BIGGSY TRAVELS

unique travel experiences

Category: Asia

Getting pickpocketed in Bangkok

If I had to choose out of the two I’d probably prefer to be pickpocketed rather than mugged, but that didn’t lessen the initial shock when the former happened to me in Bangkok a few years back. It took just 30 seconds for me to notice what had happened as I did that reassuring pat of the trouser pocket “thing” that we do, but in doing so realised that the rectangular protrusion of my wallet wasn’t where it should be.

Soi Cowboy District in Bangkok

Soi Cowboy District in Bangkok. Source

Part of me felt violated, part of me felt stupid, a small part of me felt upset, part of me even felt guilty! After all it was 1am, I was in the less than salubrious district of Soi Cowboy in Bangkok, and I’d been ticking off that unique experience of watching live “ping pong ball” shows. Although to be honest I’d been more impressed by the entertainer firing out paper darts and popping balloons attached to the ceiling! Anyway I digress. How can a fairly savvy traveller like myself put myself in a position to be pickpocketed, and worse of all the pickpocket had been talking to me quite openly beforehand?

It all happened back in October 2009 when I left a bar at the end of the night and started to make my way home. A hispanic guy in the street started chatting to me, correctly guessing I was English and walked with me all of 10 yards down the road. My “spidey” senses were on full alert so I was fully aware of my surroundings and his reasonably close proximity to me, although the street was fairly busy and it wasn’t just me and him standing there so I didn’t particularly feel in any danger. Within seconds he was initiating a half-hearted football tackle on me with an imaginary football while smiling and cheering “Ronaldo, Rooney!” I went along with it, while still continuing in the same direction. In hindsight I can now see why he went in for a second fake tackle. He hadn’t been able to get at my wallet the first time round!

Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney - not that I blame them!

Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney – not that I blame them of course Source

Looking back, what had given me a slight false sense of security was that the trousers I was wearing were of the cotton “backpacker” variety and had zipped front pockets. If my wallet had been in my back jeans pocket, poking its head out, looking back down the street I can understand how it could have easily been swiped. But this one was safely “locked” away. So the first pretend tackle was to undo the zip (something that no doubt happens to Western tourists for a completely different reason in this part of town) and the second tackle was to take the wallet out.

Zipped trouser pockets - not pickpocket proof though

Zipped trouser pockets – not pickpocket proof though. Source

It was at this point I was getting slightly uneasy with the unwanted attention and made it clear I wasn’t playing any more football and headed off on my way, but not before my new friend had the audacity to shout back saying that he and his friends were meeting for a drink in the bar down the road in 20 minutes and that I should join them. “I don’t think so” I thought. Then just 20 strides away I pattered my left pocket out oh habit and realised my wallet wasn’t there. I turned round in panic (not quite in blind panic, but panic all the same) scouting out the groups of people in the near vacinity but nothing. I moved back to where the game of football had taken place but nobody I recognised was there either. At this point I just wanted to get the hell out of there. However it was least a 1h45 minute walk back my hostel in Khaosan Road and how was I going to manage that without any money? And that’s when beautifully I reached into the zipped rear pocket of my trousers and pulled out a small wad of 100 Baht notes (about £10 total), easily enough to get me back home in a Tuk-Tuk.

Heading back home in my Tuk Tuk

Heading back home in my Tuk Tuk. Source

I was still slightly shocked by the sad end to the night but flying along the streets back to the relative sanctuary of Khaosan Road, a wry smile came across my face as I pictured the culprit opening up my cheap, blue “freebie” Fosters wallet in the shadows to disappointly find out it contained NO cards, NO notes,  just 2-3 coins worth about 20p in total and a solditary PADI divers card I’d got back in Australia a few years earlier. So essentially he would have opened it up and seen a picture of me inside giving him a big “two fingers” and a “**** YOU!” Now that was totally satisfying, made up for any intial upset and most importantly made be much more aware of looking after my belongings in the future. Now this could have happened anywhere. It just happened to take place in Bangkok! I’d certainly go back to this beautful city again.

