’s even two types of beetles (water beetle and weevil). It’s supposed to be a delicacy here.

fried bugs thailand

I ate it sitting on the steps where my girlfriend took this video of me eating all the deep fried insects:

I also made her eat some, much to her disgust, but at least now she’s tried it. :)

I’ll give a quick review of the insects:

fried grasshopper

Deep fried grasshopper
Surprisingly crunchy and delicious but the legs can have spines that can cut your tongue.
Deep fried frog
These are tiny frogs that can fit in my hand. They don’t even remove the bowels! Tasty and crunchy.
Deep fried beetle
The wings can be hard to swallow coz it sticks to the top of your mouth like peanut butter.
Deep fried cricket
Tastes like grasshoppers but has more of a bee-like texture to it.
Deep fried bamboo worms
Tasty and creamy!
Deep fried red ants
Highly toxic when consumed in large quantities. It makes my mouth itch just thinking about it.

eating insects bangkok

I’m not a huge fan of deep fried red ants – it’s hard to pick up (they’re tiny) and I find their venom to be a bit hard to take. It actually made me sick!

snacks insects bangkok

I was feeling slightly unwell after eating all these, she thinks it might be coz of the fried grasshoppers, I thought it was the toxin from the deep fried red ants. It’s an interesting experience nonetheless! :)

Posted: 10:30 am Bangkok time (GMT +7)

Bangkok: The airport security incident, RM 1 Red Bull and pork, pork, pork!

breakfast

Sawadeekap! I’m in Bangkok, Thailand! Six of us flew in late last night – it was supposed to be a couples trip planned after a HCMC trip was cancelled. We’re staying at Indra Regent Hotel, which is just a stone’s throw away from the overrated and commercialized Platinum Mall.

hotel room

Oh! I’ll tell you an funny incident last night. I was going through airport security, and took off my belt to go through the metal detector. I don’t know what happened, but it must have been stuck in the machine coz I didn’t see it – worse – didn’t realize it until the plane landed in Bangkok, I reached to tighten my belt…

belt

…and noticed it wasn’t there. -_-

sliced milk bread

Anyway, we hit the local 7-Eleven opposite the hotel as soon as we finished checking in. The 7-Eleven over here is really quite good – it has a lot of interesting stuff and it’s cheap!

red bull

The Red Bull over here is particularly cheap – all of them going for THB 10 or less. That’s about RM 1 – a price which you’ll be hard pressed to find in Malaysia! In fact, I paid less than the equivalent of RM 10 for all my purchases!

pork tom yam noodles

There’s a lot of nice pork wares too – even the store branded instant noodles is Pork Spare Ribs with Tom Yam Flavor. It sounds very Thai. ;)

pork pocket sandwich

We had this Shredded Pork Mayonnaise Pocket Sandwich for breakfast just now. THB 12 or RM 1.20 for a sandwich stuffed with pork floss and mayo with the edges (crust) sliced off, just like your mom used to do for you when you were a little kid. smirk

sliced butter bread

I also found this interesting bread product that goes for 7 baht each – around RM 0.70. I don’t know how to translate it properly coz the writing is all in Thai. It’s just a slice of bread with either butter or milk spread on top but it’s super delicious!

Posted: 11:42 am Bangkok time (GMT +7)

Stuck in Frankfurt due to bad weather with no confirmed flights back to KL

lufthansa sign

This is quite a funny story. Not LOLOL funny but an interesting experience coz I like to take things in stride and things like this happen. I had a flight cancelled due to fog in Melbourne when I was in uni. Hey, it’s an adventure to me. :)

Our flight from Berlin to Frankfurt was delayed due to bad weather in Frankfurt. No flights were allowed to take off from Berlin. We all waited in the plane for ages. No flights were allowed to depart from Frankfurt too – all the planes there were grounded so we thought we could still make the connecting flight.

frankfurt delay

Everyone boarded an hour ago but we could not take off – at least we got updates from the Euro 2012 Germany-Italy semi-finals match from the pilot, sorry for your loss Deutschland, I supported your team…coz we were in your country and it’s a fine one. Heh.

