Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Safety Tip: Pickpockets On The Baht Bus

A song taew (baht bus) seating area

It's so easy to put our minds in "neutral" when we're on a holiday somewhere; there are so many different things to see, we're in unfamiliar surroundings and don't want to miss anything. It's also easy to lose track of reality if one's been drinking, especially if that's to excess.

Drunks are priority targets for pickpockets and others who would take advantage of because they're far more likely to be unaware of what's going on around them. Come to think of it, that was my prime directive back in the distant past when I would throw away time getting drunk - but I digress. The weary, lost and confused are just below drunks for the same reason: they're distracted.

Pickpockets have probably been a problem since before the event of recorded history, but in tourist areas or places where poverty pushes people to act in ways they wouldn't in better times it's more common, and the tourist meccas of Thailand are certainly fertile territory for them.

Song taews (more commonly known as baht buses) perhaps aren't as easy for a pickpocket to work as a moving crowd might be - say, watching a fireworks show - but they can be full, and a person sitting directly next to you could be skilled in relieving you of your possessions. The key is to be aware of your surroundings, who's around you and - more importantly - where your valuables are at all times. Your run-of-the-mill pickpocket doesn't want to confront you so usually you're distracted so they can do their job. Bumping into you, slipping a hand into your pocket or handbag, carefully slicing a pocket with a razor to slip a wallet out - all of these things can - and do - happen in a heartbeat.

The author of the fine (albeit currently dormant) blog Rice Queen Diary told me a wonderful story a couple of weeks ago that I hope he'll get around to writing about if and when he feels like it, but it was an excellent example of what we're talking about here today. Upon going through the 3,000+ pictures I took this last trip I came across these three, although I'd already forgotten about them by the time I had lunch the following week with RQD.

I'd taken the header photo just as a reference picture before noticing the warning signs you see below. The pickpocket warning isn't something I've seen all that often, but the news regularly features stories about this tourist or that being ripped off. Again: don't be paranoid, but BE AWARE.

After seeing the pickpocket warning I glanced over and noticed the second sticker which I'm guessing was more of a joke. It wasn't so much a warning as a reminder of common decency, but since it made me laugh I'm sharing it with you.


Anonymous said...

Rice Queen Diary is another excellent blog. Maybe you can persuade the owner to resurrect this blog with the occasional new offering?

khunbaobao said...

I've encouraged just that on several occasions. He's quite happy taking pictures there for now, but hopefully he'll resume posting occasionally at some point. If I see he's back I'll certainly let folks here know. For now I'm glad to have you aboard.