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Top 10 scams in Thailand

Tim Newton

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Top 10 scams in Thailand | The Thaiger
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Any hot tourist spot around the world is going to attract the ‘wrong sort of’ people, sometimes greedy locals, who will be specialists at extracting dollars from tourists’ pockets. In Thailand the main difference is that they will usually do it with a smile.

There are indeed scams awaiting tourists who come to Thailand and you are best served by spending a few minutes reading articles like this and saving yourself a lot of financial pain, inconvenience or even a trip to hospital. Some could even see you end up in jail too.

This is by no means a definitive list of scams awaiting you but these are, at least, ten popular scams that you will have to negotiate if you travel around, or live in, Thailand. They’re real, they happen every day and you’ll have a much better time during your trip if you know about them first.

In all cases, a bit of homework beforehand will save you being tricked during your holiday. Here are The Thaiger’s Top 10 Scams in Thailand.

1. The jewellery scam

If you want to buy jewellery or luxury goods in Thailand, don’t ask you taxi or tuk tuk driver or take advice from the nice man who offered to take you a store who stopped you in the street. Jewellery stores in Thailand seem to exist for one purpose… taking money from tourists as part of one of the oldest scams in the Land of Smiles.

Yes, there are reputable jewellery and gem stores but you can usually source them and their prices online before you arrive.

There are plenty of jewellery stores that have been specifically constructed to cater for Chinese bus tour groups. You will see the buses lined up, any day of the week, with hordes of hapless Chinese tourists being guided through these grand shops, many several stories high and designed to part the tourists from their money. Many of these buildings are much grander than any other buildings around them – they weren’t built like that to provide you with a really good deal.

(Many Chinese tours include visits to these stores as compulsory items in their itinerary and the tour groups and bus drivers can get up to 50% commissions. The whole system is a well-oiled machine.)

If your driver taxi or tuk tuk offers to take you to a jewellery store just be firm, but polite, and refuse their generous offer. If you actually do want to buy jewellery, don’t go to the stores they recommend.

The concept of the jewellery scam could also be used with the local ‘export centre’, ‘factory outlet store’ or ‘I have a friend who has a shop’. Caveat emptor!

2. Tuk Tuks and taxis

The Tuk Tuk is different things in different parts of Thailand. In Bangkok the three wheeled tourist tuk tuks are no so much a scam, rather just expensive. But as part of the fabric of Bangkok’s tourist machine they’re worthy of at least ride. Most of this section is about the Phuket Tuk Tuk and taxi scams.

Phuket’s Tuk Tuks are the ubiquitous (usually red), three cylinder Daihatsu open mini-vans that are completely the wrong design for having to drive over Phuket’s many steep hills. Somehow they stutter and creep their way over the hills. Most of the time you’ll just use them for a quick hop from your restaurant or ‘night out’ back to your hotel or from your hotel to a local tourist attraction.

If you ever thought things in Thailand were cheap, using a tuk tuk or local taxi will quickly change your mind. Even a short journey from one end of Patong to the other is going to cost you 200 baht+, usually more. They don’t have meters. Most taxis do have meters but they never seem to work (if your taxi does have an operational meter please take a photo and send it to the ‘Believe it or Not Museum’).

The taxis ones that do have meters are frequently ‘turbo-charged’ so they tick over much faster than they’re meant to, especially the taxis from the airport. Doing town to town journeys will cost you 500 baht+. Going to the airport from Patong is going to cost you 600 baht+.

Taxis from the airport are really expensive when compared to taxi prices almost anywhere in the world This doesn’t apply to Bangkok, just to Phuket. There will no shortage of shouts of ‘taxi’ as you emerge from the arrivals area at Phuket Airport. If you do want a taxi, head to the Taxi counter, at least here it’s semi-organsised although no-less expensive.

Even better, get your hotel to organise a pick-up for you – someone will be waiting for you with your name on a sign. If it’s a really flash hotel they’ll usually have your name on an iPad or tablet these days. Many hotels include the cost of the pick-up in their reservation fees – check when you’re booking.

The taxi and tuk tuk services in Phuket are not technically a scam – more of a minor case of extortion. Most of the time the drivers know where they’re going and are polite and friendly enough. But they’re a law unto themselves and have been fighting successive government attempts to regulate them. In Phuket they’re described as the ‘taxi mafia’ for good reason.

Feel free to barter your price before you get in a tuk tuk for your journey. But make sure you DO agree on a price before you get underway.

If they offer to take you to a jewellery store, attraction or market on the way to wherever you’re going, politely decline.

Top 10 scams in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

And then, more specifically….

3. The ‘attraction’s closed’ scam

More likely to happen in Bangkok. But it goes something like this….

You roll up to any well-known attraction and, before you can get to the gate, a friendly, affable local will kindly inform you that the attraction is closed. This may be despite there being long queues waiting to get in or the fact that your hotel and taxi driver already informed you that the attraction is open. If you know, for a fact, that the venue is open politely thank them for their advice and that you’re just going to check for yourself. Smile and say goodbye.

If you do end up in a conversation with them you’ll be advised about an alternative attraction that is older, bigger, more spectacular and ‘very close by’ (which usually means 30 minutes away). On the way to this completely unheard of attraction you’ll be taken to jewellery stores and markets and offered any number of ‘real’ bargains – a guarantee that you’re paying well over the market price, plus commission. If you do ever get to the ‘alternative’ attraction you’ll be paying them the entrance fee, magically about twice the entrance fee you see on the gate.

These are just straight out scams designed to part you from your money and to sell you things you had no intention to buy.

Plan your day’s trips ahead, check Google, TripAdvisor and ask your hotel for advice.

4. Sex shows

Now, officially, they don’t exist anywhere in Thailand. In reality, they do. And those ping pong shows your friends have told you about? Yes, they’re real. (For the younger people reading here, the ping pong shows are excellent displays of table tennis skills).

So you’re walking down Bangla Road in Phuket, Walking Street in Pattaya or Patpong in Bangkok. You will be approached by ten, twenty… more, people with cards and the big sales pitch “Sexy Girl”. That’s sure to get you in.

You’ll be taken to a seedy, dark, usually upstairs venue. Downstairs the drinks are at set-prices. In these dodgy upstairs venues the prices are ‘variable’ (read: VERY EXPENSIVE). You will indeed see a show, probably a lot briefer and less explicit than you imagined, and also asked to buy the girls a few drinks. Then you’ll be ‘invited’ to pay large tips to the performers (‘invited’ means coerced/forced by a few large gentleman with poor hygiene).

And if you DO get invited to a ping-pong show you won’t need to take your own table tennis paddle.

Top 10 scams in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

5. The jet ski rental scam

So you’ve never been on a jet ski before and here you are on a tropical beach with warm, inviting waters. And a row of jet skis along the shore with helpful, suntanned guys in their bright coloured shorts eager to rent you a jetski. You’ve never ridden on a jetski? No problem. You don’t need a license or any of that nonsense. Just pay the guys and GO.

The jet skis are easy enough to ride and, most of the time, you’ll have plenty of fun. But the smile will be taken off your face when you get back to the beach and a cursory inspection from the previously-helpful staff turns into accusations of damage to their jet ski.

It could be a simple scratch to a huge gouge and it’s going to cost you 10,000, 20,000…. more, to get it fixed. You didn’t check for damage before you got on the jet ski? Bad luck. You didn’t take a photo of the jet ski before you blasted you way into the tranquil blue waters? Bad luck?

No contract, no insurance. It’s a scam. Most of the time the situation can get very heated and a group of intimidating fellow jet ski owners will gather around and harass you, sometimes with threats of violence if you don’t pay up. Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui, Koh Pha Ngan and Hua Hin are the most likely places you’ll confront the jet ski scam.

A few guidelines if you insist on renting a jetski.