Anyway, when we finally managed to get airborne, we ended up taxiing above Frankfurt coz there was a sudden influx of inbound and outbound air traffic. That’s when we knew we couldn’t make the connecting flight to Bangkok…and sure enough, we only landed way after that flight has departed.

sheraton frankfurt

Lufthansa issued us a free night’s stay at Sheraton Frankfurt Airport Hotel and 30 Euros in “credit” which turned out to be dinner. This is dinner:

lufthansa dinner

There were heaps of people trying to get on a flight – any flight – so one of the staff advised us to get some rest and come back the next day. There were over 200 people on the waiting list after midnight! Thanks for queuing up and checking Nigel!

german cigarettes

I had packed my cigarettes into my check-in baggage so I had to get another at the airport – it’s 5 Euros, which is almost double our price, but with a long flight ahead and no bookings yet, you gotta have that nicotine hit.

checkin line

We went to the hotel and found out that the queue there was quite impressive too. This is where all the cabin attendants stay – it’s connected to the airport so that was good. The queue was still there after we finished dinner. Mind, this is only the Business and First class people so imagine how many people in total which was affected.

sheraton frankfurt internet

I had my notebook and bought 24 hours of WiFi from Sheraton for 19 Euros (about RM 76) using my credit card. I didn’t know how long I would need to wait, and I ended up wasting it coz I crashed at 2 am and woke up at 4 am to go line up at the airport. Oh well.

frankfurt shower

It’s a good thing I had a souvenir t-shirt of the Berlin Wall so I could change my shirt at least before heading to the airport. I didn’t even unpack coz I fell asleep after the long flight delays.

lufthansa delay queue

This was the line this morning. I started queuing at 4 am and this is what it looks like at 7:37 am. (!)

I waited in line for hours before one of the Lufthansa staff saw my ticket and brought me down. I managed to get a confirmed ticket – a husband and wife team with us went through India at 12 pm and Nigel also managed to get the 3 pm flight that I was on.

(all times are GMT +2)

lufthansa breakfast

The reason for splitting up is due to the sheer amount of stranded passengers so we couldn’t stay together. There just wasn’t enough seats. The grounding of the Frankfurt airport really affected a lot of people – several thousand people stayed at the airport (Economy) or the Sheraton in Frankfurt (Business and First).

sheraton frankfurt airport

You know what the worst thing was? No one could retrieve their check-in baggage! There’s a rule that it has to stay at the airport or something to that effect. I’m pretty sure I’ve broken the record for wearing the same underwear, jeans, socks and shoes. I could only change my shirt. I can smell myself from 200 meters away. Heh.

I’m also staying awake on willpower and coffee alone. I’ve drank more than 15 cups in the past 24 hours. :x

I’ll have to wait for a while before I’ll know if my flight back to KL later is 100% confirmed. I’m the only one left here coz there were just too many people needing to fly to various parts of the world.

It’s a good thing the Thai Airways Royal Lounge in Bangkok has a shower room so I could use their fresh, fluffy, wrapped towels and brush my teeth and freshen up.

thai air lounge shower

Thanks for booking us on Business Class, Volkswagen Malaysia – that really helps when stuff like this happens. :D

I’m still wearing the same clothes from several days ago (except for the t-shirt) but that shower really freshened me up. I can semi-write coherently while being extremely sleep deprived. Heh.

Now, I shall go back and check if my outbound flight is confirmed. I need to go back today. I don’t even know what “50% confirmed” means. *shrugs*

bangkok shower

Oh well, it’s all good! Sawadee krap from Bangkok! :)

Posted: 11:33 am Bangkok time (GMT +7)

Gourmet Market @ Siam Paragon

siam paragon

Siam Paragon is the newest shopping mall in
Bangkok, Thailand and it would be heresy not to check out the latest
and greatest after all the comments about Siam Paragon. Dubbed “The Pride of Bangkok“, I went with my gf one night to walk around the mall (it’s a lot like KLCC) and eat at the Gourmet Market.

siam paragon decor

Siam Paragon is an imposing building catering to upscale shoppers
and has an Ocean World (aquarium) and a cinema attached to the
building. The décor is absolutely amazing both indoors and outdoors and
the sheer newness of the building is overwhelming.

siam paragon entrance

The main entrance to Siam “The Pride of Bangkok” Paragon
is via a glittering glass façade. There are No Photography signs but I
took photos anyway and no one stopped me (my gf reckons it’s coz I look
like a tourist).

siam paragon maze

Siam Paragon is practically a maze to navigate, much like the first
time you step into MidValley Megamall. There are escalators everywhere
and it’s hard to get out of the place (we had to ask for directions).

