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Top 10 things to avoid in Thailand

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You’ll be spoiled for choice during your visit to Thailand. There is SO much to do. But there are a few things that may be worth avoiding, despite being available, during your time in the Land of Smiles.

So, in The Thaiger’s opinion, don’t…

1. Swim at the southern Andaman beaches in the low season

Every year about 50 or so people drown along Phuket’s west coast. Mostly in the wet season with the south-western monsoon kicking up the waves washing onto the island’s Andaman coast beaches. Sadly, it’s mostly Chinese and Russian tourists who end up getting into trouble. Krabi, Khao Lak, Phang Nga, Trang and southern islands also have their share of drownings and near-misses each year.

There’s a complicated litany of reasons for this carnage – many Chinese and Russian tourists, for example, can’t swim, the lifeguard patrols on many of the beaches are ‘patchy’, not enough information is provided to tourists about the dangerous rips along the west coast during the monsoon and whatever signage and flags that actually exists do little to deter tourists who seem determined to go swimming.

Most of the beaches have the red flags on display when the surf’s up but many of the flags are not new and the colour red, which in some western countries denotes ‘danger’ isn’t as effective in being a deterrent colour for the Chinese. In fact it’s the lucky colour for Chinese.

There is a clear and present danger of swimming on Phuket’s west coast during the May – November low season (which is also the most popular time for Chinese tourist arrivals).

For the Gulf of Thailand coastal areas in Hua Hin, Samui and other southern Gulf beaches, the windy weather is usually later in the year from October to December.

Top 10 things to avoid in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

2. Hire a motorbike

You get off the plane, catch your passenger van to your hotel, check the minibar and then head out to find the nearest motorbike hire shop – there are hundreds around the main tourist spots anywhere in Thailand.

In most cases a passport will suffice (NEVER let your passport out of your sight, even when they’re taking a photocopy of your passport front page) as ID to allow you to hire a motorbike and take it out onto Thailand’s roads.

The roads in Thailand are some of the most dangerous in the world. If you’re under 30 years old, male and riding a motorbike your chances of having an accident are astonishingly high.

Have you ever ridden a motorbike before? Probably not. Do you have a motorbike driver’s license? Chances are slim. Were you taken for a short test to see if you can ride or handle a motorbike? Doubtful. Does your travel insurance cover you if you have an accident without having a valid motorcycle driver’s licence? I bet it doesn’t.

Still, it happens hundreds of time a day around the island and tourists, like lambs to the slaughter, head off into the craziness that is Thai traffic – sometimes shirtless, sometimes after drinking and sometimes without even the basic protection of a helmet.

Then we hear that the tourists have had some sort of horrific accident, end up in an international hospital, their insurance won’t pay for their medical care and we have another report on our website.

Bottomline, if you don’t have a motorbike driving license, have never driven a motorcycle or have been drinking just DON’T hire a motorbike in Phuket. Just don’t!

Top 10 things to avoid in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

3. Go to tiger or animal shows

Reptiles, birds, crocodiles, tigers, dolphins and plenty of others. There are hundreds of shows where animals are performing for tourists. These aren’t zoos and usually cater for one particular type of animal. Is it OK to visit these shows? Well, in Thailand it’s absolutely legal to do so and the attractions are all licensed to operate under Thai law.

The question as to whether you SHOULD visit is up to you.

Tigers, of all wild beasties, are not born to sit, half drugged-up in chains, to have tourists patting them for selfies. Tigers are critically endangered everywhere in the world. Specifically, the Indochinese Tiger, the species we see in Thailand and surrounding south east asian countries, is a hunter and can inflict fatal injuries with a single swipe if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

An Australian was mauled at the Tiger Kingdom in Kathu, Phuket in 2015. He survived his injuries which opened up the front of his chest. The only upside about these tiger zoos is that they conduct (for all the wrong reasons) breeding programs to keep the species alive but the gene pool is very shallow so, in the long run, is not a sustainable method of breeding tigers.

Here’s an interesting blog from a westerner who volunteered at one of the Tiger shows.

