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Guest Post: When East Meets West

cultural-confusion

Editors note: It is my pleasure to feature Havana Lion’s first guest post by renowned expat living blogger Trippy Traveler from the Trippy Traveler Blog, be sure to check out his amazing posts about living abroad.

Those tourists planning to visit Koh Phangan and indeed Thailand for the first time and having seen the news about the death of Stephen Ashton from England on December 31st 2012 might be asking themselves whether Thailand and Koh Phangan in particular is a safe place to visit.

Sadly, a British tourist was shot during the Haad Rin New Year Party in December, 2012. When the news first broke commentators on forums often assumed that the Brit had provoked a fight with a local who had pulled a gun to save face. These early assumptions were far off the mark. It turns out that two gangs ended up having an argument and to save face one of them pulled out a ‘homemade gun’. In the ensuing shootout the young man from Britain caught a bullet in the stomach. He was an innocent bystander, not in any way involved in the altercation. It was a tragedy.

The young Thai man responsible was soon apprehended. The picture of his homemade gun looked surprisingly like a professionally made gun. The story soon fizzled out in the Thai media and the British media. Nobody at the time asked about what happened to the other gang members involved in the gun battle on Haad Rin beach. They apparently hadn’t broken any laws.

None of this sounds very safe.

Thai Visa has a forum with news. They send me an email every morning. 4 days out of 7 there is normally a headline about a foreigner getting shot, kidnapped, drugged, swindled, beaten up, arrested or drowned. This creates a very slanted perception of Thailand. It should be remembered that Thailand has traditionally had a low crime rate; the main ideology from their traditional culture and from Buddhism is non-violence and ethical living. In short Thai people in general are some of the most gentle and kind people you will ever encounter if you travel the world. Nothing has changed.

Unfortunately, Thailand used to be a country that was seen by many who became ex-pats as a country that had cheap beer, cheap women, great weather and lots of weed to smoke. Ex-pats who find themselves in the bar business can get mixed up with gangster elements. They can also develop a booze habit that propels them unwittingly into dangerous situations. And then there are all the scams and intrigue that sometimes comes with ‘Thai brides’. All this is a recipe for lurid headlines.

For tourists the most common stories are being caught with drugs by the police; being duped in love; picking a fight with a local; and being drowned. Max Tenenbaum from the UK drowned off Chaweng beach in Koh Samui on January 8th, 2013. The undertow is strong off certain beaches at certain times of the year. Sadly, lots of foreigners have marine disasters. Having the sea next to a full moon party is a scenario made for potential grief.

evacuation-notice-Koh-Phayyam

Things, however, are changing in Thailand. It is a country growing quickly in prosperity like Brazil, Korea and India. Key to this success are the Japanese automobile companies, computer part construction (again foreign-led investment), agriculture and tourism. Despite having an unstable political system, the standard of life for Thais has improved. Indeed for many hotel workers working ‘officially’ their wage, state entitlements and perks (such as free board and lodging) equates to a salary of about €500 to €600. This is comparable with a living wage in Spain.

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