The Crying Game – conned in Ko Phangan
I haven’t had a good cry in years, sure a heartfelt tear shed here and there but crying, well, it’s been a while. Coincidentally enough, while on an 8 hr bus from Cambodia back to Bangkok we challenged each other to do it…and unsuccessfully at that, the experiment would have been lost in the wrinkles of time had it not been for Max rentals in Ko Phangan. We’d arrived easy enough and scooters being our preferred mode of foreign transport decided to rent a couple for the day. At 150 baht, less than 8 bucks, it seemed like a steal. We cruised the island by day and parked the bikes at our bungalow for the evening to return the next morning. Little did we know how much those bikes would cost us.
I had scoped out parts of the island in the morning since Em, a little tired from a late evening was napping so I went to return my moped first. The nonchalant dealer, who’d seemed so easy going was quick to point out a small scratch on the side of the bike, literally less than a cm in width. I told him i hadn’t noticed it and it was probably there before, but he was insistent. Not wanting to be there too long and knowing we’d be back to return emele’s bike I said we’d discuss it later, thinking at worst I’d have to pay another 10 bucks or so. fast forward an hour later and we would come to find out my estimate was far from accurate. He wanted 6000 baht, close to 200 dollars. I was floored and in no position to shell out that kind of cash for something I’d not even done. our first tactic was frankness, it was a small scratch and there was no way such a thing would cost that much to fix, he dropped the cost to 3500, which was still ridiculous. so we resorted to the “I’m a poor student tactic and have no money” with a couple of tears thrown in for good measure. little did I know I could put on such a performance, Emele put her head down trying to mask the laughter, but when it became clear that wasn’t going to work either, she flipped and tried yet another tack. “GIVE US OUR F’iNG PASSPORTS!” she screamed. it was enough to get the old obese woman in the corner out of her chair. he returned the volume telling us to F’ ourselves. at that point we decided to leave, regroup, and try to talk with the police, which was a complete waste of time.
With his shirt unbuttoned the officer simply pointed to a sign warning tourists about renting vehicles and asked why we didn’t think more about it. We were obviously not going to get any help there. After another pow wow we decided I would return alone since em’s outburst was probably not quite so helpful and try to offer all the money we had in our money pouch, which amounted to a little over 30 usd.
I would ultimately burst out in tears, amazing even my own self with my Oscar worthy performance and plea with the con artist about how with only a few days left he would be taking all the money I had left, which technically was sort of a truth. it was all we had left in our pooled monies. after rounds with the owner, a police officer, and the sleazy moped dealer I would ultimately leave $30 poorer but with passports in hand. But not before witnessing the same scam on two incoming Brits who got slapped with a 3000 baht bill and a group of Aussies who were told an entire part would need to be replaced for the bargain price of 11,000 baht. they would fork it over and demand the part for a keepsake. what they would end up doing with the slightly dented metal piece who knows but it makes for an interesting souvenir.
it’s a bit flooring to realize someones entire career is built on shamelessly extorting money, but then again it wouldn’t be a missadventure without some instance of theft, robbery, or con game.
I leave off with a few tips for those traveling to these parts:
- Never give your passport as collateral, at one point the Max Rental attendant blatantly admitted he could sell my passport for more money.
- If you plan on going to Ko Phangan stay away from Max Rental located across the street from Same Same.
- Regardless of the outcome, don’t let it ruin your holiday. The bitterness of the event passes quickly and at the very least you’re left with an entertaining story.