Top 10 things to avoid in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

4. Go to zoos

Many of Thailand’s zoos are not up to international standard and, like the elephant rides and tiger shows, have gone out of fashion with many western tourists. But ‘animals for entertainment’ is still a popular concept for many Asian and eastern European tourists – it’s a cultural thing.

The Thai zoos come up for constant criticism especially on platforms like Trip Advisor where pictures of poor conditions, lonely and skinny animals keep getting attention.

Voted by many Trip Advisor readers as one of the worst tourist attractions in Phuket – it routinely scores either one or two stars with comments that sound like the visitors have just come from an abattoir rather than a modern zoo.

Visiting a Thai zoo is like visiting one in the West in the 1950s when animals are crammed into unsuitable enclosures or cages with little care taken to keep the facilities clean. Many of the zoos smell, the animals don’t appear to be in the best of health and it’s simply a relic of a bygone era whereas modern zoos have changed dramatically to provide true educational opportunities and vastly superior, and more natural, enclosures for the animals.

Top 10 things to avoid in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

5. Ride an elephant

Riding elephants in Thailand whilst you’re on tour here is just one of those things some tourists have on their bucket list. There are many, many elephant camps where you can see these wondrous mammals and, if you want, ride on their back through the forests. Generally frowned upon by some western tourists, it’s still hugely popular in Asia and all the camps do a roaring trade, especially in the tourist hot-spots.

The problem with elephants in Thailand is vexed with a well cared-for pachyderm living up to 60 years – the average age is 48 years. They used to work in the rainforests as beasts of burden but that work has now dried up with the banning of logging in most parts of Thailand so the elephants and their mahouts have gravitated towards the cities and tourist industry to make a living – elephants require quite a lot of food.

To say we should simply ‘set them free’ is an absurd suggestion and unpractical so a longer term solution needs to be found.

There are now new elephant ‘sanctuaries’ and retirement parks opening up around the country. They provide a more natural environment for humans and elephants to interact. Although these are really just an alternative pay-to-visit ’zoo’ (albeit a huge step up from the majority of elephant camps), we applaud their efforts and hope there’s more available soon.

There’s now also an even stricter code of conduct gaining popularity in wildlife circles whereby any contact between beast and human would be banned, even feeding and washing the elephants. We will see if this becomes a new norm.

Top 10 things to avoid in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

5. Don’t overstay your visa

Visa rules and immigration laws in Thailand are quite tight and you would be well advised to keep on top of your visa status whilst in the country. You’re also advised to carry either your passport or a copy of the front page and visa page, anytime you’re roaming around the country.

If you happen to be stopped, as a foreigner, the police will likely want to check your passport and visa details.

There are fines for overstaying your visa and, and you can be detained, deported and blacklisted if you’ve run up too much time without a visa. If you’re in any doubt, either head to your nearest Immigration office or contact a qualified visa agent, but we’d suggest you get a recommendation from a friend before dealing with the many visa agents advertising their services on the internet.

Top 10 things to avoid in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

7. Get in a taxi or tuk tuk before negotiating your fare

This is probably mostly important in tourist hot spots like Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Samui or Phuket. There are variations with taxi and public transport options – some locations do it better than others. Pattaya, for example, has the excellent ‘baht bus’ where you hop on and off and pay the driver 10 baht.

Bangkok too is generally taxi-friendly except that the traffic can be hideous around tourist traps around the city.

Meanwhile, getting a taxi or tuk tuk to go anywhere around Phuket is expensive, compared to anywhere else in Thailand and even some western cities. There’s a long history as to why taxis and tuk tuks are expensive and that’s a report for another day. The words ‘cabal’, ‘mafia’ and ‘extortion’ could be used in such an article, but we’ll leave all that for another day.

Your best bet if and when you’re going to use a taxi is to negotiate the fare before you get in. By all means bargain the stated price down as much as you can but make sure there is a firm understanding with the driver about the price before he turns the key.

By law, all taxis in Thailand are meant to use a meter. In Phuket it never happens. Never. ‘Meter not work’, blah, blah. In other parts of Thailand the meters appear to work a lot better, must be the humidity.

