The voices of the gods now inform touri that the Grand Palace is not closed. Unless it is.

I don’t know what to say about the fact that these days I’m picking up more useful tidbits off of Stickman’s weekly column than the far more prolific postings of the gay message boards, but there ya go. Knowing that some of you avoid Stick’s corner of the internet because it smells suspiciously of fish, I thought I’d pass along the latest word, one which I have a bit of a problem in believing. According to Stickman the government has installed a PA system along the walls surrounding the Grand Palace that announces to touri that the Grand Palace is in fact not closed.

Have they no sense of tradition!

The Grand Palace Is Closed scam is the second oldest con* in Bangkok. Anna Leonowens fell for it when she presented herself for her governess job, which is why she started all that whistling crap. But then blowing the whistle on locals is never a good idea in Thailand and she managed to get herself banned for all eternity for that little stunt. The Grand Palace Is Closed is a well-known and well participated in scam that ready victims touri greedily fall prey to in masses daily. The Grand Palace Is Closed scam is a rite of passage. And it provides income for scores of locals out to help visitors to their country. I don’t know what the government was thinking. If you hear rumors of a coup in the next few weeks, pay attention this time.

The new announcement, in ‘perfect English,’ advises touri that they should ignore anyone who says the palace is closed. The announcement states that the palace is open every day from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM and that the last admission is 3:30 PM.

Lucky you! That’s an officially licensed special government approved tuk tuk!

At least half of the touri who hear this announcement will smarten up and realize the helpful local who regrettably tells them that the Grand Palace is closed just might be a liar. Okay, well, maybe 30% will. Still, that is enough potential victims who didn’t get fleeced to put a serious crimp in the income levels of helpful locals, special government approved tuk tuk drivers, visiting professionals who will tell touri about the large gobs of money to be made by purchasing gems in Bangkok and selling them for unheard of profits back in their home country, and gem dealers holding special, one day government approved jewelry sales that the lucky touri who was disappointed about the closure of the palace luckily stumbled upon.

More importantly it could easily put an end to my enjoyment of playing Scam the Scammer and getting a fifty baht tuk tuk ride to three cool wats finished off with a cool drink in a nicely air conditioned showroom where the sales help will quickly figure out I’m not spending a satang. Now I’m gonna have to go visit a damn museum instead.

The word is that before the government decided to intervene in free enterprise, backpackers – who obviously can’t afford pricey high quality gems that would be worth a fortune when they run out of funds and have to go back to the real world – often instead get the opportunity to pick up incredible deals on air and bus fares to wisk them off to the next destination where the locals will prey on their naivete. The Thai government in its ill-conceived move has not only helped to put a stop to these bargain basement deals but is blocking one of the important lessons in life that backpackers once had the opportunity of getting under their belt at an early age.

A humongous gold Buddha is included on the Scam The Scammer tour.

For most of them that lesson was: You Are A Loser You Backpacking Scum. For those that agreed to their trip of discovery on a whim and have hated every minute of it, the lesson that complete strangers who want to clue you in on a big secret are lying is one they would have benefited from for years to come. Thank the gods the bar boys who will tell you they love you within minutes of meeting are still readily available or my faith in humanity would be completely lost.

Not being a complete Philistine, whenever I have visited the Grand Palace I’ve dressed appropriately. The symbol of Thailand’s monarchy whose grounds are filled with temples, chapels, and shrines . . . you shouldn’t need to be told to dress respectably. Those that do need to be told often instead get their own version of the Grand Palace Is Closed scam wherein the gem shops and bargain ticket outlets are bypassed in favor of one of Bangkok’s award winning Indian Tailors since its obvious the poorly dressed touri are in need of a decent set of duds.

The best Indian tailors in Bangkok are always easy to spot. Their pants are one inch too tight and two inches too short. I’m not sure why they are all committed to the before picture, but have to assume it must be considered the apex of marketing in Calcutta. But inappropriately dressed visitors to the Grand Palace need not worry. A helpful local will point out an officially sanctioned tuk tuk driver who will know where these guys’ shops are. Those whose karma is not quite as good won’t get an opportunity to buy a new sets of clothes, they’ll get the opportunity to rent them.

Locals will turn to Buddha to fix what the government just screwed up for them.

I never realized there was a bonus scam lying in wait at the Grand Palace, but evidently there is and it too is a staple of the local economy. Or it once was. Now, in addition to announcing the hours the palace is open, the government’s broadcast also informs potential visitors that if they are dressed inappropriately there are acceptable coverings inside available for use at no charge. Evidently previously there were gangs of locals offering used clothing for rent to the unsuspecting and fashion challenged. Now, their business too has been given a swift kick in the okole by those currently in charge of the country. Maybe those plying their trade around the Grand Palace are all yellow shirt supporters. Or maybe the royal coffers are feeling the economic pinch too and the loss of admission fees is finally being taken seriously.

I don’t know what Thailand is coming to. The next thing ya know they’ll be prohibiting the rental of pre-damaged jet skis in Phuket.

(* The oldest con in Bangkok is that the guy you just met in a gogo bar loves you.)

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