Lanta Full Moon Bungalows “shit show”
Trip Start Feb 02, 2010
21Trip End May 06, 2010
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While I have been very, very upbeat about everything, there are a few things that have been "challenging" to say the least. First and foremost, it seems that every time you turn around someone is trying to scam you. One time my dinner bill was 'twice' as much as the menu price because they used “special prawns” – thanks. Taxi’s, tuk-tuks, travel agents are all trying to scam you, overcharging, not delivering, taking you ‘shopping’ or telling you things like “the museum is closed today”, “there is no boat for Koh Lipe – you have to come with me” and “your driver just left, I’ll take you there, 200 Baht”
One of the worst experiences was at this Full Moon Bungalows on Koh Lanta. Do NOT stay here, whatever you do, avoid this place like the plague. The guy is a crook, scammer, con-artist… everything under the sun. I’m going to tell you my story, as it is actually quite humorous once you get past the ‘painful’ parts, and was the source of great discussion and comedy for the other guests and friends at the resort
First off, everyone who was staying there had problems of some sort. Secondly, they were all recommended to go there by a tourist office (TAT) in Bangkok… another thing you should never do… do not book through this office or any other tourist office. So, I did book 2 weeks of island vacations through the TAT office and paid in full before I started the trip. This is a classic rookie mistake, but it was my second day in Thailand and I had no idea. All of my ferry and transport connections were supposed to be included and the resort was supposed to pick me up at the Pier upon arrival. Up to this point there was always someone waiting for me, which was good. However, EVERY time the taxi or songtaew driver and the boat employees tried asking me for money and despite showing them my paper work, continued to say they didn’t get any money and now I must pay (I never did, it either got resolved or I called the tourist office and then it got resolved). Regardless, every taxi and ferry connection was a huge fight, a huge struggle, it was painful (for the story below, my travel day included 2 boats and 3 taxi’s, so you can imagine going through the same process 5 times in one day).
So I’m on a huge boat from Phuket arriving at Koh Lanta and while there are a hundred taxi’s and resorts picking people up, mine is not there
So, this guy then drops me off at these Bungalows, which were really dodgy and I could not believe I was paying $25 for, and realized it was another scam / tourist mark-up. I unpacked and tried to make the best of it… then realized there was no pool as my brochure indicated. So I went to ask some guy at the bar about the pool and he told me that I was in a different resort (i.e. Not Full Moon where I had booked) and that Full Moon was full and I had to stay there. But I already booked and paid for Full Moon. So I go next door to Full Moon to see this guy – oh, a Canadian and Finnish guy named him “Il Capitaino” which is very fitting. So, he tells me he is full and I can change tomorrow morning. Now I realize that is why he did not pick me up for 2 hours… one, he did not have a room for me and two, well, he had my money so if he waited long enough I might go somewhere else or just pay for my own taxi to his resort. We get on the phone with the TAT office, and the travel agent (Suu) who I booked with (there were several things that had gone wrong at this point so I just wanted to get out of my bookings and pre-arranged travel). The guy there, Suu, did a good job to make things right and basically said they would refund me 700 Baht - $25 for that night and that he was going to send the money to Full Moon and Il Capitaino would give it to me the next morning (BS#6). Il Capitaino, who is now my best friend is trying to make it all up to me, so he then says he’ll cook me a nice dinner, he just “wants me to be happy”. Sure enough he did cook me dinner, and it was quite good and the portions were huge. OK, things were looking better. They had free internet (wireless) so had a few beer and chatted with some friends from home which was really nice, made me laugh and completed my transformation “OK, everything’s going to be OK, it’s cool, just go with the flow.”
So on that note, a bunch of people I met at these crappy bungalows next door had said the same thing happened to them – they booked, showed up and he was overbooked so he put them there (the regular price for those is 400B, $13).
