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A Dangerous Place to Vacation

I occasionally hear from my family or friends “Isn’t it dangerous living so close to North Korea?” and, well, it could be given the wrong circumstances but, statistically, South Korea is, by far, more safe a place to vacation than certain other places that experience mysterious tourist deaths. Per the linked article:

. . . I used to work in Phuket in 5-star hotels and have seen it to be a common practice to poison foreigners. It has never been made public but I do know of the poisoning of an executive chef, a Swiss sales and marketing girl and a general manager who almost died… the police never took any action and neither did the owners and it was kept quiet…” You receive messages that echo your anger and frustration: “something is rotten in Thailand.” Messages that hint at cover ups and conspiracies: “Everyone blamed bug poison….but there is something scarier going on.”

About the author: Psst, want to buy some used marble cheap?

  • Creo69

    This video, made by a man whose daughter was recently raped in Thailand, went viral and the ministry of tourism is none to happy as it is having an effect on tourism in that region. There is a price to be paid for not cracking down on crimes against tourists. The song actually has a nice little beat to it.

    Evil man from Krabi
    http://m.youtube.com/?reload=2&rdm=mdjiqo1ve#/watch?v=GRErWjo809g

  • http://adamsawry.wordpress.com Adams-awry

    You trying for the record on most commas in a single sentence?

  • Bendrix
  • SalarymaninSeoul

    I utterly despise Thailand and the Thai people. One, single, and never to be repeated vacation, during which not a minute, or a second, went by where I and my wife were not the target of some scam, and confidence-game or another, and it started from the moment we arrived to the moment, the glorious moment, we left for Singapore and civilization, put me off that place for good. Thailand is the land of smiles, indeed, but the smiles are fake smiles of con-men, con-women and, indeed, con-children.

  • dinkus maximus

    SalamarymaninSeoul – spoken like a true ajusshi? I’ve heard the same thing said about Korea, New York, and even Canada. Could it be you had some bad luck and/or didn’t plan your trip very well? Or is it that your just a product of an xenophobic society and have no clue how to write an ungeneralized sentence with qualifiers? You are an _____.

  • Seth Gecko

    I don’t get it.

    The comma-riddled comment appears AFTER Adams-Awry’s comment.

    Time warp?

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    What makes you think I’m a Korean? The joke is on you, my friend, that you have so quickly assumed that I must be a Korean. Talk about putting your foot in your mouth…wow. You truly do live up to your screen name.

    If it were at all possible to plan a vacation in Thailand to avoid the scammers, then I would never come into contact with the local, ummmm, fauna. Perhaps a 2 week sojourn in the jungles? The tigers, leaopards, snakes and whatever else lives there would probably be safer, and more honorable, company.

  • slim

    Work on your self-awareness (and punctuation), dink:

    “Or is it that your just a product of an xenophobic society and have no clue how to write an ungeneralized sentence with qualifiers? “

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Dink,

    *you’re* NOT *your*. Are you a product of living with wolves in a cave for 20 years? Such spelling! Such grammar! It’s unheard of! Do you also *ax* questions?

  • SomeguyinKorea

    #3,
    There are only three ways that can turn out:
    1) You end up looking like you’re channeling Emile Zola (good)
    2) You end up looking like you’re channeling Edward Bulwer-Lytton (the outcome of which depends on who you ask and whether irony was intended).
    3) You end up with an unreadable text.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    #5,

    Well, apparently this was common a few years back: a bus full of tourists pulls on the side of the road, bus driver claims there’s a problem with the engine, and then pumps the bus full of a gas that puts the tourists to sleep, robs them, and takes off. It happened to one of my friends. Just before he was knocked out, he had noticed a strange smell in the air. Luckily for him, he wasn’t carrying a lot of cash or any valuables. He brought it up when another of my friends first brought up that he had heard about this going on and was wondering if it was an urban legend.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    …And yes, I get the irony of #10 after having written #9. ;)

  • dinkus maximus

    My wife is Thai. My two children are half Thai. I have wonderful inlaws in Thailand (that my friends married to Korean women envy). So I was more than a little PISSED at “SalarymaninSeoul” saying he hates my wife and children. Maybe if he hadn’t been so general I would have had time for “you are” instead of your. And where does it say I assume you are Korean? Nice deductive reasoning there, though. Anyways, I’d love to hear you say that somewhere close enough so I could reach across a table.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    You called me an Ajussi and a product of a xenophobic society, while Im probably the product of the same society that produced you once you left the wolf-cave.