There has been decades of efforts by Government authorities, the Army and any number of well-meaning officials that has had precisely ZERO effect of the notorious taxis and tuk tuks in Phuket.

All you can do is accept that the prices are high and negotiate a fee, BEFORE YOU GET IN, wherever you are.

Better still, try Grab Car or Grab Bike where the ride-hailing Apps are much more transparent and, probably, safer.

Top 10 things to avoid in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

8. Sign contracts without advice from a qualified Thai lawyer

DON’T SIGN ANYTHING in Thailand without getting it checked over by a trusted and qualified Thai lawyer and advice from a western lawyer. You are conducting business in a foreign country, in a foreign language and there are thousands before you who have fallen foul of hastily or poorly prepared legal documents.

The list of stories over the years reporting on foreigners getting burned over contractual problems has filled Thailand’s newspapers and websites.

Guy meets girl. Girl and guy move in together. Guy decides he wants to buy a villa. Guy buys property under Thai GFs name (because foreigners can’t ‘own’ land in Thailand). Relationship goes sour. Thai GF vanishes and sells the house without telling ex-BF. And it gets worse from there.

Even if you’re signing a basic rental lease, get it checked by people who know the ropes of the Thai legal system. Check, check, check. And then check again.

Top 10 things to avoid in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

9. Get in an argument with Thai police

You will always come off second best if you decide you’re going to challenge the boys-in-brown. Thai police have a job to do and, in most cases, do a sterling job given that a lot of the time (especially in places like Patong) foreign tourists do some REALLY stupid things.

Police in Thailand are, generally, poorly paid and there is a generation of police who still work their way up the system ‘buying’ higher positions in the police ranks so they can get a larger proportion of the ‘tea money’ (bribes) that are still rife in the system.

Whilst there are many, many efforts, made with the best intentions, the ‘system’ has been in place for many generations and corruption will still be around long after you’ve left the country. With all that said, if you get stopped for a minor indiscretion – not wearing your helmet or not carrying a valid license with you, etc – just pay up and go on your way.

Yes, you are feeding the pyramid of corruption but your other option is not paved with happiness. Ramp up the situation by insisting that you ’speak to the superior’ or go to the police station to voice your objection. You will come off second best, every time.

In a more serious situation, like a traffic accident or where someone’s been injured, you are best keeping your cool and insisting that a member of the tourist police or a consular official come to the scene before you do anything. At least make sure you call them before agreeing to ANYTHING.

DON’T get angry or get into an argument with the local police. Their English-language skills will probably be limited and they represent a system that can get you into a mountain of trouble, costs or jail if you don’t play your cards right.

Top 10 things to avoid in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

10. Get your gear off

It’s hot and humid and you’ve come to Thailand for a swim. You’ve seen photos of bar girls in skimpy hot pants and a size-too-small singlets. You’re used to western values where topless bathing is acceptable.

Forget all this – you’re in Thailand and, despite the outwards acceptance of showing some flesh, it is still a deeply conservative country when it comes to what you wear and where you wear it.

There are plenty of double standards when it comes to this issue and you only really learn the subtleties after living here for a few years. The Thais will generally tolerate you wandering around shirtless in tourist zones but you don’t have to wander too far from the tourist hot-spots before the idea of ‘acceptable’ clothing changes quite quickly.

This becomes acutely apparent when it comes to visiting temples or anywhere there are images of members of the Thai Royal family or Buddha.

If you’re in any doubt about what the dress code is in any particular situation, ask a local.

Don’t, for example, wander down to the local Immigration office in your shorts, sandals and singlet and expect to get service – you won’t.

Going topless on a Thai beach will draw undue attention from the local constabulary, most likely resulting in a fine.

Top 10 things to avoid in Thailand | News by The Thaiger

Checklist

1. Have a quick read about the places you’re visiting and Thai customs on the internet. There are hundreds of sites that will spell out much the same mantra about behaviour, dos and don’ts. Here’s our LIST.

