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Weekly Travel Q&A: Mother with Thailand Travel Concerns

Sometimes a little research can be dangerous. Sometimes a lot of research can make you downright paranoid. This is my current state of mind as I plan a family holiday to Bangkok, Chiang Mai and one or more islands in Thailand – Ko Phi Phi or Ko Samui perhaps. As a mom of two infant boys, I have to be cautions, naturally. But I also want to let loose, breathe easy and not stifle my husband and kids with defensive overanxiety. The death of a young Kiwi woman in Chiang Mai, along with six others, from some sudden, elusive illness made national headlines in New Zealand in April. Film titles like Bangkok Dangerous do not necessarily help either (a half-joke). How legitimate are cautionary tales about Thailand? They seem to be everywhere, from travel blogs to government travel advisory sites. Help me sort through fact and fiction please.

Best,

Mary P., Auckland

Phi Phi Don – Photo credit

I always feel torn between two polar opposites when it comes to questions like this since, as a new father, I now understand perfectly well why some parents seem like overprotective killjoys to the childless. On the other hand, as a travel writer with a bad case of wanderlust, my gut instinct is always, above all else, to travel sans fetters, judgemental hang-ups, pretensions and emotional baggage. None of these characteristics a good traveller make and they seldom, if ever, allow room for truly extraordinary experiences.

We can’t plan for disaster, however, and, indeed, it can strike anywhere. We’re not in control at home and, in a very real sense, we relinquish even more control abroad. This unassailable fact is much more enjoyable and bearable with a full, open heart and broad, open mind. Inculcate this in your wee ones and I guarantee, they will grow up to be the heartiest and humblest of travellers. We should all be so lucky.

Is Thailand inherently or inordinately hazardous? I doubt it very much. To address the terrible tragedy that befell the young female Kiwis in Chiang Mai, it looks as if a bed bug insecticide, and not a mysterious illness, was the ultimate culprit. Regrettable, horrible and utterly indefensible on the part of the hotel, to be sure, but not nearly the same as a food-borne pathogen. There is no comfort in the news that a toxin was the cause of death. This must surely be an aberration, however, and not cause to condemn a country as a whole. Prosecute the individuals responsible for such preventable deaths, absolutely, but spare Thailand from a ruinous smear campaign.

Regular visitors to Thailand and people I personally know from Bangkok have always been swift to denounce two groups of people in the country: those in positions of authority and “bad” tourists. The women from New Zealand and other victims of the Chiang Mai tragedy did not qualify as the latter – the point is that a lot of the negative press about Thailand on travel blogs is the direct result of bad judgement. Bad judgement will hurt you in New York City, London and Sydney, just as much as in Bangkok. You do not strike me as someone with bad judement, Mary, and, as such, I doubt very much that you will have occasion to tangle with a Bangkok police officer.

Keep up your research but forgo active hunts for juicy intel on pickpockets, scams and the like. Why bother? Crime happens. It happens in every major city and, yes, some more than others. One or twelve anecdotes should not dissuade you from going to Bangkok or Thailand with your husband and boys. Choose your Bangkok hotels well, likewise for hotels in Chiang Mai and, as for your island picks, the sky is the limit in Thailand. I think Krabi or Samui will be brilliant for your family.

Bangkok City Guide

Chiang Mai City Guide

Krabi City Guide

Samui City Guide

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