  • feld_dog

    Thailand is a fantastic place. But like any poor or developing nation, it will serve up a fair share of headaches to an unprepared tourist. Or even a prepared tourist. Be prepared, and be smart. Get in the habit of smiling and saying “No thank you!” to street solicitors. And for god’s sake, have some perspective. The taxi guy or the woman selling souvenirs in the market is scamming you for what amounts to 2 or 3 bucks, at most. If you can’t roll with that, then by all means, check out Club Med.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    2 bucks or 400, does it matter?

    And I donlt actually HATE the Thais, it was a bit of good natured hyperbole. But the fact is Malaysia was a whole different world, and the level of economic development between these two countries is not all the different.

  • berto

    hang around scammy areas, expect to get scammed. travel 101.

  • iMe

    Salaryman @4
    I’ve had that same experience on numerous occasions…in China and only in China.

  • bumfromkorea

    I utterly despise Thailand and the Thai people.

    And I donlt actually HATE the Thais, it was a bit of good natured hyperbole.

    I have a feeling a lot of people won’t agree with the “good-natured” bit.

  • CactusMcHarris

    And I donlt actually HATE the Thais, it was a bit of good natured hyperbole

    Boy, I sure don’t want to get your sense of humour confused with your being a pillock.

  • keith

    I’ve been to Thailand on several occasions and have generally had a lovely time. A few people have tried to scam me and failed, but it hasn’t happened often. If you travel in developing countries you have to be a lot more aware than if visiting first world countries.

    Thais are generally nice people, but of course there are some scumbags there. An example of a really dumb scam that failed was a tuk tuk driver telling us that the train station was closed so we’d have to take a bus, he’d get a commission by taking us to a travel agency. He refused to take us to the station and when he stopped outside the agency I had a little look at the map in the guidebook and noticed the train station was only a couple of blocks away. We walked off and he wasn’t very happy to lose ‘his’ commission:) He called us some names, but I just laughed at him and told him to get bent.

    For sneakiness in trying to scam visitors out of money Vietnam is probably the most full on place, but again if you can’t handle those kind of situations with aplomb you should really think of alternative destinations for travel.

    Every country has criminals who will target tourists or people who seem clueless. If someone walks up to you with some weird story and engages you in conversation it is always best to politely but firmly get rid of them. Most locals are genuinely helpful, but you have to keep your guard up for the scammers.

    An obvious tourist is an obvious target and an easy mark for a criminal. Most scams and non violent attempts at robbery can easily be avoided. Violence is very rare, and avoiding dodgy areas is usually quite easy if you keep your eyes open. Problems can occur in any country if you’re naive or even just plain unlucky. Most problems can be avoided if you’re careful.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    “(X country’s citizens) are generally nice people” is one of the emptiest phrases ever devised. This truism is usually used only by apologists.

    Hey, Im married to a Korean but I dont get my panties in a bunch when someone says they hate Korea.

