Divorce rates are higher in Bangkok than anywhere else in the country, the dating apps are a cesspool, and meeting people “irl” gets harder all the time. So, is it any surprise that so many turn to online fortune tellers to see if romance is (literally) in the cards?

It’s not a charity. It’s an industry. According to the Advisory Center for Economic and Business Forecasting, fortune telling and related businesses will experience 10-20% growth in the coming year, circulating B10-15 billion.

But, today, this industry isn’t street corner palm readings or tarot card shufflers in tents. Customers and business owners are going to text messages, online readings, and even YouTube.

Photo credit: Petr Sidorov / Unsplash

A Chance Encounter

Pluemprim, a card reader with over 7K followers on her Facebook page Mae Mo Wink Wink, tells BK her mother introduced her to fortune telling, but she only became interested in getting a reading when she began seeing someone.

“Most clients get their fortune read about love. They don’t want to break up with someone, they want someone back, or they want to be with someone.” Pluemprim says. “I tell my clients, if you don’t see the worth in yourself, they won’t see the value in you.”

Photo credit: Bird Eye View

Nok, another online oracle, runs the YouTube channel Bird Eye View on horoscopes and pick-a-card readings bringing in around 10,000 views per video. Nok is one of many who’ve taken advantage of tech to bring romantic mysticism to the video platform. On her channel, she uses tarot and other divination cards to tell relationships futures. Simply pick a deck and fast forward to that section of the video to learn your fate. Nok’s channel deals in the modern currency of online cache, but she also does personal readings for a fee.

“When I was studying for my masters degree, my love life wasn’t going great. I asked everyone in my life for advice, the phone line was really hot. But what gave me the most peace is having my fortune read. So I constantly go and eventually developed a passion for reading it myself,” says Nok, “My YouTube channel is all about love. After all, I started ‘Bird Eye View’ because I wasn’t successful with romance.”

In online fortune telling, the popular “pick-a-card” method could be delivered in multiple formats—phone calls, texts, audio recordings—with different price tiers depending on the time and amount of questions asked. Some will also ask for additionan information prior to a reading session like birth date, gender, and relationship status.

But the simplest form of “pick-a-card” is usually found on public social media posts, packaged in aesthetically pleasing infographics and videos, in which the fortuneteller has no contact whatsoever with the subject.


Crystal Ball


“They’re going to someone who they already think knows the future so their subconscious might already believe that the fortune teller knows more than they do,” says psychologist and founder of OneManCounselor.com Suwawute “Earn” Vongtangswad, adding that fortune tellers predict multiple outcomes, and a handful of them might happen.

Another popular explanation is the Barnum effect named after P.T. Barnum (yes, the circus guy), a psychological experiment in which groups of people were given personality descriptions and the individuals later reported the statements applied to them. In short, broad information resonates with everyone.

“I think fortune telling is such a classic tradition. It’s so ingrained in our surroundings. Even in hyper commercialized places like Siam Square, you can still see people praying at the shrines,” Earn says. “Some people only participate in these activities for fun, it becomes a topic of conversation, a way of life.”

Photo credit: Wichai Wilaiphetcharat and Tussanee Wasauworawong

Senior fortune tellers Wichai Wilaiphetcharat and Tussanee Wasauworawong are a husband and wife duo who have been providing Chinese fortune telling based on birth dates for 20 years—long before the craze for online reading. Both cite they visited fortune tellers at tumultuous times in their lives and even used some of their savings to pay for the first few fortune telling classes.

Regardless of its accuracy or legitimacy, fortune telling is accessible, leading people to choose fortune tellers over certified counselors and psychologists. More worryingly, there’s a lack of counselors in Thailand.

“There aren’t a lot of counseling jobs. Fresh graduates might work for certain companies, but there are not many services open for the average person...If they’re really experienced, they might be more expensive,” Earn says.

Counselors aren’t permitted to give advice to people with whom they are close or have a relationship, an area fraught with possible professional misconduct. Fortune telling has no such scruples.

“It was pretty good to have someone I know do such services for me,” says Dan, 24, who had his first two readings done by a friend. “At least they were not complete strangers and I felt more comfortable this way.”

Fortune tellers have a knack for seeming like a friend or a sympathetic ear. Nok realized that her studies in human resources came in handy. “I learned ways to talk to people, and say things that resonated,” she says.

“We are making a business based on people’s beliefs and fate but I disagree when people say that we’re tricking them,” Nok says. “It’s actually the customers who start believing before they buy into it.”


BK Poll



Red Flags and Green Flags


Unless the fortune teller can prove they are able to break the speed of light in order to see the future from a great distance, there aren’t many ways to confirm their predictions. Like other online businesses, however, there are basic ways to vet the vendors’ identities. Canny visitors will check reviews and comments; most online fortune tellers will have some kind of free content for customers to peruse.