2. Do some homework about the places you want to visit, chat to other tourists and your hotel concierge about suggestions (although they’re usually on commission too)

3. If you are going to get into any business transaction consult a local lawyer plus a lawyer who speaks your language with experience in the transaction. Especially buying property.

4. Think before you act in most situations. You are in a foreign country and they truly do things differently in Thailand. The longer you live here, the more confusing it can seem. Turn your brain on before you hand over your money.

5. If you wouldn’t do it at home, don’t do it in Thailand, even if you can.

If you also want a list of basic cultural faux pas, check this list out HERE.

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Thailand

Thailand News Today | No vaccine, no flight, protest latest, smoking ban | November 25

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Thailand News Today | No vaccine, no flight, protest latest, smoking ban | November 25 | The Thaiger

The latest on today’s protests and the background as to why the protesters moved from the Crown Property Bureau. All on Wednesday’s Thailand News Today.

Protesters flip the location of today’s protest. Counter protests planned.

Protesters moved the location of today’s protests to the the headquarters of Siam Commercial Bank in Bangkok.

When protesters heard about a counter rally to meet and challenge them at the Crown Property building they decided to switch locations to the SCB headquarters around 10.30 last night.

SCB is a Thai bank that was set up under the auspices of the Crown Property Bureau. Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn is still the largest single shareholder, owning 23.35% of SCB shares.

Deputy PM and police warn protesters to stay away from the Crown Property Bureau

Stay away. That was the orders from police when the protesters were set to rally outside the Crown Property Bureau. Demonstrators would have been required to stay at least 150 metres away from the building in Phitsanulok Road.

A record 6,000 police were mobilised to handle the expected large crowd. Additional police have been shipped in from the provinces to bolster security for today’s rally.

Army re-inforcements have also been called in today, according to an Army spokesperson. The anti-government groups have also brought in their unarmed security force of some 50 people calling themselves “special services”.

Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwon also warned royalists groups to avoid mounting a counter-demonstration against the planned anti-government rally yesterday.

12 anti-government protesters summonsed to hear lèse majesté charges

Meanwhile, with almost impeccable timing, 12 pro-democracy protesters have been issued with police summons to hear charges under the lèse majesté laws.

Section 112 covers insulting, defaming or threatening the Monarchy. Anyone convicted on lèse majesté charges faces imprisonment of between 3 and 15 years.

In June this year the Thai PM announced that HM the King had asked the government not to impose the country’s lèse majesté laws.

BBC names Thai protest leader Panusaya in global list of 100 most inspiring women

One of the protesters facing charges has also been named by the BBC as one of the world’s 100 most inspiring and influential women of 2020.

Thai pro-democracy activist, Panusayaaka. “Rung”, has been singled out in thelist of women around the world who are driving change in challenging times. Panusaya is one of 3 Thai women to be listed.

As the leader of protest group, the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, she came to international attention at a Bangkok rally in August, when she read out the group’s controversial 10 point manifesto calling for reform of the Monarchy – a taboo topic never before publicly discussed.

We’ll have the latest information about today’s protests at the end of the bulletin.

Monk dies after jumping in front of speeding train in north-east Thailand

A monk has died after jumping on to rail tracks and into the path of an approaching train in the north-eastern province of Si Sa Ket, near the Cambodian border.

The incident occurred at a provincial train station in front of horrified witnesses yesterday morning.

Witnesses report that he jumped onto the tracks and stood with his arms open, in the path of an oncoming train.

Health officials call for smoking to be banned in residential buildings in Thailand

Thai health officials are calling for a ban on smoking in residential buildings, such as condominiums, hotels, and dormitories.

Those campaigning for a change in the law say it’s needed to protect the health of residents, and children in particular. The Health Laws and Ethics Centre at Thamassat University, says residential buildings should be smoke-free in order to protect residents from second-hand smoke. He was speaking at a seminar on the protection of non-smoking condo residents.

According to recent surveys only 15% say they are still smokers. 89% of respondents were in support of a total ban on smoking in condo buildings.