  • dinkus maximus

    Neither do I. But if they say they “utterly hate” Koreans I WOULD get my panties in a bunch. If I said that in front of you and your wife and kids would you let it slide? I hope not. I hope you’d knock my teeth out, and I’d deserve it. Wouldn’t I? Wouldn’t want to be an “apologist” and chose my words more carefully next time or anything, though. True haters gotta hate like true Nazis.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    Compared to Bali, Cambodia, or Hanoi the amount of hassle in Thailand is nothing. Robberies are, in fact, fairly rare and if you give the ladyboys a ‘no, I’m not interest’ look at first glance they usually leave you alone. I’ve eaten at non-tourist restaurants where I’ve been charged 25 baht for a delicious meal, where they could have charged me 75 and I would have been none the wiser. Who know? Maybe the locals only pay 15 baht for it but I’m OK with getting ripped off for up to a dollar so long as it’s not so obvious it’s insulting. Quite frankly I find the dodgiest thing about Thailand to be certain types of farang who’ve gravitated to it.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    I might also add that if you pay the money for a three-star-plus hotel that has a reputation on Trip Advisor et al. to protect your chances of being a victim are greatly reduced. They know they’d better get you a reputable taxi, not cook the mini-bar tab, and help you out if you run into a problem, as they want your business back and don’t want you writing terrible Internet reviews when you get home. If you jump into the van from the discount travel agency you get what you pay for (plus the A/C barely works).

  • commander

    I have nothing against Thai people but I’ve had some unpleasant experiences with scammers in Bangkok, more so than other places that I’ve visited like Vietnam, Phillippines, Indonesia, etc. Starting from the cab drivers who always seem to try to find the longest route, and get pissed when you challenge them. Sure it’s not a lot of money but it gets old when it happens every single time you take a cab. When I went to visit the national museum there was a guy in an official looking attire outside who told me that it was closed in the morning. He then suggested that I go visit a nearby famous Buddhist temple, drawing me a map and a tuk tuk magically appeared. I happened to look down the street and people were entering the museum through another entrance. This scammer was good and he nearly had me, and was not happy when I told him to pound sand. Another time, I had a connection through the Bangkok airport and used my credit card at a restaurant. Several days later, all kinds of weird charges from Thailand appeared on that credit card, even though I had used it just that once on a 3 hour connection. Maybe it’s just Bangkok as I’ve been to Phuket 4 times but fortunately have not had any bad experiences there. I can sympathize with salaryman’s experience but don’t agree with putting down the whole country based on that. I guess the Thai people have to put up with a lot of ugly and nasty tourists like the dirty old pedophilic Eurotrash that show up on sex tours and such.

  • Wedge

    Decades ago I was staying on Khao San Rd. and a tuk-tuk driver approached me as I left the shithole I was staying in. He said he’d take me around Bangkok for eight hours for free if I just spent 20 minutes each in three gem stores. Since I didn’t have a lot on my plate that day, I gave it a go. So, three cokes and 60 minutes of aircon in the middle of an eight-hour day checking out temples and crocodile wrestling worked out pretty well, as I checked out emeralds and rubies for my “girlfriend back in America.”

    What did the tuk-tuk guy get out of it? If I remember correctly, they’d give him a 50-baht petrol coupon if I stayed at least 20 minutes (he emphasized that 20-minute part). What’s the point of this story? It feels good to scam the scammers sometimes.

  • Hatch SZ

    Yes, the “such and such museum/temple is closed” why don’t you go here” scam got me on my first trip to Thailand (Bangkok). For some reason, it irritates me more than someone trying to scam you at a market or at a restaurant.

  • Wedge

    Back to this story, what I don’t get is the motive for these deaths and the two English-teacher gals in Nha Trang, Vietnam. Now, the workplace issue makes some sense (i.e. the 5-star chef getting poisoned), although it might be extreme, but seemingly random tourists?

  • commander

    The concierge at my hotel had even warned me of this scam but it almost got me anyway because the dude was very assertive and official-looking. Yes I agree about the high irritation factor, maybe because the dude was so brazen and even after I caught him in his bald-faced lie he didn’t bat an eye and was already trying to get the next victim.

  • tapadamornin

    What’s with those ‘fake’ taxis at the airports in Korea? The really plush ones that usually look like sports cars? Are they privately owned?

    Anecdote time:
    I was at Incheon recently on business and arrived late at night so I decided to take a taxi. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me at the time that so many people were waiting in line next to the nice taxis, but I was tired and stupidly got in one (apparently the regular taxis were all out at the moment).

    We were just leaving the airport when I asked how much it would cost to drive to downtown Seoul, and he told me 100,000 won. I had already heard from my Korean co-worker that it would cost around 40,000 won, so I told him to turn around and take me back. He kept driving while trying to tell me it was too late to go back, but there was no way I was going to pay that much for the trip (even if it was company money).