1) Inspect the jet ski with the owner and take photos before you pay over your money. If there are marks take photos and point them out to the owner.

2) Ask them if there is insurance cover or a contract. If not, walk away. By law they’re required to cover you with basic insurance (which may or may not be a valid contract anyway).

3) If you do get into a situation where they are demanding money from you beyond what you agreed for rental get a tourist police officer on the spot ASAP, not the local boys-in-brown, a tourist police officer who will usually be dressed in a white shirt with black pants.

4) Don’t rent a jet ski.

Here’s their website. Their phone number is 1155.

If there are no tourist police around demand that you are able to contact your local consulate. DON’T leave the beach and go to the local police station.

DO NOT hand over your passport for any reason at any time! Never.

6. Motorbike rental scams (and a few other problems)

Not so much a scam but a list of potential problems you may confront with the rental of a local motorbike.

Renting motorbikes in Thailand can provide you with a convenient and cheap means of transport ‘just like the locals’ or can get you in all sorts of trouble. You can end up in an accident, you can end up with your hotel room robbed, you can end up having to pay for damage to the bike you didn’t cause.

Here’s the basics. Most motorbike rental is a fairly routine and well-organised affair. There are many reputable bike-hire places around and many hotels will have they own bikes to rent or have an arrangement, usually (hopefully) with a local reputable company who will deliver the bike to your hotel and even show you the basics of how to drive it.

If you’ve never ridden a motorbike before, please, just don’t bother renting one. There are plenty of other modes of transport to get you anywhere you need to go. And just DON’T rent that shiny red Ducati or 500cc ‘whatever’ brand motorbike. Bigger bikes, bigger problem, bigger cost if you fall off and damage the bike.

Here’s the problem. Most people, in fact the vast majority of motorbike renters, have NEVER ridden a motorbike in their life in they home country. In many cases they wouldn’t even consider renting a motorbike back home. But the visa stamp in their passport gives them permission to do really reckless things whilst in Thailand.

There are a few situations to watch out for.

1) You should sign up for some insurance when you sign the contract. It may or may not be worth the paper it’s written on but at least it’s an ‘understanding’ that you have entered into a contract, in good faith, with the company. No contract? Walk away.

2) Problem with the bike? Flat tyre? Something’s fallen off? Engine won’t start? There are bike repair places ALL over Thailand. With so many motorbikes on the road it’s a thriving business keeping them all running. If you call the company you rented the bike from they will have their own, preferred, bike repair shop. One of the scams is that it’s a co-operation between the bike repair staff and the bike rental company.

The bike contract will have your hotel details listed. They will come and steal the bike during the evening and you front up to the bike shop the next morning saying your motorbike’s been stolen. Of course you’ll be required to reimburse them for the cost of a new bike. So buy a cheap bike lock of your own and use that instead of the one provided by the rental company.

3) Wear a helmet. Apart from being the law in Thailand it’s also a very easy way for the local constabulary to stop you at the many checkpoints around the island, usually just before lunchtime, and hit you for an on-the-spot 500 baht fine. It’s also a great way to save smashing your head on the road if you do end up falling off or in an accident! WEAR YOUR BIKE HELMET.

4) If you do have an accident (remember Thailand is the fifth most dangerous place in the world for driving on the roads) you need to have all your ducks in a row. Do you have travel insurance covering treatment and a stay in hospital (bet you don’t)? Do you have an international drivers license covering the riding of motorbikes in a foreign country (probably not)? Does you insurance cover an accident on a motorbike in Thailand?

Motorbike accident do happen, sadly quite frequently, and the consequences can be dire if you’re 1) in the wrong at the accident scene 2) your insurance doesn’t cover you.

Here’s what you need to do so you have the minimum inconvenience in the eventuality of a motorbike accident (the same goes for car accidents but you’re more likely to get badly hurt if you have a crash on a motorbike).

