Vendors at Bangkok shrine condemned for overcharging Chinese tourists

Thai netizens condemned vendors selling religious offerings to foreign tourists at extortionate prices outside the famous Erawan Shrine in Bangkok after a video went viral on social media of a vendor charging Chinese tourists over 10,000 baht for an offering set.

Erawan Shrine is one of the most popular religious sites in the capital city. Formally known as the Thao Maha Phrom Shrine, the shrine houses a statue of Phra Phrom, the Thai representation of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. The name might also refer to Mahabrahma, the ruler of the Brahma realm in Asian mythology. It is located in Bangkok city centre at Ratchaprasong Intersection, near the CentralWorld shopping mall.

Tourists, particularly Chinese, visit the shrine to pray and make wishes, then return to make offerings after their desires are fulfilled.

Offerings for Brahma, including flowers, elephant statues, food, and performances by Thai dancers, can be purchased both inside and outside the shrine.

Locals know the high cost of offerings outside the shrine and prefer to bring offerings from home. A video showing the high cost of offerings at the shrine was circulated on social media but deleted to protect Thai tourism’s image. The video showed a set of offerings sold to Chinese tourists for over 10,000 baht.

Channel 3 went to interview the vendor who was featured in the video. The seller said…

“I’m worried after seeing the video on social media. I remembered that a group of seven to eight Chinese customers. They came with a Thai tour guide. They came to offer sacrifices and bought many types of offerings. They bought a lot, so the price reached 10,000 baht.”

The seller claimed to have sets for sale ranging from 100 to 1,200 baht each and stated that customers can choose any set they prefer.

The seller reported operating the shop for 30 years and stated that she never coerced customers to buy offerings.

As reported, the group bought two sets at 1,200 baht each, two sets at 900 baht each, two sets at 600 baht each, and 16 birds at 500 baht each, totalling 13,400 baht.

Channel 3 reported that offerings inside the shrine were cheaper, nearly 50% lower than those outside. However, some foreign tourists were unaware of the price difference and purchased offerings outside the shrine.

Yesterday, the deputy commander of the Tourist Police Thailand, Apichart Suribanya, told the media that it’s normal for shops outside the shrine to sell more expensive offerings.

Apichart stated that the police had warned sellers to clearly state prices and threatened legal action for overcharging. No complaints have been made about overpriced offerings after the police’s warning.

Offering shops outside Erawan Shrine
Offering shops outside Erawan Shrine | Photo by drburtoni via Flickr

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Petch Petpailin

Petpailin, or Petch, is a Thai translator and writer for The Thaiger focusing on Thai news and what's happening in Thailand. She is a news writer who stops reading news on the weekends to spend more time cafe hopping and petting dwarf shrimp.