So the next day, I moved into my new place which was WAY nicer than the straw bungalow from the day before. I asked Il Capitaino for the 700 Baht, but he told me he did not receive it yet. Fine. He said he’d cook me breakfast and I said OK, they gave me scrambled eggs and 2 coffee, then as I was about to leave they gave me a bill for 160B = $5. I paid it, but the next day saw on the menu that it should have cost me 90B (40 for 2 coffee, 50 for the eggs). I didn’t even order the stuff! Nice one, oh well, whatever. The following day, 8:30 in the morning there’s knocks on my door… get out of bed and 3 Thai people standing there and no one speaks English and they keep talking to me. Finally Il Capitaino comes around and says they need to install and air conditioner in my room. “It’s 8:30 in the morning, are you kidding me?” At that point I was up, they said they would be 20-30 min, so I jumped out into the ocean for a swim. 90 min later they were still working on my room so I couldn’t change or get my day going, but that was OK, just had another coffee. I then asked Il Capitaino for my money and he tells me it is Chinese New Year and no one is working and the banks are all closed (BS#7,8,9) because it was not yet the New Year and everything was open. Plus, he was sent the money yesterday so he should have it, but he continued to give me the run around. Mike (Canada) and Yonni (FIN) laughed and said I’ll never see the money, but out of principle I was not going to give up. Unfortunately that night, around 8pm, Mike and Yonni’s place was broken into and they stole Mike’s passport, papers and money. They were my neighbours so I guess I got lucky. But really dodgy how that could happen… someone sort of caught them which is why they only got a bit of stuff, then jumped a fence and were gone. Il Capitaino says it was not Thai people that it must be another guest / tourist at the resort – whatever (BS#10).
The following morning, (I’m leaving tomorrow) I ask again for my money. He says again that it is Chinese New Year. “Really? Seriously? That’s what you told me yesterday.” He was also supposed to give me a ticket for my ferry to Koh Lipe (he was paid by the TAT office, then he’s supposed to give me the ticket), but when I asked about that he said no, he does not have any tickets and I have to pay that myself (but I already paid 2 weeks ago in Bangkok!). And in this case the price was not trivial, 1800B= $60. I was on my way out for a 4 island boat tour and snorkeling so I didn’t press too much, but said we would call Suu (TAT office) later that night. He told me Suu is Chinese and he is not working today (BS#11) --- I know Suu, he is not Chinese. Anyway…
At this point several people at the resort knew about my saga and they all had problems of their own. So when I get back later that afternoon, I ask him for the money and ferry ticket again and he now says he does not have any money for me, that he knows nothing about it any reimbursement and that no one sent him money to reimburse me. He also says he does not have a ticket for the ferry for me. I argue a bunch with him, but that is going nowhere. He THEN tells me that I owe him money for my first dinner (that he offered me) and for the breakfast (that he offered me), but I paid nearly twice the normal price for anyway. I was livid! I told him I paid 160B for that breakfast but he insisted that I did not. Since it is all in cash and there are no receipts, it would be impossible for me to prove that I paid. He then tells me he’s going to call the police, “Are you kidding me? Really? Go ahead, I’d love it if them come”. I call Suu at the TAT office (this actually took 30 min and about 4 phone calls to Bangkok to get a hold of him). At this point a small crowd of friends / guests were hanging out watching the ‘show’, everyone knew what was going on. So Suu was really, really mad and said he’d call Il Capitaino right away. 20 min later nothing happened, so I call Suu back and he says that he’s been trying to call Il Capitaino but no one is answering, “is he there, at the resort”. “Yes, he’s literally 10 feet in front of me and he’s been sitting at his desk the last hour”. So Capitaino knew I was on the phone with Bangkok and he knew the phone call coming in, but refused to answer. So I give Capitaino my cellphone and the two of them speak for a few min, Suu then tells me everything is OK, he’ll give me my money and the ferry (speedboat) ticket for Lipe.
Capitaino, now being Mr. Nice Guy and saying “you my friend, we’re friends, don’t worry be happy” and all this stuff. I’m actually going crazy inside, but I kept it together and really polite and respectful (Thai’s don’t yell or get angry with each other, it’s a faux pas to do that here) --- the whole thing was a game anyway, and I knew that, I just couldn’t let him wear me down.
