Things can go wrong while travelling
It was a warm sunny day in Phuket. We were done with our scuba diving course and day tours out in the ocean. We just wanted to have a quiet day on the island.
Phuket is famous and popular for its beautiful beaches and nice hotels, but our plan was to explore other parts of the island instead. I had done some research and found out that there was a hill known as the “Monkey Hill”. We decided to go there in the morning and be back at our hotel in the afternoon, rest a little, and then get ready for a show we booked for the night.
I checked the route on Google Maps to know the distance from our hotel and the way to get there. If you have travelled to Thailand before you already know there is no public transportation system except Tuk Tuks and taxis.
Tuk Tuk or Taxi?
In front of our hotel, the Novotel Phuket Resort in Karon, there were always a few taxis and Tuk Tuk drivers outside, sitting and waiting for passengers. We were thinking whether going with them or down the road in search of a Tuk Tuk when one of the drivers stopped us on our way and asked us where we wanted to go. Before answering his question, I asked him whether he had a car or a Tuk Tuk. He said: “yes, yes, Tuk Tuk is ok”, then we started our usual negotiation. We showed him the place on Google Maps, but instead, he showed us another place on his huge paper map saying: “You want to go to the Big Buddha, this place is the Big Buddha”. We told him: “No, we want to go to the Monkey Hill”. It took us a while to convince him to take us where we wanted to go and not to the place he wanted to take us. We agreed on 1200 Baht and he nodded with his head to show us that he agreed.
We followed him to his car, yes you heard me, a car, not a Tuk Tuk, he either lied about it or didn’t understand our question at the beginning. Since we already wasted half an hour talking we didn’t say anything and hopped onto the car. On the way there, he again started the conversation to take us to the Big Buddha for 1200 Baht! At the beginning, we thought it was just a misunderstanding but since he tried in a few different ways it was clear he was trying to trick us. When he noticed I had the map on my phone and I was tracking the route he gave up on trying to change our mind, but he still tried his best to sell us some other attractions nearby. We politely rejected and repeated that our plan was to go to the Monkey Hill and getting back to our hotel after that.
Taxi scam in Phuket
After driving for a while, he parked his car on a hill and said: “Here we are”. I checked the map again because I couldn’t trust him anymore. We were at the viewpoint in Phuket, even though we didn’t ask to go there. Since it was on the way to the Monkey Hill, we thought it was still good to have a look around and take some photos of Phuket from the high grounds.
As soon as we stepped out of the car the driver waved his hand outside and pretended that he was trying to call out some monkeys. At the time we didn’t really get what he was trying to do, we strolled around and took some photos, and after 5 minutes we got back to our driver, there wasn’t much to do there. He was sitting on a bench and we gave him a bottle of water we just purchased. We joined him and walked to the car when he started telling us a story: “I talked to the lady in the shop and she told me that the monkeys don’t come out at this time, they were out this morning, but they just left and won’t come back until tomorrow”.
By the time we were back in the car he started driving back to the hotel instead of going towards the Monkey Hill. We raised the issue and again I showed him the map. He started again to try and trick us by saying the place we were was the Monkey Hill. When we understood what he was up to, he started shouting at us saying that the Monkey Hill was way too far for 1200 Baht. Since we knew what he was up to, we just asked him to stop the car and got out after paying him his 1200 Baht. I ran in front of the car and took a picture of the plate, just in case. He drove away and left us in the middle of nowhere.
We were quite angry but I suddenly realised that I had left our GoPro Hero 5 on the backseat of the car. Not only it was brand new, but we also had all the photos and videos of our first time scuba diving in it.
Police office in Phuket
There was no taxi or any other transportation nearby, so we had to try and quite desperately stop a random car passing by. We explained to them what happened and they dropped us at the nearest police station. In the meantime, we called our hotel, since the driver was parked in front of it when he agreed on giving us a ride, to see if they could help in any way.
In the police station, there were a couple of people who could speak English quite well. The photo of the car I took after the driver left us helped a lot. After 2 hours long wait, the police officer told us they managed to find the camera, but we had to go and collect it in another police station in Karon. The police officer also went out and stopped a Tuk Tuk for us. Oh yes, we finally got what we needed in the first place. The officer kindly explained to the driver where to take us.
When we arrived at the police station in Karon, we didn’t need to explain anything, they were waiting for us. We got our camera back and we felt quite lucky. When we checked our camera we saw a recording of the face of a policeman looking at the lens (you can check it in our YouTube video, isn't it funny?).
We were exhausted and hungry and not in a mood to take another taxi. Luckily our hotel was not far from the police station. We walked next to the beach and had lunch and some juice, then we headed back to our hotel to get ready for our night out. When we got back to our room our hotel had put a basket of fruit free of charge and a message saying: “we’re sorry you’ve lost your camera today”, even though we actually managed to get it back.
Our day didn’t go as planned, but we still feel that we were lucky since everything turned out ok in the end. We just didn’t manage to visit the Monkey hill, but we can always go there next time we are back in Phuket.