No vaccine, no flight – Qantas will require international travellers to be vaccinated

Qantas, Australia’s national airline, has been the first of what will likely be a common airline stipulation, with a requirement that all international travellers will need to have a vaccination against Covid-19 when it finally becomes available.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says the Australian flag carrier would implement the measure once a coronavirus vaccine was made available to the public.

“For international visitors coming to Australia and people leaving the country, we think that is a necessity.”

Joyce says the new rule is likely to become a standard practice by all airlines worldwide as many governments are now working to introduce electronic vaccination passports.

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Health officials call for smoking to be banned in residential buildings in Thailand

Maya Taylor

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Health officials call for smoking to be banned in residential buildings in Thailand | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Irina Iriser on Unsplash

Thai health officials are calling for a ban on smoking in residential buildings, such as condominiums, hotels, and dormitories. Those campaigning for a change in the law say it’s needed to protect the health of residents, and children in particular. Paisan Limsathit, from the Health Laws and Ethics Centre at Thamassat University, says residential buildings should be smoke-free in order to protect residents from second-hand smoke. He was speaking at a seminar on the protection of non-smoking condo residents.

The seminar was organised by the National Health Foundation and examined the results of a September – October study from Thammasat University that looked at smoking in condominium buildings.

According to the findings, out of over 1,200 people surveyed, 15% say they are smokers. Nearly half of those say they usually smoke on the balcony of their condo. 89% of respondents are in support of a total ban on smoking in condo buildings.

Meanwhile, Nipapan Kangsakulniti from the Faculty of Public Health at Mahidol University, says non-smokers are susceptible to second-hand smoke in shared buildings, adding that, according to a US study, banning smoking in residential buildings could cut maintenance costs by nearly 5 billion baht, as well as protecting the health of residents and reducing the risk of fires.

While the law in Thailand outlaws smoking in government and office buildings, as well as shopping malls and other public spaces like lobbies and corridors, there is no outright ban on smoking in residential buildings. Charan Kesorn from the Property Management Association of Thailand and the Thai Real Estate Association, says a compromise would be to reserve dedicated smoking areas away from non-smoking residents.

The fine for breaching Thailand’s ban on smoking in public places starts at 2,000 baht, rising to a potential 100,000 baht and/or a year in prison for smokers caught puffing on the beach.

SOURCE: Chiang Rai Times

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Protests

12 anti-government protesters summonsed to hear lèse majesté charges

Maya Taylor

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12 anti-government protesters summonsed to hear lèse majesté charges | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Sakchai Lalit / AP

With almost impeccable timing, 12 pro-democracy protesters have been issued with police summons to hear charges under section 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code. Section 112 relates to the offence of lèse majesté, or insulting, defaming or threatening the Monarchy. Anyone convicted on lèse majesté charges faces imprisonment of between 3 and 15 years.

In June this year the Thai PM announced that HM the King had asked the government not to impose the country’s lèse majesté laws.

Protest leader Parit Chiwarak, aka, “Penguin” is facing a total of 8 charges. According to a Nation Thailand report, 6 have been filed by police stations in the north-eastern provinces of Khon Kaen, Ubon Ratchathani, and Roi Et, in the central provinces of Ayutthaya and Nonthaburi, and the Chana Songkram district of Bangkok. 2 additional charges are being brought by the Technology Crime Suppression Division.

Meanwhile, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, aka, “Rung”, who has been named by the BBC as one of 2020’s 100 most inspiring and influential women, faces 6 charges. Both Panupong Jadnok (Mike) and human rights lawyer Anon Nampa face 4 charges each.

The other activists facing charges are Patsaravalee Tanakitvibulpon, aka “Mind”, (3 charges), Chanin Wongsri (2 charges), and Juthathip Sirikhan, Piyarat Jongthep, Thatthep Ruangprapaikijseree, Atthaphol Buaphat, Chukiat Saengwong and Sombat Thongyoi, all facing 1 charge each.

A spokesperson for the Royal Thai Police says officers are working on additional summons for a further 3 – 5 protesters, who will also face lèse majesté charges. It’s understood officers had a request for arrest warrants turned down on the basis that the suspects are public figures who have permanent residences in the Kingdom.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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