PHUKET: Since my busy work schedule doesn’t allow much time to travel, when an old friend from college who I hadn’t seen for over ten years decided to visit, I took the opportunity to do just that.
We took a ferry to Phi Phi, which was conveniently booked via a website along with arrangements for a chartered van to pick us up from my house.
As soon as we boarded the ferry, we were surprised to see the ‘leather couches’ we had been assigned while everyone else was sitting on ‘normal’ seats. A movie was playing on TV screens throughout the ferry and we decided this was a good decision after all.
When we stepped onto Phi Phi, however, things changed for the worse. I had paid 500 baht one-way, but as soon as I stepped onto the pier, I walked into a human traffic jam. Attendants at the dock were collecting a ‘fee’ from everyone stepping off the ferry. Having worked here for two years now, I know a thing or two about being forced to pay for non-existent services and I was not going to pay for this one.
Most of the tourists, unfortunately drunk out of their minds from partying it up before the ferry ride and during it, didn’t bother asking what the money was for, and paid. When my turn came, I curtly asked why I needed to pay 30 baht to enter the island.
The attendant felt that no explanation was needed, and asked me again for 30 baht or I wouldn’t be allowed on Phi Phi. More and more tourists kept piling up behind me, waiting for their turn to pass, but I didn’t pay any heed to it.
The attendant looked visibly angry and a little surprised at my persistence, but I held my ground. I told him that I wasn’t going to pay him and if he wasn’t going to let me enter, he was going to have to buy my ticket back to Phuket for me. We glared at each other for a few more seconds and he told my friend and me to go through with an angry gesture.
My friend, who lives in South Carolina and was visiting Asia for the first time in her life, was obviously confused by what was happening.
I explained to her that in ‘the land of smiles’, there would always be people trying to shyster money out of you, so just be wary of what you owe and what you don’t.
This little victory at Tonsai Pier, as much as it makes me look like a miser, is one of many that we ‘farang’ have to strive to work toward every single day. Just last month, I was shocked at having to pay 300 baht to enter a national park, while Thai people had to pay just 30 baht.
It’s important for us to stop throwing away our money just to not have to explain things in broken Thai. If more people start standing up to the extra ‘charges’ foreigners have to pay to do anything in Thailand, maybe Thai people will realize that although we appreciate their beautiful country and unmatched hospitality, if we pay taxes and work hard here, then it is reasonable for us to demand to be treated in a just manner.
— Zohaib Sikander