• No matter how you fall off a motorbike its probably going to hurt. Keep your wits about you. People will come to your aid but LEAVE the motorbike where it is – and insist the other bikes and cars in the accident do the same. Contact, if you can, the motorbike rental shop, the tourist police and your consulate. The local police will usually turn up in this sort of situation and, despite the occasional horror stories, won’t automatically side with the locals. Keep calm, accept help from the local paramedics – they know their job and attend many, many bike accidents every day. (There are a lot of private emergency services that get a fee from a hospital when they deliver a paying patient – hey, at least you know they’re keen to get to your accident scene quickly and ‘win’ your business)

• If you don’t have insurance ask to be taken to a local public hospital. The Thai medical system is quite efficient and provides free medical care for all Thai citizens and expats working for a company – again, the hospitals will know how to treat motorbike accident injuries; they see them every single day. If you DO have valid travel insurance ask to be taken to one of the private hospitals. You’ll have to pay the medical bills but they will be a lot less than at a Thai private hospital.

• Whilst your immediate medical situation may require you to get to hospital urgently it’s best, if you can, to wait for the police and make sure you have provided your side of the story. It will be REALLY helpful if you have a representative from the Tourist Police there to assist with translation and knows the system.

• Don’t lose your cool, start shouting or blaming anyone. That simply won’t help at all. And don’t accept liability either. That’s for the police to determine.

• Always carry your passport or a copy of your passport and copies of all your insurance papers when you move around the island.

• Never, ever, hand over your passport. If the renters want a copy (and they’re well entitled for a copy of your passport), keep your passport in sight whilst they’re copying it. DON’T leave your passport with the rental company as a bond. Even better, have a photocopy of your passport with you at all times and a digital copy (take a photo of your passport front page) on your phone.

Top 10 scams in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

7. The fake consulate scam

This scam targets tourists and expats crossing the border from Thailand to Cambodia in a taxi or tuk tuk. It can also involve just about any other border crossing from the Kingdom if you are being driven in a taxi or tuk tuk. You will pass signs reading “Cambodian Consulate” or “Insert-border-name-here Consulate” and you’ll be dropped out the front of an imposing and important looking building with very friendly and helpful people offering you simple and convenient visas… for a large fee, of course.

The danger in this situation is when you merrily head back to wherever you were staying and then end up in all sorts of trouble when you depart the country through a proper immigration channel and find you’ve over-stayed your visa.

Do your homework before you head to a border for a visa run and know where the consulates are so you don’t fall for this scam.

8. Time Shares

The time share scam is different from the legitimate time share schemes offered around Thailand. But here’s some things to check before you sign up for ANYTHING. Do not sign a document in Thailand until you’ve consulted a proper Thai lawyer.

The time share ’theory’ is that you’ll become a member of a larger group of people owning a share of a ‘title’ in a property or yacht.

Usually foreign back-packers end up as the ones in the street politely stopping you and asking you to pick a card with the promise of a prize. Amazingly YOU always pick the card with the prize which is a free visit to a nearby, or sometimes not-nearby, resort or showroom – no obligation of course – where you will be courted with the ‘financial opportunities’ and ‘convenience’ of time share.

99% of the time it’s just heavy-handed sales and you could have spent the three hours on the beach or browsing the shops instead. Just ask straight up if it’s a time-share offer and then walk on by.

9. Bar girls

If a lovely young lady in a pair of hot pants and high heels approaches you in the street and invites you to her bar, keep walking. Of course if you’re a single guy and an attractive lady approaches you you’re going to stop and listen, right?

But a few things might happen. 1) The drinks are going to be really expensive 2) the young girl is going to invite you for few drinks – and one for her too – and then she’ll be gone to find the next victim with you left having to sort out the over-priced drinks bill with the older, fatter and less attractive male owner. 3) They’re not actually girls.

Is this a scam or just good marketing? Whichever way you look at it you’re going to end up with expensive urine and perhaps a few other adventures along the way.