Finding the right fortune teller can be a little like online dating: You’re spoiled for choice, but there’s also people waiting to take advantage of the vulnerable. Users should also be wary of any fortune tellers who don’t take customer-fortune teller confidentiality seriously; some might use screenshots of private chats and  publish them as reviews.

A general rule of thumb is to make sure there aren’t any “additional packages” they’re trying to sell you.

In his early twenties, Wichai felt like he was down on his luck so he went to a fortune teller who asked him to pray and do some rituals. “The prices weren’t as high in those days, but it didn’t make my situation better. So I stopped going.”

“I always tell my clients to be mindful and don’t believe in every prophecy wholeheartedly,” Pluemprim says. “I’m not the type to persuade someone to do extra rituals that’ll cost money. There are other methods like praying that don’t cost anything.”

Nok, who has experienced identity theft and content plagiarism, says, “I don’t deny that there are people out there pretending to be fortune tellers. But I think there are people who are genuine about it. There’s an art and knowledge to fortune telling. You take time to study these things, learn how to interpret, and meditate on these cards.”

Having been to a fortune teller to discuss his love life, Earn advises against going to a fortune teller or getting your readings read too often. People can get caught up in their readings, he says, advising self reflection and presence of mind.

“Who will come into our life is up to our fortune, but it’s also up to us to decide who will stay,” he says.


Love Predictions

Disclaimer: This table illustrates some of the fortune telling techniques and services that the three fortune tellers provide. The readings have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Tangmo (33): single, business development manager

Wichai Wilaiphetcharat's prediction: This year and in the next few years, the person you’ll marry will enter your life. They’re most likely Thai. Your partner will be honest, reserved, and peaceful, but enthusiastic and a good worker with leadership skills. It will be better if they are older. When you get married, you’ll be in an even more stable place in your life.There’s also a chance to have children in the future. If you start a family at this age, you won’t get a divorce, and it’ll be a long lasting relationship.

Mae Mo Wink Wink's prediction: This Valentine’s, someone in your past might return. You might meet someone who is unavailable or had previously started a family with someone else. The cards don’t show their appearance or financial status, but they show that you might be a little indecisive in your relationships.

Bird Eye View's prediction: This year, ask your friends to help with your love life. Be patient. Your love life might not be so sweet but there will be someone coming. You’ll have to decide to whom you’ll dedicate your energy. The person you’ll want to further the relationship with is a good person. They might be an air sign (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius). They’re a serious family person always on the go and completely different from past connections. They make you feel relaxed. You might need to come out of your comfort zone. You can’t control them. If you put in the effort, there might have a chance of taking things to the next level.


Lisa (18): single, student

Wichai Wilaiphetcharat's prediction: You have had a lot of luck in your career, which makes you independent. Those who approach you are players and people with low self esteem. They will take advantage of your money. So conceal your financial status. Don’t approach your crush this year because you will be disappointed. You’ll have better luck finding a long lasting union with same sex partners. In 2028, the person who comes into your life will be your match and equally self assured. They take things seriously, are well spoken, and true to their word. You’re still young so there’s a lot of changes in life, just focus on your studies, and the right person will come along.

Mae Mo Wink Wink's prediction: Your crush doesn’t know that you have feelings for them. If you don’t confess, you might be heartbroken. If you move things forward, slowly gauge their reaction because right now the cards are saying that your crush isn’t aware of your feelings and if you move forward, they will still see you as a friend.

Bird Eye View's prediction: For single people who picked this pile, some of you might be exhausted by romance, some might’ve been single for a very long time, and some are in connections that can’t go forward. However, all the hardship you’ve faced will make you successful in love this year. I think you’ll have many options. People will be crushing on you on social media, friend gatherings, and partying. Some of them will be people around your age, a person you go to for advice. There might be some long distance involved. Some might start from a “friend.” Don’t listen to your intuition, look at the facts. The person you’ll choose is completely single, works hard in relationships, and can wait for you to make the decision.


Dan (24): single, student

Wichai Wilaiphetcharat's prediction: You won’t find a partner this year. Throughout your twenties, you’re constantly on the go. You don’t have a lot of time for yourself or your family. So if you make a connection, it might be long distance. It might not be “the one” or you’ll be separated from each other. Once you hit 30 years old, you’ll find stability in your career and start settling down. During this period, if you want to start a family or get married, it’ll last. You won’t face divorce. Your ideal match should be someone older. You’ll probably work in the same field and meet in the workplace. Both parties will feel an instant connection. Right now, focus on yourself and don’t be too interested in the opposite sex.

Mae Mo Wink Wink's prediction: From the cards, it seems like there isn’t someone serious coming this year. You seem focused on self care, career, and other responsibilities that’ll keep you
busy. If you want a connection, you need to try out online opportunities. Spend some time reflecting on why you want a partner. Loneliness? A crush? Or being single for a long time but actually might not be ready to commit?

Bird Eye View's prediction: This participant picked the same pile as Lisa, meaning this entrant receives the same fortune as above.