No, I told him.
Do you know if there’s another German embassy near here? he asked.
That seemed kind of silly to me, but I said, No, there’s probably only one in Bangkok. Why?
Well, he says, all my luggage got stolen and I missed my flight and I’m trying to get another flight back home, but I don’t have my cards so I can’t buy a ticket.
Go to the embassy, I said. They’ll be able to help you out.
All they can do is give me a new passport.
Oh, that sucks, I said. But you have your passport?
Yes, he said.
I went there this morning, he said, but the guy told me to leave.
I didn’t see you, I replied, and I was sitting there all morning. I can take you there if you want.
But I just want to go home, he told me. I have to go home today. Can you just buy my ticket and I’ll wire you the money? It will show up immediately.
There was a sound in the back of my brain now, but I acted dumb and continued with, But I don’t know my bank information.
As long as you have a Visa card it will work, he replied.
I’m not giving you my Visa card number, I told him.
When I asked for his passport he skipped past that and told me he needed 500 Euros, and I just said I didn’t have that much money, and he said, How about a thousand baht? Just so I can stay here for a few more days.
Of course, I kept pushing back by offering to take him to my hostel and introduce him to the owner, but he just said, No, no, they’ll say it’s a scam, I’ve already been through all that.
Deep down we both knew he was full of it, but his nice little excuses let him save face, as did my continual offers to help him without handing over any money. We both parted company on decent terms, even though I just wanted to take his passport straight to the cops.
As I was standing downtown taking a picture of a building, I suddenly noticed someone standing inside my personal bubble.
He was a plump bald Brit who started asking questions about me and my camera and what I was doing. He seemed very, very friendly and very interested in me. He said he was staying in this hotel over there and had booked a few days already and it was kind of lousy for 950 baht a night.
Then, after a few moments of warming me up, he said he needed a hundred baht to buy phone credit because all his stuff was stolen and he got injured — he showed me a swollen knee — and could I just help out with a hundred baht so he could call his bank and have them wire him money?
He said there wasn’t a clerk there, which just sounded ridiculous to me. Never have I ever seen a hotel in Thailand without a clerk.
I told him they could probably return him money from a night so he could buy his phone credit.
The guy got offended and angry and started saying mean stuff to me, and as we parted ways and he limped off into the crowds of Bangkok, he said, I hope you die.
Tourists are regularly accosted by tuk tuk drivers, scam artists, Indians selling suits, and, depending on what part of town you’re in, ladyboys and prostitutes. You will get ripped off constantly. One day, I ran some errands down by my future CELTA school, and ate lunch at a street vendor’s. I asked the waitress how much it cost, and the lady turned to the manager guy and told him in Thai, Fifty baht.
With a big fat grin, he turned to me and said in English, Sixty baht.
I frowned, gave him the money, and said, in Thai, Thank you.
The guy and the waitress turned awkwardly away, because he lost face, which is a big no no in the Asian Cultures of Shame, or so I’ve heard, but I didn’t care. I stomped away and sat at a coffee shop where at least they had prices written down on a menu.
While reading an author who would later destroy all my hope in literature, a motorbike taxi driver came up to me and said that he could get me a cheap ride anywhere in the city, a cheap happy ending massage, a cheap flight, a cheap boat tour, or whatever else I wanted, what was I looking for? I just had to give the word. Pretty much anything a tourist would ever need, he could do.
At least he was willing to provide some sort of service, unlike some of these shady foreigners who speak your language and don’t bat an eye at lifting your money straight out of your wallet.
And some time even later, from my hostel room, I heard a high-pitched squeal. I poked my head outside my door, and down the steps from my room was a rat, quivering in the jaws of a local stray. I grabbed my camera, followed the cat upstairs, and took pictures as it tossed the rat around on the roof.
I hope the rat is in shock, I thought while watching the brutal murder.
For some reason, I wast distinctly reminded of the scam artists I’d recently been meeting.