I’ve decided to share what was the worst experience i’ve had during my time in Thailand in the (almost) 3 months I have spent in the country since I first visited. In short, whilst on a coach from Bangkok to Surat Thani we were gassed to sleep and people were robbed.
Yesterday TLWH posted an article about scams and dumb tourists in Bangkok which although might seem judgemental towards happy-go-lucky tourists, it does have more than a grain of truth to it; If you aren’t careful and you and showcase your relative wealth then yes, expect to be a target. On the whole SE Asia is a poor area, and when putting food on the table isn’t as easy as it is in the west… theft is always an option.
The story starts on the Khao San Road (Go figure), or more specifically, the travel agency next to the Lomprayah office at the end of Rambuttri. Lomprayah is the company which runs the catamaran between the piers and the islands on the east coast; If the catamaran wasn’t already fully booked for the day we wanted to travel then I guess I wouldn’t be writing this now. We’d need to arrange for a ticket on the Seatran ferry somewhere else. We went next door.
I was with a friend who was experiencing his first taste of travelling and we’d decided to get a night bus to save on accomodation and to make the most of the limited days he had in the country. For 850 baht (£17/$28) we would be driven the 450 miles from Bangkok to Don Sak pier and have a ticket to take us to Ko Samui. We made the most of our last night in Bangkok and packed up ready to leave the next day. I’ve read enough warnings and Lonely Planet guides to know not to keep anything valuable in my rucksack so nothing worth anything to a thief was packed away in there. The only things of any value I had with me were my phone, wallet, camera and passport anyway and they are always with me in my daypack. We met at the agency at around 8PM and were taken to the main road on the other side of Khao San to wait for our coach.
There were around 10 other people waiting, not many at all. I figured we were in for plenty of stops on the way out of Bangkok. There were stops, but no pickups.
The coach seemed pretty genuine on first impressions, but in retrospect there were a few giveaways that I at least know to look out for now. Although the seating was ‘upstairs’ as usual, there is often a compartment for passengers on these coaches downstairs which will seat around 10-15 people. On our coach this area was closed off and locked with the windows blacked out. Another less obvious clue was the aircon vents, or lack of them. They centre part to the vent which would usually let you close it if you liked didn’t exist, they were all just gaping holes ready to pump in that sweet, noxious aroma.
But so far all we are thinking about is getting to that island and what the movie might be. We’ve got an all night coach trip about to start and we’re not about to question why we can’t sit downstairs on a practically empty coach.
About 30 minutes after we started the trip we pulled over into some dark layby whilst the driver went outside and kicked the tyres a bit. We couldn’t get off, so back to the movie we went.
At around midnight we made our last stop for something to eat. I was feeling pretty light headed and woozy at this point but put it down to the sleeping pill i’d taken half an hour earlier. I’m willing to bet i’d still have felt like that without any pill. We stocked up on water and snacks and got back on for the rest of the journey.
“LAST STOP. SURAT THANI. OFF THE BUS”
We all trudged our groggy selves down the stairs and off the bus where our bags were already laid out waiting for us. As soon as the last people were off, literally, the bus was already driving away.
The first we heard of any theft was about an hour later after a minibus took us from the middle-of-nowhere dropoff to the pier. A couple of female travellers had been relieved of their cash except for a paltry 100B, and they weren’t the only ones. My friend had had around 2000B swiped and an american couple (Who we actually ended up spending over a week with across two islands, so not all bad!) had caught somebody trying to slide their hands around their carry on luggage in the middle of the night.
It can happen to anybody and although when we read the stories we are quick to assert that we’d have done something differently or saved the day… unless somebody is blatently stealing from you infront of you it is sometimes harder to be so certain that anything untoward is actually happening until it’s too late. But with that said… ’If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.’.
- If you’re going to do an overland night trip around Thailand then i’d advise booking a coach with a reputable company like ’999 VIP’ or Lomprayah.
- Do keep your valuables with you, and close to your body if you suspect anything.
- If the bus is half empty or there is no way for you to access the driver then keep your wits about you especially
- There is safety in numbers so if you suspect something might be happening then let everybody else know.
- Consider the train; It’s sometimes a better option but it has it’s own pitfalls and dangers.
- Keep an eye out for those dodgy vents
I’m sure there are thousands of precautions people can take, with the worst of all being simply giving up on travelling or avoiding these ‘risky’ areas… but that would be a sad thing indeed. It was all ‘part of the story’ now, and nobody was physically hurt which is the most important thing, but I still wouldn’t want to have it happen to me again.