If you do see a lovely lady with breasts that appear to be larger than you would normally find on the frame of a 5’2” girl, and in hot pants, and you do want to have a drink with her, suggest you both go to a bar of your choice and you’ll soon see how keen she really is.

Also, if you’re 65, overweight, haven’t had a shave for three days and are wearing a 20 year old floral short-sleeved shirt, NO young girl is ever going to want to have a drink with you.

Top 10 scams in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

10. The tailor scam

Can you purchase well made shirts and suits in Thailand? Yes. Can you end up paying more for them than you’d pay back home? Absolutely yes.

If your taxi or tuk tuk driver has to stop off for a quick visit to the toilet and a friendly man approaches you and asks ‘where are you from?’, you know you’re about to be sold a suit.

The ‘where are you from?’ is an age-old, tried and tested way or eliciting a response from you. To ignore it you seem rude, to answer it you already talking to them.

The bottomline is that you’ll be told a story about an amazing tailor they know who makes suits better than Armani, etc, etc. You should already know that you’re talking to the middle man, or the friend of the middle man, so you’re in high-commission territory before you even get your inside leg measurement taken.

There are many good tailors everywhere in Thailand, most of Indian or Nepalese origin. There is a thriving community of expats from these countries who do, indeed, have excellent skills as tailors. If you find one, tell us about it and we’ll pass it on. The rest, however, are just ways for them to take your money, the clothes are made off-site at virtual sweat-shops and the workmanship often sub-standard.

If you do want a suit or clothes made (mostly you will NEVER need a suit in Thailand!), then ask around and get recommendations for a reputable tailor.

Next time you get asked ‘where are you from’ just say you’re from ‘Thailand’. Whilst they’re thinking of a quick come-back you’re already gone.

We welcome you to Thailand and hope this quick read may have given you a heads-up on some of the more popular scams you’re likely to confront.

Keep in contact with The Thaiger by following our Facebook page.



Read more headlines, reports & breaking news in Thailand. Or catch up on your Thailand news.

Find more Thailand top 10s and top 10s in Thailand on The Thaiger.

Tim Newton has lived in Thailand since 2012. An Australian, he has worked in the media, principally radio and TV, for nearly 40 years. He has won the Deutsche Welle Award for best radio talk program, presented 3,900 radio news bulletins in Thailand alone, hosted 450 daily TV news programs, produced 1,800 videos, TV commercials and documentaries and is now the General Manager and writer for The Thaiger. He's reported for CNN, Deutsche Welle TV, CBC, Australia's ABC TV and Australian radio during the 2018 Cave Rescue.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

World travel business faces slow recovery – UN report

The Thaiger

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World travel business faces slow recovery – UN report | The Thaiger

Plenty of businesses are suffering and recovery will be slow, and lumpy. One of the hardest hit, and probably one of the most difficult industries to re-start, is the world travel business. Hotels, airlines, tour companies, travel agencies and online booking systems… and the millions of people employed to make all those work together as a working machine.

Now a UN study predicts that the global tourism business will lose up to US$3.3 trillion due to impact of Covid-19 bans and lockdowns, with Thailand to lose US$47 billion alone. According to the report, Thailand and France stand to lose around US$47 billion each. But the US and China are projected to have single largest losses in the travel industry.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has caused significant disruptions in the global economy. By the end of the first quarter of 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic had brought international travel to an abrupt halt and significantly impacted the tourism industry.”

The UN Conference on Trade and Development has released its ‘Covid-19 and Tourism’ and poses 3 scenarios for the world travel industry, assessing the impact of restrictive measures lasting 4, 8 and 12 months. Revenues are projected to fall $1.17, $2.22 and $3.3 trillion in the 3 scenarios, or 1.5-4.2% of the world’s GDP.

Speaking at a media conference, one of the authors believed that the second scenario “could be a realistic one”.

“International tourism has been almost totally suspended, and domestic tourism curtailed by lockdown conditions imposed in many countries. Although some destinations have started slowly to open up, many are afraid of international travel or cannot afford it due to the economic crisis.”