So, he pulls out 500B and gives it to me. “Where’s the other 200B?” He says no, he only has 500B and that is all he can give me. We go back and forth for several minutes, then he says “OK, you have dinner here tonite, I cook you nice dinner, 200B, OK?”. BTW, nothing on the menu is more than 90Baht. “No, no, no… you give me my 200B and if I have dinner here tonite I will order from the menu and I will pay the price in the menu”. That went on for about 10 min, until he finally gave me the 200B. Jeepers! OK, so now the ferry ticket. Well, first he tells me there is no ferry to Lipe tomorrow (BS#12). He gets on the phone and pretends to talk to someone (after I threatened to call Suu again), then he tries telling me that he just called and there is one ferry at 10:00 in the morning (BS#13). I was just at the Pier 2 hours ago and checked out all this stuff, and there is a slow boat that leaves at 10am, 1000B, 5 hours, or a speedboat/ferry that leaves at 1:00, 1800B, 3 hours. He wanted to put me on the slow boat you see, because he had the 1800B already in his pocket, so if he gives me a ticket for the slow ferry he’ll make an extra 800B. That argument went on forever, until I was about to all Suu again, then he makes some phone call (again) and then says OK, there is a speedboat at 1:00. “So can I please have my ticket?” He says “No, he cannot do it right now, he’ll give it to me tomorrow”. At this point I was pretty sure he would be not be found anytime tomorrow so I needed to get that ticket in my own hands. Meanwhile he just gave 2 other guests and friends their ferry ticket for the next day. I push and push, he then says he’ll give it to me at 10:00 that night. I’m like “why, just give it to me now”. We go back and forth, as soon as I grab my cellphone, “whamo”, the ticket miraculously appears on the desk!!! Unbelievable. At this point there are 5-6 people at the table watching all this (truth be told, we had a pile of beers and the sun was setting in the background), and guests at the 2 nearest bungalows were on their patio’s also witnessing the battle. It was pretty fun though. So all in all, this took 2 hours! (6pm to 8pm) Crazy, just crazy. But despite it all, I managed to get my refund for the first night, the speedboat ferry ticket and I still got the free dinner (that he offered me), so in the end, “I won”, which I actually didn’t think would happen, nor did any of the other guests. There were high 5’s all around… and when walking back to my bungalow several other guests were asking “how’d it go”, so everyone knew what was going on.
Anyway, a true story. While everyone had problems, it seemed mine were the worst so this became quite comical to say the least. We had even joked that there was some hidden camera on me and someone was playing a big joke. It just got so ridiculous. Oh, the air conditioner he put in… well it was so urgent because he had guests coming in 2 days who paid for A/C. So they installed it, it was working, then Il Capitaino disconnected it so that I couldn’t even use it. Oh, and another thing… they had to drill holes into the concrete wall to put it up and when they were done all the bits of concrete and garbage were all over my room. Other stories from other guests – a big one is overbooked, or people booked with air conditioning and did not get it; people had breakfast included in their price, but then he would give them a bill for breakfast and insist it was not included (that happened to almost everyone who had it included); internet was 2 Baht per min, so one guest used it for 20 min, and Capitaino told him it was 120 Baht, and that there is a minimum 1 hour charge (which was not posted and is ridiculous anyway, none of them work like that); dirty sheets on the bed that he said he would have them changed, but for 3 days they never got clean sheets; the pool, the only selling feature of the place, was closed for 1 day (no clue why). Another girl looked up the place on Trip Adviser (www.tripadvisor.com) and apparently there were similar (bad) stories and something like only 11% of guests were “satisfied” with the place, that cannot be good for business!
I think it is a good laugh right now, and certainly a test to the patience. As I explained to one friend, I’ve got a PhD – which is basically a degree in patience and perseverance!!! It sure paid off this time. A few good lessons learned, and fortunately they are not all like Capitaino, but sure makes for a good story. Perhaps the other friends who stayed with me will add their comments to this post.