Monday, February 8, 2010

Yindee Lapidary - Gem Scam in Thai

Super long post, if you're planning to go to Bangkok, please read.

Before I talk about the gem scam, a little background about the story I'm going to tell.

Christine's bf Alex went to Bangkok with 2 of his friends about 3 months ago, they met a man who told them about Lucky Buddha day, which is once in a month and suggested them to visit the Lucky Buddha temple, after that Alex and friends were told there's this Yindee Lapidary, they were running promotion on all gems in the store, Alex always wanted to buy a ring for Christine, therefore, he bought a silver ring with a topaz stone. 2 weeks later, the gem stone came out, Alex gave Christine the warranty card, told us the ring could be fixed as long as we bring it to Yindee, they have this called, life-time warranty certificate.

The 1st and 2nd Day we were busy shopping, we didn't go there until Day 3. On Day 3 itself (which is 25th of January), after breakfast we checked with a female tour agent (who has a working table at the hotel) about the tour package to Grand Palace Temple, she charged us 900baht per person including Wat Arun. 1800baht for 2 persons?! It's insanely overpriced. After we bargained, she agreed to give some discount, 1300baht excluding Wat Arun. Still expensive, so I told her the entrance fee is only 350baht, we just wanted a cheap package to go there. She got mad and told me Grand Palace wouldn't sell tickets to foreigners, everything must go through agents.
We decided to make a phone call to Grand Palace Temple before signing any packages, I wanted to double confirm the entrance fees, and I wondered Grand Place wouldn't sell tickets to foreigners.

The operator told me the entrance fee is 350baht per person, we can take a taxi to get there, it's around 30-45 mins from where we were. I told him about what the agent said, suddenly the operator became serious and said
"You just come here and buy tickets in Grand Palace, we sell tickets to foreigners, DO NOT TRUST ANYONE, THEY LIE"

Before we stepped out from hotel, we tried to call Yindee Lapidary, wanted to know the working hours, but strangely no one ever picked up the phone. We decided to make a call to Yindee later that night, we believe the ring could be done on the spot. From our hotel, we walked to Pratunam Mall, wanted to take taxi from there. I noticed there's Phra Phrom in front of every shopping malls in Bangkok, joss sticks were prepared, local and foreigners can pray without making donations. We couldn't find the donation box, I just assume we don't have to? I don't know. Anyway...

A man came from nowhere approached us. He asked us to pray, he said, "no need to pay"
Before we have the chance to take joss sticks, the same man told us he doesn't speak English, he asked a lady to come over, told us the lady is his friend and she speaks good English. The lady asked where we were heading after this, we just told her we wanted to visit Grand Palace, and asked her the direction to the famous Phra Phrom which near to Central World. This lady was very friendly, she looked nice and sincere. She taught us how to go to there, she even taught us how to get to Grand Palace (although we knew how to), and she talked a lot...I forgot what she told us, but we just felt amazed, Thais are all friendly and nice!
The lady, giving directions

Suddenly, she said
"You are very very very lucky! Today is Lucky Buddha Day, Lucky Buddha only opens once every month! You should go to Lucky Buddha and pray before you go to Grand Palace!"

At first we insisted to go to Lucky Buddha later that day, but she kept saying "Grand Palace opens everyday, you should really go to pray in Lucky Buddha Temple before you go to Grand Palace".

Well to be frank, at first we didn't have much interest to visit the Lucky Buddha Temple she mentioned, she read us...and said
"Grand Palace opens at 1pm today! Every temple opens at 1pm on Lucky Buddha Day, because nobody will go to other temples on this special day"

She went on and told us she will help to get us a Tuk-tuk, we only have to pay 30baht for the return ride. We hesitated...30baht for a return ride is cheap, we were a bit worried the tuktuk might charge us differently after that. This lady assured we only have to pay 30baht, it's Lucky Buddha Day (She kept saying Lucky Buddha Lucky Buddha) everyone must do GOOD THING. Therefore the tuk tuk driver will charge cheaper. She brought us to a tuk tuk which parked in front of Pratunam Mall, and told the tuk tuk driver we're paying 30baht for the ride, not more than that. Soon after that she said the tuk tuk driver works for her husband, and her husband is a police officer. It was 11:34am, Christine and I decided to take up her advice (as she said Grand Palace opens at 1pm!), and go to Lucky Buddha temple instead.

Right, before we made our move, I requested to snap photos with her...don't say I'm naive, easily trust strangers. I requested because I wanted to test her, if she lied, maybe she wouldn't want to take pictures (the whole world will recognize her!). I asked if it's OK to snap her pictures, she was delighted and said
"Yes yes!!"
Oh well, she couldn't be a bad person right? I thought
The lady and I
(Hey I just noticed that's a fake smile!)

Christine gave her a thumbs up, LOL!

We got on Tuk-tuk,

The lady whispered in our ears before we go
"I tell you something, you two are very lucky! Yindee is doing promotions right now, everything in the store is in very good quality, they give 30% off! You should go there and have a look"
Christine started to feel weird, on the way to Lucky Buddha Temple, she told me Alex told her it was Lucky Buddha Day and Yindee's giving out discounts on every items in the store, it was 3 months ago, remember? I knew nothing before this...
I asked Christine what was the date of Alex's visit, she said it was also end of month...she guessed it was 25th too, the same day! We thought it made sense because once in every month is Lucky Buddha Day, we were just too lucky! And guess what, Christine and I planned to go to Yindee anyway, to have her ring fixed! It's like a free ride...good huh?
On the way to Lucky Buddha Temple

Around 15 minutes later, reached! The tuk tuk driver said
"Take your time, I will wait here, take your time"

Okay...we expected to see lots of people praying in the temple, but this temple looked...erm, too quiet? It was Lucky Buddha Day, according to the lady, this place should be filled with prayers

After we prayed, we just took a small walk in the area

Century Park Hotel
I googled the hotel, try to check the name of this temple...this is a small temple, I believe this is Wat Thatsanarun Sunthri Karam Temple.

There's nothing much to see there, we walked to the entrance and saw the tuk tuk driver. He lead us to a small hall, asked us to pray inside the hall and said this again
"It's okay, take your time I will wait, take your time" to be true, I felt funny when he said it, how long he expected us to stay in the hall anyway?

The place we prayed

There was a man inside the hall, praying too.

Soon after we prayed, we opened our eyes, shocked because the man was looking at us. He smiled and started a conversation. He looked really nice and sincere. He told us he was a monk, he lived in this temple for many years before he got married, he loves this temple. Right now he's working in Singapore and will come back every month for Lucky Buddha Day. He even told us the name of the company he attached to, he's a manager and he's always a very lucky person because he trusted Lucky Buddha. He said right now his wife and 2 daughters were in another hall, meditating..

He told us a lot about himself, frankly speaking, I felt bored, I thought he was boring. Maybe he saw my intention to go, he said "Please sit down, I'm sorry I forgot to tell you no standing in this hall" alright, now we felt bad, we sat down immediately, I looked around, noticed the photographs of the death on the wall. We felt very very sorry...
Well you know, once you sit down, you wouldn't leave in a few minutes, he got us. There he continued his story as a very successful engineer in Singapore, his daughters are in International School, he wife loves him so much because he doesn't smoke or drink, etc. He believes in Karma and reincarnation, and he never wants to lie at anyone.

I suggested Christine to take a photo with him, to TEST him. I don't know, I just felt it's necessary and BY THE WAY, I love taking photos. He refused, he said Thais will never take pictures with Buddha statues, because Buddha is God and we're human, not the same. Holy COW, did I say I want to take picture of him and Buddha? I said Christine and him! Anyway, we thought what he said was right, and somehow I lost the interest to take his photo. GOSH I should have insisted huh?
I didn't like him, because he talked so much about his luck, career, money he earns every month etc, he boosted himself to the max, what does it have to do with us anyway? We just listened to his story because he's friendly

Suddenly he lowered his voice (not again?), made us promise not to tell anyone the secret he's going to share, especially his wife. He said
"Yesterday I went to Yindee and bought my wife a whole set of jewelry! My wife kissed me here here here" pointed at his cheeks, lips, forehead etc.
"Yindee Expo is giving promotion because it's Lucky Buddha day!!
All the gems are top quality!
They do not open for public, they don't sell to Thais either!
Yindee only open 7 days in every year!"

Christine and I exchanged a funny look, I saw the disappointment in her eyes... all these were scams. We didn't want to talk more, but the man went on and on, he said Christine looked 1-2 years younger than me because she has sporting look, and I'm very sexy with low cut top. Fuck him! Don't look at my boobs! You forgot you just said you love your wife so much and you're the nicest husband? Fucking bastard!

"7 days in every year? You mean just 7 days?"

"Yes! Today is the 2nd last day!!"

I couldn't stand it, I stood up and said
"Thank you very much, I believe Buddha knows you are a very HONEST person, you will not lie in front of Buddha, and you believe in KARMA, Buddha knows it all, you will be blessed by Buddha for your honesty. I'm afraid we must go now"

He didn't look guilty, and he totally agree with me! GOSH!! Shame on him, he dared to lie in front of Buddha? I don't think he's a Buddhist!

Came out from the hall, the driver was already there. Christine and I got in tuk tuk without a word, we didn't say we wanted to go to Yindee, just to see where he would bring us to.
Ta da~
He fetched us to Yindee Lapidary, we didn't say we wanted to go there, apparently the driver is one of the liars

We knew it was a scam, that's why we took this photo!

We went in, saw a very very very friendly nanny, she is a Thai-Chinese over 60. She smiled at us, and asked
"Are you from Singapore?"

"No, we're Malaysians"

"Ooh, when I asked Singaporeans if they are from Malaysia, they say they are from Singapore; when I asked Malaysians if they're Singaporean, they say they are Malaysians" Okay, not funny, what's the point of telling us all this? You think we have 2 Nationalities?

