First up, heres a confession: It almost happened to me too. My stirling credentials (Old Asia Hand, 12-year resident of Bangkok, street-wise traveler, journalist cynic) did not prepare me for the slickness of the operation. When I finally caught on to what was actually going on we were (cross my heart) almost killed.
My husband and I decided one fine day a couple of years ago to spend the day being tourists in Bangkok. Since wed lived here so long our out-of-town visitors had tailed off and we hadnt had to escort anyone to the temples and monuments in such a long time. So off we went on a jaunt, just the two of us, to the Grand Palace.
Some distance away from the palace gates we saw a very long queue of Thai people all dressed in black, snaking its way into the palace grounds. Days before an elderly princess, the Kings sister, had passed away. With the Royal Family being so revered here, I realised immediately that this mass of people in black lining up outside had something to do with her death. Then suddenly a very charming and well-spoken Thai gentleman smartly dressed in black materialised.
Oh, what a pity, he said. Wed come on just the wrong day. The Grand Palace was closed to tourists since this was the day that the Thai public were allowed to come and sign their names in a commemorative book. In fact hed just done that himself, he said. Then he whipped out a map (why, oh why did this in itself not ring my alarm bells?) and suggested another Wat nearby that we could go to instead.