Then small tourist island states, such as Jamaica, stand to lose a much larger proportion of their economies, facing an 11% fall in GDP. Tourist islands like Bali and Phuket are also facing a bleak outlook until their tourism industries pick up again.

The UNCTAD report covers 65 individual countries and regions and is calling for governments to boost social protection for affected workers in the worst impacted nations.

World travel business faces slow recovery - UN report | News by The Thaiger

Download the full report HERE.

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World

Are BTS the world’s biggest band?

Tim Newton

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Are BTS the world’s biggest band? | The Thaiger

Simple answer, yes. But there are still people that have never heard of the group or might have been living under a rock for a few years. The South Korean group has risen up through the ranks of K-Pop, somewhat of a musical blood sport, since 2013. From their almost unnoticed debut as pimply hip-hop ‘try hards’, the 7 members are now basking in well-earned musical respect around the world.

But there are still plenty of people asking “who the hell are BTS?” Well, they’re THE music group of the moment. Whilst there’s been Beatlemania, the stand-out genius of Michael Jackson, the charm of Elvis, the YouTube-discovery Justin Bieber and the half-century run of The Rolling Stones, there’s never been anything quite like BTS. Here’s why.

Whilst difficult to compare musically, statistically BTS are up there with the greatest bands of all time, and they’re still on the rise. By the way, BTS is short for their full Korean name Bangtan Sonyeondan (방탄소년단), translated loosely as Bulletproof Boy Scouts.

In the white-washed pop music world, and a storm of noise on the internet, it’s difficult for a performer to ‘break out’ and find a voice in the current model of the music business. How could 7 young Koreans claw their way to the top of the charts and fill sports stadiums with screaming fans?

They sing mostly in Korean. Just consider that for a moment. They’ve passed through the musical bamboo curtain to have #1 hits in the UK, the US, Europe, Asia… well, everywhere. Indeed they’ve scored three number one albums in the US on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart, in one year – a feat only achieved once before by The Beatles, a situation that hasn’t been lost on the humble septet. BTS even sent themselves up, along with Stephen Colbert, on The Late Show performing in the same Ed Sullivan Theatre The Beatles debuted to a US TV audience back in 1964 – a pop culture moment that not only launched The Beatles to global stardom but changed music forever, proving that bands would have to be TV-friendly to succeed in the future.

Are BTS the world's biggest band? | News by The Thaiger

For 2020 BTS have already sold the most albums of any artist in the world, when you include actual albums and digital downloads, beating out a host of huge US, UK and European artists. Map of the Soul – 7 is a reflective look back at their own careers, over 7 years, as a team of 7.

At their sellout concerts, the audience sings along with all their hits, in Korean. At their concert in Bangkok in 2019 I witnessed 50,000 (mostly) Thais singing along in Korean, whereas most Thais battle to speak much English, a language they’ve been partly taught at school. (By the way on one side of me at the concert was a 40-something husband and wife who had flown from Sydney to see the concert, on the other a mother and three kids (8 – 15ish) – I think the mother enjoyed it more than the kids.)

The group, comprised of Kim Tae-hyung (V), Jung Ho-seok (J-Hope), Kim Nam-joon (RM), Kim Seok-jin (Jin), Park Ji-min (Jimin), Jeon Jung-kook (Jungkook), and Min Yoon-gi (Suga), are hardly ‘overnight successes’. They debuted 7 years ago in the cut-throat K-Pop scene and they were hardly an instant success. Working with an almost unknown production company (Big Hit Entertainment), the 7 members started crafting their sound with long nights and weekends, living in the one dorm room, using their managers cars and homes as props and sets for music videos and fitting in their schooling as well. They contributed to the production and writing most of their material, and still do.