    I ended up getting into a shouting match with him and said I was only going to pay him 40,000 when we got to Seoul either way so he could take me back or lose some money. He did eventually take me back, but then charged me 10,000 won for the short trip. I ended up taking the subway but that guy seriously pissed me off.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    #29, poisoning people in the workplace makes sense?

  • keith

    @28 Yeah that pisses me off too. I usually try and figure how how to use public transport as much as possible, it’s cheaper, you get to mingle with the locals, it’s often faster (the boat ferries in Bangkok can get you to many places much quicker than the horrendous busy roads.

  • R. Elgin

    With the exception of “wedge”, most of you don’t seem to think a large number of unsolved deaths of tourists are a problem when traveling to specific place (!).

    Have a nice vacation then – after you make out your will.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    #34, but wedge also understood workplace poisonings. I hope you never work with him.

  • Jieun K

    tapadamornin:

    It didn’t make a lot of sense to me at the time that so many people were waiting in line next to the nice taxis [...]
    I asked how much it would cost to drive to downtown Seoul, and he told me 100,000 won.
    [...]
    I ended up taking the subway but that guy seriously pissed me off.

    Looks like you got into a deluxe taxi. It’s called 모범택시 in Korean. Here’s what I found about deluxe taxis after some search:

            Initial charge: KRW 4,500 (3km)
            Charge per 164m or 40s: KRW 200

    A fare from Incheon Airport to Gangnam area is estimated at KRW 95,700 (taxi fare 88,000 + toll 7,700). The guys driving deluxe taxis are generally well-mannered and less likely to engage in price gouging.

    So who pissed off whom again? Next time you’ll probably join people “waiting in line next to the nice taxis.”

  • http://bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    I used to work with him. Luckily that guy has moved on and I escaped without a scratch.

  • keith

    @34 Travelling has it’s risks, everything has risks. Considering the hundreds of thousands of people who fly to Thailand on holiday each year I’d say the risks are very small. It’s like going somewhere like Egypt or Israel, you might get blown up or killed by terrorists, but the probability is really not worth worrying about. Of the women I know who have been to Egypt, the worst thing any off them experienced was blokes pinching their bum in a busy market. Annoying and very rude, but hardly life threatening. Apparently it’s quite common for some Egyptian guys to pinch female tourist’s bottoms, some apparently seem to have a fascination with western female buttocks.

    Shortly after I finished my A levels I heard the very sad news that one of my classmates (a lovely young woman with a bright future ahead of her) had been raped and murdered whilst on holiday in the Caribbean. It was a horrific case and the stress to her family was made even worse by how incompetent the local police were. Does that mean I’d never consider going on vacation in the Caribbean? Not at all, I’d jump at the chance! But I would be very careful in some areas, some places can be dangerous.

    The unsolved deaths (J’s murderer was thankfully eventually caught), I’d put down to incompetence, rather than any kind of conspiracy. There could be an element of ‘cover up’ by the authorities, but they probably just don’t give a crap. Life is very cheap in some countries, and often the police are more interested in collecting bribes than catching criminals.

  • Wedge

    #32: At least there might be some sort of motive (junior chef hates the farang for yelling at him in front of staff, etc.).

  • Yu Bum Suk

    36, that could be, but these days deluxe taxis are becoming very rare as they’re hardly any different from regular taxis. There are a number of scammers working at Incheon Airport. As a whitey with a backpack I’ve been approached numerous times – we’re second on their list after whiteys with briefcases. Another scam is two touts taking two tourists who are going to the same area to the same car, and each paying full fare for the shared ride. Thank goodness both ICN and PUS are now serviced by excellent metro systems.

  • Jashin Densetsu

    the article doesn’t have any stats or anything to show that the tourist homicide rate has gone up or is very high. thailand gets like 20 million tourists a year. you’re probably more likely to die in a car crash or from food poisoning than from homicidal poisoning.