Anybody else been pickpocketed on their travels? Or worse still mugged?

Navigating the Kerala Backwaters by Houseboat

How many trips are inspired by a work colleague’s computer background? Des sits opposite me and had this stunning sunset on his screen that I later found out to be the Backwaters of Kerala, India.

The Inspirational Backwaters Screensaver

The Inspirational Backwaters Screensaver

As luck would have it a friend of mine called Keerthi was getting married in Bangalore in March so Kerala, the Munnar tea plantations and Varkala beach resort all became destinations factored into our 10 day trip – including the Backwaters and THAT sunset!

The Kerala Backwaters is a network of 1,500km of lagoons fed by 38 rivers, which extend from one end of Kerala to the other. The most popular way of exploring them is by hiring a ‘houseboat’ for a day trip, staying in one overnight or even hiring a houseboat for several days.

The Main Backwaters Channel

The Main Backwaters Channel

We opted for a day trip based on some TripAdvisor research where depending on the boat you choose, it could mean “lights out” out at 10pm (when the cook/captain go to sleep in the communal area) and the 7 of us would have wanted to stay up a bit later. Also the aim was to “see” the Backwaters and witness sunset and we were happy to do that during the daytime. For a good blog on the alternatives to houseboats check out http://www.fivedollartraveller.com/dont-alleppey-houseboat-kerala-backwaters/
Also what to look out for when deciding to stay in one go here – http://globetrottergirls.com/2012/08/how-to-book-a-houseboat-in-kerala/

So having followed Globe Trotter Girl’s advice we didn’t book a houseboat in advance (we were just inside the shoulder season) and instead checked out the boats the afternoon before. This was a little bit stressful as it meant 7 of us agreeing on a boat and whether it would be a day or night trip, but it at least allowed us to see facilities (and the state of the onboard toilet in advance). We wanted to experience sunset which is why the overnight stay was winning until we had the lightbulb moment of asking the boat owner to stay out a bit later than usual on the daytrip! So we get the best of both worlds but didn’t have to stay on-board overnight.

All aboard the houseboat

All aboard the houseboat

In the end the 2-bed Paradise looked nice and we didn’t have to got through the “hard sell” act with its captain which some of the other boat owners were tending to do. We agreed on a price of 6000 Rupees (£60) and then wandered off to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.

The Paradise Houseboat captain

The Paradise Houseboat captain

The next day we boarded at midday and set “sail”. These bigger boats can’t explore the smaller canals but that mattered not and the wider channels felt just as picturesque having seen them for the very first time.

Lunchtime on the Houseboat

Lunchtime on the Houseboat

During the journey lunch was provided and we stopped off at a small hut built up on a levee selling king prawns but the prices felt extortionate so we politely declined, reboarded and continued on our 5mph journey. Midway through the day we tried our hand at fishing using pieces of bread while skilled workers climbed up the palm trees to collect coconuts behind us.

Backwaters Fishing Stop

Backwaters Fishing Stop

We moored up for sunset and was back at the dock by 19:00. We couldn’t find that exact line of trees but we got pretty close!

The Backwaters Sunset

The Backwaters Sunset

So the houseboats can be expensive, but a day trip is an option, and there are other cheaper alternatives (ferries, canoes) but at least you can say you went on an actual houseboat.

Away from the boat we decided to stay 2 nights in Alleppey in the delightful Homestay called ‘Alapatt Homestay’ run by Raj and his extended family. The location was spot on as it’s very close to the bus station and just a 400m walk to where the houseboats are moored up. So it was as “cheap as chips” but still allowed us full choice of what to do out on the Backwaters and at 5000 Rupees (£50) for 3 rooms for 2 nights it was very good value indeed!

Alapatt Homestay

Alapatt Homestay

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