But still, she looked so nice... Christine took out the ring and certificate, guess what, the face of the nice nice nanny changed, she looked like a walking devil, all black faced and she discussed with her son (I believe it's her son). They talked in Thai, we didn't get it at all. One of them went out and talked to tuk tuk driver, went in and then the old lady said

"We need 2 days to fix it, we need to send it to factory"

2 days...I just knew they reluctant to fix it, it's just an excuse, if they have a tech in the goldsmith, the ring could be fixed on the spot. It's not a big project!
We requested to take the ring back, the lady's son told us they've already sent it to factory. WTF?! In 3 minutes time?
Christine told them she SAW the old lady put it in the drawer, the man felt embarrassing and they talked in Thai again. I told him we wanted to buy the same ring for Alex, we need to see the design (I wanted him to surrender the ring). The stupid man believe and gave us back the ring. I said the ring size is too small for Alex, the man told me they can fix it and we can come back and get the ring the day itself, see? They have a tech in the store, why they requested 2 days to fix Christine's ring? FUNNY! As if my mum never have her rings fixed. If they are selling good quality jewelry, the gem stone wouldn't come out easily, it's only 2 weeks of wearing them.

We pretended to consider his idea, came out from the store, the tuk tuk driver was there, he wanted to walk us to the shop next door. I said we wanted to go back to Pratunam Mall, he said
"No, you go there first"

Holy shit...he forced us to go to another store?
I half shouted at him, I said I have stomache and I NEED to go now!
I was glad he got the message, and fetched us back to the mall. We paid him 30baht, no tips for a man like him.

I google Yindee Lapidary, and got these..
We were not the only one.
Bangkok & Thailand scam
Singaporeans against Thai gem scam

Thailand is a beautiful country, I really love it..otherwise I wouldn't have traveled there for times. Thais are friendly and nice, out of so many times I travel to Thai, it was the 1st time I saw the ugly side. This scam wouldn't stop me from going to Bangkok again. This is a lesson I learnt during this trip, we should never trust any strangers who suggested funny things. Remember the Thai operator of Grand Palace Temple? He warned us...but anyway it's a very good lesson to my friend and I, and, Alex went there on 16th, not 25th...
We wouldn't know the truth if we didn't listen to the 1st woman we met,
We wouldn't know the truth if Christine remembered it was 16th not 25th
We wouldn't know the truth if we took taxi and go to Yindee, without people guiding us there

As a conclusion, we were not that bad luck after all ;)
Better luck next time!



CathJ said...

THANK YOU sooo much for this lessons too.. I learn so much... I will make sure to be alert and wise when visiting this place..

Urghhh... so sakit hati to read this story...

violetmay said...

Not only Thailand, but every countries, even in Malaysia also have!! My mum's friend kena before :'(

proteusguy said...

Must have been "Lucky Violet & Christine Day"! :-)

violetmay said...

Have a safe trip to Atlanta, it's tomorrow...right? Don't tell me it's March :P

Adam said...

great article, i found your site after I google about lucky budda day.
A similar thing happend to me and wife last night. Its kinda a long story, but a very friendly man stopped us on the steet and started talking to us. And he said that he is returning to his home in Chang Mai after he vacationed in Ko Samui. Then I said "cool, i was thinking of visiting Ko Samui". Then he proceeded to tell me that im lucky i met him and it's bhudda day and this Student Travel Agency is offering a 30% discount. i said we are on a thight budget, he said, "no problem! cheap cheap!" He kept insisting it was only for today. After talking awhile, he mentioned other tours. Elephant trekking, tiger temple, etc... He said the fireworks show was going to start in two hours for the budda day and the travel agency would close, he was urging that "We GO NOW!" I was curious to see the prices and I said ok, conveniently a tuk tuk comes down the street and we approach it and he waives the guy to stop then he tells him in thai where we should go. He said 60 baht, then the man said "no no 40!" then soething in thai, then the driver agreed. We arrived to the travel agency after a scary ride then the lady there spoke int eh same kind of way the guy did chinese/thai or something like that. Kinda leads me to believe they are related or married. Anyway to keep a long story short, the started with very high prices, around 20,000 baht for 2 weeks in Ko Samui and Ko Phangan. Eventually down to around 10,000. 11,000 for elephant trekking. She was very pushy and it was difficult to get outta the place. Once I was walking out the door she was rude and in a bad mood.

violetmay said...

Hi Adam, I'm very sorry to hear about your encounter in Thai, just glad you didn't purchase any tour packages from them. Nasty people are everywhere, I learnt a lot from this experience, I don't want to be a fool ever again ;)

ChewyJas said...

this scam is still ongoing even now. I just came back few days ago and my bf and I had the same encounter. I'm going to blog abt it to warn my friends too!

Jamee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mad said...

pls dun believe any stranger in thai (bangkok).