They battled a cruel K-Pop industry and haters that didn’t like that BTS didn’t fit the ‘mould’ of K-Pop. There were plagiarism controversies, death threats, social media hate campaign and just plenty of people who thought they’d go the way of most K-Pop acts, into obscurity. But they persisted and were relentless in their dream to make it big in South Korea and even dream to one day reach the shores of the lucrative US pop market. In November 2016 they won Album of the Year in the main music awards program in South Korea. They were utterly surprised but it was a turning moment and they would never turn back…

Eventually they clawed their way to a position of recognition in the K-Pop world, meanwhile garnering growing support in the west, well, everywhere around the world. Whilst it’s difficult to measure their success against other bands, there are a few important keys to their success which has music executives scratching their heads.

Their big weapon is their ARMY, the name they’ve given to their loyal fanbase around the world. Whenever the group speaks they ALWAYS attribute their success to the legion of loyal fans. ARMY have meanwhile weaponised social media – you could say that BTS came along at the right time – reaching beyond Korea’s borders in a way that had been impossible even ten years ago.

As #BlackLivesMatter trended in social media, as part of a larger protest movement in the US following the death of George Floyd, BTS made a $US 1 million donation to the movement. ARMY responded and within two days had matched the BTS donation from fans. They’re fans were also part of the K-Pop fans flooding of the #WhiteLivesMatter counter-movement, replacing messages of hate with pictures of their favourite BTS photos or lyrics.

BTS’s YouTube music videos (there are hundreds) have broken several records on YouTube, their Twitter followers were the world’s most dedicated in 2018 and one member, J-Hope, had the most tweeted video in the world last year. BTS, through 7 years of sharing their lives, battles, dance practices, ups and downs, have weaponised social media.

Many of their videos are expensive, cinematic extravaganzas with hidden messages and ongoing story lines threaded between them. Blood, Sweat and Tears is 4 years old now but was a breakout video for the band and exemplified their command of music, story-telling, dance and style – all in one piece of art.

The band members shared the minutiae of their lives with thousands of uploaded photos and videos and also relentlessly shared their core message – that life isn’t always easy as a teenager and young adulthood, you need to love yourself before you can love someone else and your mistakes will make you stronger in the long-run. Their music isn’t all sugary sweet and often lapses into darker messages and addresses current social issues.

They also shared videos showing themselves fighting, crying, arguing, laughing, eating, shopping and backstage – just being seven young men battling their way through the music industry labyrinth as underdogs.

The difficult-to-measure ‘X’ factor is also strong in these seven talented guys. There is a genuine bond of friendship between the Bangtan boys and it shines through whenever they appear in public, or video – it’s not fake. And, after working their act for seven years, there’s a comfort and ease on the stage, some describe it as ‘swag’, where their performances appear effortless whilst pulling off breath-taking dance routines. As they’ve grown over 7 years their music and performance has also morphed from earlier hip-hop beats to more sophisticated performances.

Within their six years of ensemble work there are also generous sprinklings of solo projects, fully supported by the rest of the team. Whilst ‘doing a solo project’ from within a group is usually code for ‘I’m going solo’, with BTS it’s been a core part of the band’s raison d’être. At every BTS concer each member also have their solo moments to shine.

Another part of their strength is that they’re all remarkably talented – they sing, they dance, they rap, they write, they produce. They also have great ‘visuals’ (in K-Pop speak) presenting an all-Asian look to a white-washed western pop industry. There are no weak members along for an easy ride.

They keep collecting legions of adoring fans and celebrity fanboys and fangirls, have had two successful cinema releases of concert tour documentaries, have spoken at the UN, appeared on just about every important TV variety show around the world, and somehow stayed reasonably grounded along the way.

Their music, whilst often sung with Korean lyrics, is immediately catchy, has plenty of pop influences yet shines through with something unique that continues to set them apart and keeps amassing new fanbases around the world. In their concerts you’ll here pure pop, hip-hop, rap, power ballads and other songs that simply show-off their voices and powerful dance moves. That they keep it up, at full throttle, for their two and a half hour live concerts, is one of the modern wonders of the music world.