siam paragon armani

Siam Paragon, as previously mentioned, is home to up market labels like Emporio Armani (check out the creepers on the levels)…

siam paragon gourmet market

…but we were there to eat so we went to the Gourmet Market.

wrapped noodle pork

The first thing we ate was the hilariously named “Wrapped A Noodle With A Pork” for 50 Baht (RM 5).

wrapped noodle pork eat

It tasted great, despite the Engrish name. Very Thai, with the pork.

iberry

Next, we went to iBerry for some sorbet.

iberry sorbet

This is us, my apologies for the mosaic, it is necessary.

minced crab

Next up was a trip to get some Minced Crab Meat + Crab Meat Sausage + Shrimp Meat Sausage (120 Baht).

minced crab eat

It comes in a set and we ate it right there at the counter…definitely tourists. ;)

minced crab mmm

This is easily the best meal of our gourmet market adventure. I love
the minced crab meat stuffed back into the shell of the crab.

fermented pork

The next thing we ate (highly recommended by my gf) was fermented pork sausage (110 Baht).

fermented pork lady

The lady at the counter mixed the fermented pork with a rice ball
(pictured above) and asked us if we wanted chillis (probably coz we
look like tourists). I told her to make it as she would serve a Thai
customer coz I’m a big fan of spicy food.

fermented pork mix

It’s a Thai delicacy and it tasted great! It has an interesting
texture and it’s spicy as hell. One funny incident happened during this
gourmet food tour – we actually recommended the fermented pork to
strangers (a couple from Singapore) and they thanked us for it. Heh!

paragon department store

Having satiated our appetites, we walked into Paragon Department Store
and I got my gf some cosmetics. The litmus test of love is to see if
your bf actually tags around when you go shopping for “boring” stuff
like cosmetics. ;)

porsche

There was a Porsche on display at Siam Paragon too.

Siam Paragon is a great shopping mall…it truly earns the tagline “The Pride of Bangkok”.

T-shirts from Bangkok

t shirts

These are some of the t-shirts I got from Bangkok. My gf told me
it’ll fill the surface area of an entire bed and I didn’t believe her
so she arranged them…and much to my chagrin, there were more t-shirts
left. The bed wasn’t enough to hold them. It’s all good though, some of
my favorites are:

I’m a virgin
(This is a really old T-shirt)

Sorry girls, I’m gay

Life is full of choices
(Photos of different strains of cannabis)

You are here
(Image of female performing fellatio)

Bad
(Picture of beer and driving)
Good
(Picture of beer and a couple copulating)

Bangkok Best Coffee (BBC)

bangkok best coffee

Bangkok Best Coffee seems to be a franchise in
Thailand and I went to check it out after seeing it one too many times
(it’s a compulsion I have, I can’t stand seeing something multiple
times and not go ;)).

bangkok best coffee drink

I don’t know if they deserve the moniker Bangkok Best Coffee but
their coffee is alright…and most importantly it’s got caffeine in it.

I just realized that I have so many Bangkok back posts that it’ll take me ages to clear…

Got meth caffeine?

Bangkok Transit System (BTS) guide

bts

BTS or the Bangkok Transit System
is the fastest and cheapest way to get around Bangkok. BTS is a train
much like the LRT and they offer airport services via the BTS Skytrain
network too.

bts tickets

The BTS trains are operated using a coupon system – the tickets are bought at the respective train stations…

bts turnstiles

…and used in the turnstiles to exit or enter the station.

bts phaya thai

The train station closest to Siam City Hotel Bangkok is Phaya Thai station (3 minutes walk) and the BTS network connects this station to stations which are in Pat Pong, Siam Square, Siam Paragon etc. Basically, you can get to anywhere you want to go in Bangkok city using the BTS.

bts ticket

This is what a BTS ticket looks like – it’s a coin operated vendor
machine dispensed magnetic strip card that has a preloaded value onto
it. Two train stops costs just 15 baht (about RM 1.50) so it’s the most
affordable method to get around Thailand.

bts train

BTS trains are long and relatively new, much like its counterpart in
Melbourne, Australia except that it runs on suspended rails instead of
on the ground.

bts interior

Here is a peek inside a BTS train. It’s usually packed with people
at all times of the hour but the same thing can be said of Bangkok.

bts on nut

Sure, the BTS connects you to strange stations like On Nut and Mo Chit but get around the initial chuckle with the names and you’ll be fine. :)

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