  • Jieun K

    Yu Bum Suk: I hear you. At any rate, I hope you all steer clear of whatever kind of scam as locals do.

  • tapadamornin

    @36

    “So who pissed off whom again? Next time you’ll probably join people “waiting in line next to the nice taxis.””

    That’s interesting. It certainly could have been a deluxe taxi, as I wasn’t aware they existed. But according to this Deluxe taxis are black with a yellow sign on the top:
    http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/TR/TR_EN_5_2.jsp

    The taxi I got into was a neon orange sports car with a sign on the top, neon blue LED-lit paneling on the inside, with a really expensive sound system inside. When I returned to the airport, I noticed that there was a median where the normal taxi stands were parked (which is where the people were waiting), and next to that was a variety of fancy-looking sports cars. The drivers were all in stylish casual clothes, and they were trying to peel people waiting away from the regular taxi line.

    The funny thing was when I was returned to the airport, the driver started talking to one of the other souped up cars and he said he would take me to Seoul for 70,000 won instead of 100,000. It was clearly some kind of scam and that’s why I took the subway. In hindsight it was completely stupid of me to get in a orange sports car.

    That’s why I was asking about the taxis…

  • Sr Noob

    @34

    With nearly 20 million tourists a year, nothing in that story points to a “large number” of unsolved deaths. I thought this comment from a Phi Phi bar owner explained the situation fairly well:

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/11/your-daughter-died/#comment-711614192

  • Jieun K

    tapadamornin: I see. That clears things up.

    So the moral of the story is: When in doubt, do as the people around you do.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • keith

    Depending on where you’re going either the excellent Incheon Metro train into Seoul or the bus is the best way to go. I like the Metro myself, it’s cheap, spacious, comfortable and fast. A brilliant service at a bargain price! What’s not too like about that? I’d only bother with a taxi if I was carting loads of stuff with me. But 99% of the time I travel very light indeed and usually just take carry on.

    I once pissed off a taxi driver at Incheon, I overheard the taxi driver quoting some middle eastern chap $300 to take him to the Hyatt Hotel. I walked over and said ‘Hi, just for your information you can get the bus there for less than $15′. The taxi driver called me ‘shipbalnom’ It made my day.

  • berto

    there is always a local bus,subway,shuttle or whatever.
    airport taxis are scuz the world over.

    http://koreajoongangdaily.joinsmsn.com/news/article/article.aspx?aid=2955311

  • http://www.chinasmack.com/tag/shocking Jakgani

    Rule #1

    NEVER get into a taxi at an airport.

    Find a bus or train to get on.

  • Mike Kim

    #31 tapadamornin :

    100,000 isn’t all that crazy from Incheon to Seoul. Just for me going from Incheon to Sinchon would be around 75K. If you took a deluxe cab, it could be more, especially if you’re going deeper into Seoul.

    40,000 is unheard of.

  • MrMao

    My (final?) taxi from Itaewon to Incheon airport was W60,000 plus whatever the toll is (W10,000?). This was almost four years ago and it was a regular, grey cab, not a black deluxe one. So the W40,000 figure is far too low.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    46, Keith that’s great to hear. My first Korean boss calling me shebal gaesekki in front of another teacher was the highlight of my rookie year here.

  • dogbertt

    I disagree — that poor taxi driver doesn’t go to keith’s place of work and knock dicks out of his mouth…why does keith have to fuck with someone just trying to make a living?

  • R. Elgin

    Per #52, coming from a shameless ambulance chaser like yourself, your question represents a new zenith in poor ethical judgement. If you ever run out of clients, I’m sure you would make an excellent taxi driver.

  • dogbertt

    If it were not for ambulance chasers, hundreds of thousands of asbestos-poisoning victims would have died miserable and penniless. I would think you’d hold them in higher esteem.

    As far as taxis, be smart enough to take a regulated taxi, or be prepared to pay what the market will bear, be it $3 or $300. Viz. “Lift” and “Uber” to see how the marketplace in your abandoned homeland has developed.

  • Arghaeri

    Mike, its not unheard of!
    Depends on traffic of course but I normally pay less than 50