Are BTS the world's biggest band? | News by The Thaiger

Yet, amongst the hype, the YouTube records, the sell-out concerts and music sales, are 7 young men who have allowed their true personalities to shine through.

RM is the group’s leader (the only member to speak fluent English) with an IQ of 148, V is the quirky one who’s often described as the band’s ‘secret weapon’, Jimin the ‘flirty’ one who shares his ‘up & down’ journey with fans, Jungkook the supernaturally talented youngest member (or ‘maknae’ in K-Pop speak). J-Hope is hyper-energetic and perennially cheerful, Suga is the brooding musician with the sharp tongue, and Jin the ‘world-wide handsome one’ (a self-mocking moniker he gave himself after the media attention to his looks over the years) who loves cooking for the band and telling dad-jokes.

There are thousands of videos on YouTube recording the band’s rise from very bottom of the K-Pop pile to international stardom. Whilst you can check out any number of their music videos or live performances (there are thousands of videos!) I would urge BTS-newbies to start with this address by leader RM (Kim Namjoon) at the United Nations in September 2018. It provides an insight into the intellect and feeling behind the pop sensation and a small part of what sets BTS apart from just about every other musician in the world today.

Whilst they are obviously riding high on a wave of fame right now, most music pundits think they’ve got plenty of room, musically, to extend their fandom and fame. Perhaps, even to become one of the greatest music bands of all time.

As a footnote, looming over BTS is the Korean government’s insistence that all it’s young men must enter two years of national army service by the time they reach the age of 28. The oldest member, Jin, is already 27 and the band members have already stated they are happy and proud to serve their time of conscription. In the meantime they’re not wasting any time as they continue to plunge head-long into a grilling schedule they’ve been keeping up now for seven years.

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Back to school – Thai school kids head back to class

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Back to school – Thai school kids head back to class | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Kon La Na

School’s back. Thai school children are returning to their classes in school rooms around the country to be re-united with their teachers who have been just a thumbnail on a Zoom conference call for the past three months. The reopening of schools is nationwide, for all levels of public and private schools. Since mid-March, all schools in Thailand have been closed for classes as part of the government’s efforts to battle the coronavirus.

One foreign English teacher, we’ll call him ‘James’, teaches at a large public school in southern Thailand. He told The Thaiger that he’s even more excited about getting back to school than the students.

“I’m very excited on my first day at school after the lockdown as we start the new normal schedule. Our school is conducting an odd/even numbers system. The students are given random numbers and the odd numbers come one day and the students with even numbers on another.”

“The teachers on the gate were making sure that all the students are healthy and are taking preventive measures by checking the body temperature, providing hand sanitisers and making sure everyone is wearing a mask. All the teachers are making sure that the children are maintaining social distancing.”

“There are signs all over the school reminding about preventive measures to take during this Covid-19 era. We’re all hoping this ‘new normal’ will end soon and all the students can come to school together to study, and play with each other soon.”

At the start of June, when Thailand started easing restrictions, teachers were asked to come back to many of the country’s schools to prepare for the resumption of classes. Many had been doing online classes from home but have spent the last month continuing online classes from the schools and helping prepare the classrooms.

Floors of schools around the country will have new social distance markings and hand washing stations have been set up.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Commerce is working with with manufacturers of school uniforms and back-to-school supplies to control prices and ease expenses during the economic recession. The program is aimed to assist up to 10.4 million families.

The ‘Back to School’ campaign is aimed at parents of school aged kids to reduce the cost of living as schools resume from today. Jurin Laksanawisit, Deputy PM and Minister of Commerce, says his ministry has spoken to manufacturers of school uniforms and school supplies to help reduce their product prices until July 15.

“The products will be sold at department stores nationwide. The campaign offers a discount of up to 80 percent on many items.”

Back to school - Thai school kids head back to class | News by The ThaigerBack to school - Thai school kids head back to class | News by The Thaiger

 

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