REMEMBER! THAILAND IS NOT DISNEYLAND. NOBODY HAS EVER HEARD OF ‘SAFETY FIRST’ SO YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOURSELF.
A 25 year old Canadian was riding a zipline at Flight of the Gibbon in Chiang Mai on Saturday when his safety harness broke and he plummeted 50 meters to the ground. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The weight limit for anyone using the zipline is 125 kilograms. Manager and Thai PBS reported the man weighed between 180 and 200 kilograms, while other outlets said the deceased man weighed 125 kilograms. It was reported the zipline operators have been charged with gross negligence resulting in death. Flight of the Gibbon was investigated in 2017 over claims it had encroached protected forests. In 2015, two Chinese tourists were killed in separate incidents at two other ziplines in the area. In 2016, a Chinese tourists suffered serious injuries while riding the Flying Squirrel zipline and three Israelis were injured in a fall at the Flight of the Gibbon. In 2015, remarkable footage in the Daily Mail went viral after showing an American tourist who was left hanging onto a friend after an employee forget to connect a carabiner on a 400m zipline in Chiang Mai.
I’m often asked about safety and danger in Thailand, so let’s look at a case study with much to teach us:
By the end of the night (around 2 am) as the bar’s customers were leaving. The holidaymakers – believed to be a man in his 40s and his parents, both in their 60s – were attacked by several men earlier this month during Thai new year celebrations in Hua Hin, a coastal town about three hours south of Bangkok, popular with older Europeans. CCTV footage posted online shows a vicious and prolonged assault in a street, which starts when a British man briefly touches shoulders with a Thai man carrying a bottle who appears to push him to the ground. The British woman takes the Thai man to the side and an argument ensues. Several Thai men punch the family until all three are on the ground. When they try to rise, they are kicked in the face and left unconscious before onlookers come to their aid. During the Thai new year’s Songkran festival, also known as the water festival, major streets are taken over by a giant water fight for three days as people party continuously.
If you saw this video of the 2 a.m. bar brawl in Hua Hin you probably wondered about safety in Thailand, particularly after seeing the older farang woman get knocked out. How could that happen in a gentle country supposedly safe for women? Let’s take a look:
- Per capita, drunk Brits cause 10x more problems here than drunk Thais.
- Three Brits went to a tough bar area and drank until 2 a.m.
- One Brit bumped a Thai in the street and the Thai knocked him down.
- His woman companion long and loudly insulted the Thai.
- The Thai knocked her and the other Brit down.
- Friends of the Thai kicked them.
- the knockdown of the woman caused international outrage.
- In Thailand a public insult is treated as an attack with a deadly weapon – it is mortal and transcends gender.
- The public insulter is usually killed on the spot or ambushed the following day by friends of the insultee.
- The woman is alive because she’s a woman. Had she been a man she’d be dead.
- By Thai cultural standards the Thai who knocked her down acted in self defense – in the only way possible.
- His friends were justified in treating the farangs like would-be murderers and kicking them.
The morals of this story are many and one of them is that Thailand has its own culture and sets its own rules of behavior. That’s why, in my books and in the newsletter, I repeatedly warn about arguing with Thais. Don’t do it. Ever. You can almost eliminate danger from your life in Thailand with these simple strategies:
- Avoid late-night bars in vacation spots that are magnets for young men from around the world looking for trouble.
- Don’t confront or quarrel with Thais. Ever. Never, ever argue with a Thai. Never.
- Don’t drive until you understand what you’re getting into. Thai traffic has unique vices and virtues.
- Be careful in your bathroom. This is the #1 environment where most people are injured. Thai bathrooms can be slippery as hell if you’re showering.
Why ‘Safety First’ in Thailand is… not so much
The notion of safety first in Thailand is novel and exotic. Thais take risks every day that would turn Westerners’ hair white.
What do Thai kindergartners do in school? Coloring, learning words and numbers, of course. And field trips. Like this one where these 3-year-olds each sat on their very own, deadly crocodile while their teachers took this photograph. Our very own Sathaporn Kindergarten – a private school for children of well-off parents – here in Chiang Mai apologized after the photos went viral. The school was criticized because, among other things, the children attended the show without their parents’ or guardians’ knowledge. The pics were only discovered because the photos were uploaded to the school’s Facebook page titled “Who says crocodiles Aren’t Friendly?” They order things differently in Thailand…
Songkran Festival Safety in Thailand
During the April 11–17 Songkran period last year, 3,690 road accidents killed 390 people and injured 3,808 others. The Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Department said the death toll was down 11.76 per cent from 2016 (!). This year’s five-day Songkran holiday runs from April 12–16. To accommodate people travelling up-country to visit their hometowns and to stimulate domestic tourism, the Cabinet designated Thursday, April 12 as an additional holiday on top of the usual April 13–16 holiday time. Gen. Prawit has told the agencies to learn from past statistics to identify accident causes and try to minimise them. He said the authorities would also launch awareness campaigns about drunk driving, use of safety belts and wearing helmets. Most Thais celebrate the traditional Thai New Year and enjoy the water-splashing festival. A few tips for first-timers: it will be hot, but wear or bring a light shell if you don’t want to end up shivering from being doused repeatedly with ice water. Don’t drink, keep your wits about you and.. don’t ride in the back of pickup trucks!
Here’s a longer discussion about safety in Thailand: