Oh Wa Ta Na SIAM! The ‘land of smiles’  

Travel writers are rather like politicians although they don’t lie quite as often!  However they both write to please their paymasters.  Every once in a while a politician, usually once he has retired or has lost his seat, will publish a book that professes to open Pandora’s Box and tell the truth.  Unfortunately the new revelations are usually more about selling the book.  Well I’m not selling a book but I did write myself a lot of notes while I travelled and now I have no paymaster and have relinquished some of the flowery language that were used to sell magazines.  I feel I gave my editors value for money but now my blogs are the unvarnished truth, honest Guv!

Being honest I don’t really like Thailand, the humidity has always got to me, it’s either pouring with rain or the air is full of hot damp air, and no I didn’t only go in the rainy season.  When I was at school Thailand was known as Siam, as in the King and I.  It was changed for internal nationalistic reasons.  Thailand means ‘The Land of the Free’ and reflects the fact that it is the only country in Southeast Asia that was never colonised.  It is a Kingdom and is bordered by Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Myanmar (Burma, but that’s another story).

I’ve been to Thailand on a number of occasions and each time that I manage to return home it has always been with a sense of relief that I got our alive.  Whenever I travel I always do a great deal of research and you have the take your Panama hat off to Thailand, there are so many different ways it can kill you.  There’s all the obvious Southeast Asia stuff like Malaria, Dengue Fever, Japanese Encephalitis and of course Bird Flu.  A lot of scaremongering goes on about bird flu coming to Britain but I reckon you are more likely to fall foul (fowl, get it?) of the dreadful H5N1 (bird flu), if you holiday in a country where chickens are kept in the lounge.

Where Thailand really punches above its weight is when it comes to man-made deaths.  What a glorious array of people there are to be murdered by! Sex-crazed fishermen, jealous fellow backpackers, homicidal drifters, the pissed-off landlords of hostels, trigger happy policemen and malevolent cell-mates in the prison you may find yourself in following your doomed attempt at drug smuggling, think the Bangkok Hilton.

Over the past 25 years the number of attacks, murders, rapes and robberies against tourists is running into many thousands.  It appears that the type of person, who is attracted to the dreamy paradise of palm-fringed beaches and cocktails, is exactly the type to drop their guard in the presence of devious and psychopathic locals. It is also clear, since the devastating attacks in 2015, that tourists in the warm streets of Bangkok are now the target of murderous attack from terrorists

There is no doubt that the reputation of Thailand as a welcoming country with a tourist boom since the 1960s has created hatred and contempt for foreigners and a murderous indifference among many locals, to the millions of tourists who flock to the country’s white sand beaches, picturesque countryside and thriving nightlife each year. If we add to this widespread police corruption, violence and crime which are all blighting this country, once known as the ‘Land of Smiles’.  The country’s much prized tourist industry which accounts for 10 percent of the GDP, is in decay following more than more than 12 moths of political unrest, for as well as the murder of two British backpackers in mid-September, there was a bloody military coup earlier this year.

Leaving aside the number of tourist murders, many which go unreported, Visitors to Thailand are not warned by travel agents, airlines or their own governments that their passports are highly prized in Thailand. Depending on the nationality, a passport can fetch thousands of dollars on the black market, several months’ pay for many Thais.  There are gangs stealing passports to order. European, American, Australian and Canadian passports are particularly prized.  There is an established practice across the country of bike, car, jet-ski and other rental services requiring passports as collateral. When punters return to claim their documents, they have disappeared.

The daily robbing, bashing, drugging, extortion and murder of foreign tourists on Thai soil, along with numerous scandals involving unsafe facilities and well established scams, has led to frequent predictions that Thailand’s multi-billion dollar tourist industry will self-destruct, if we add to all of this the fact that the much revered King of Thailand died at the beginning of this month.  Not only is the whole country in mourning there is also much speculation and unrest as to who is to replace him, I think I will find another country where I can ride a motorcycle without wearing a crash helmet.

About Jake

Long retired travel writer, author and freelance journalist. Educated at Wolverton Grammar and Greenwich Naval College. Happily married since 1958, with a married son and daughter, a married granddaughter and an adult grandson. Hobbies rock-climbing, dinghy racing and ocean racing. Still regularly working out in the gym.

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