Tuk-tuks are prevalent throughout Southeast Asia and are basically motorized rickshaws. It’s a slightly more expensive alternative to taking a cab, and sometimes the only means of transport around small towns.
Back in January, Alison and I took a tuk tuk to a bus stop in the small city of Sukhothai before traveling onward to the city of tigers and temples. It was on the front end of our round-the-world trip (maybe a week into it) and we had constantly heard second and third hand accounts of backpackers being scammed by tuk tuk drivers, taking them for a ride far away from town and demanding 10 times what had been agreed upon just to get out of the jungle. It was for this reason we were hypersensitive and meticulously followed our awful Sukhothai map to make sure our driver took us the proper route to the bus stop. We arrived just fine and had agreed on a 60 baht price (~$2USD). I pulled out a 100 baht bill and the driver gave me a wad of cash back. We exchanged pleasantries (more like hand signals) and Alison and I stepped out of the tuk tuk to proceed toward the bus station. As I put the change bills in my pocket I noticed he had given me 60 baht in change (instead of 40 baht). I thought about running him down but justified keeping the change and kept walking, telling myself: “You’ve heard the stories. They screw people over. You overpaid your tuk tuk driver on your way into town.”
I haven’t stopped thinking about that 20 baht since.
That 20 baht (about $.60 US) meant nothing to us. But this tuk tuk driver could’ve used his rightly earned money to buy a meal for his family or schoolbooks to help educate his children. Sometimes it’s hard to trust people when far outside your comfort zone. It was certainly a challenge for us in the beginning and continues to be a challenge even now. However, we’ve learned that our world is almost all made up of honest, good people just trying to be happy and make a better life for their families.