After traveling solo for a month, I was joined by my friend Lisa. She flew in from South Africa to join me for one month. I'm pleased to say this has prompted me to really get out of Bangkok, as Lisa is far less content staying in one place than I am. A lot has happened over the last week, but I'll share one anecdote with you.
Her first impression of Bangkok was not one she is likely to forget. The night she arrived, five of us decided to go Khao San Road to get some food. We sat down, had a nice plate of Pad Thai, then walked to the end of the road. Between the numerous bars and insect vendors was a couple arguing loudly; ok whatever, nothing unexpected. However, things became ugly in the blink of an eye.
Suddenly, the guy shoved the woman into a street stall, very forcefully. We quickly ran to the girl to see if she was okay, and made sure to hold the aggressive man back. It soon became apparent that he was on drugs of some kind; we saw a crazed, violent look in his eyes. He kept shouting at everyone around him, egging them on. Most people pretended to not see anything. In fact, even the street vendor who had been pushed into seemed mildly amused at best. Realizing nobody was going to help us, I called over a police officer who happened to be down the street, and explained the situation to him. While Lisa comforted the struck woman (who was laying on the ground, crying), my other three friends spoke to the cop. Meanwhile, I ran to the local 7-Eleven to pick up some water for the victim.
By the time I returned to the group with a cold bottle of water, the police officer was gone, as was the crazed attacker. According to my friends, the police officer had just laughed and walked away, doing nothing about the guy, and leaving the woman lying on the hard ground. In shock, I realized the attacker had simply walked away in a drug-fueled haze, as did the corrupt officer. The girl, drunk out of her mind, was begging us to let her return to her boyfriend. Realizing we could not let her return to such a violent person, especially in an inebriated state, we decided to let her stay at our guesthouse. This way, she could recover a safe distance away from the guy. We were pretty sure she was a prostitute (a fact which we later confirmed), and realized the authorities looked at her as a joke.
Besides for being a terrible way for my friend to be introduced to Thailand, that night was a complete eye-opener for me. Although I was quite aware of some of Bangkok's illicit activity, I wasn't expecting the police officer to just laugh and walk away. A woman was hurt, and the attacker was shouting in full view of everyone. I cannot speak of the entire Bangkok police force (I have spoken to some friendly officers), but the gross corruption and misconduct I saw was inexcusable. I have a feeling that simply because Khao San Road is the 'backpacker ghetto' of Thailand, the police don't really interfere with activity there.
While Thailand has a very moderate crime rate (I have felt extremely safe throughout this entire trip), I no longer think of its police officers as reliable. Living in the United States has made me quite naive; this experience has mentally prepared me for future potential situations.
My name is Yonah Paley. I quit my job in the United States to travel. I also write movies and do photography. As I backpack across the world, I share stories, philosophy, and travel tips.