Is Koh Tao Safe for Backpackers?
YES. Of course it is.
I am going to apologise to anyone in advance if you have reached your limit on me gushing about 'when I lived in Koh Tao' because, yes, this is gonna be one of those posts.
If you follow me on Snapchat >> @wanderluceblog << you may have seen my snapping away about the Channel Four Documentary that aired last night. Murder in Paradise was primarily about the murder of the two British backpackers in 2014 and the investigation thereafter. The main points being the sketchy nature of the initial investigation (Koh Tao is a tiny island with minimal resources) and the so-called Koh Tao 'mafia'. Various people were interviews, including Alexandra Baackes (Alex in Wanderland) who has been on and off the island for years, alongside a few (emphasis on the few) others. It was clear to see what the angle was -- Koh Tao is a lawless island, inhabited by angry Thai mafia, abused Burmese migrants, and vulnerable young tourists, and that didn't surprise me -- I presume that would be the vibe of the doc. But I can't help feeling that it's so incredibly irresponsible. A few families were featured, as well as the police and a member of the 'mafia' too. My fear is that anyone watching this may change their plans and avoid Koh Tao because of how frightening it appeared to be -- if I didn't know the island, I wouldn't have been frightened of it -- I just would have thought it was a bit, well......crap. A fair few interesting 'truths' were talked about as though they were facts....and that frustrated me. I have such mega love for Koh Tao. I got engaged there, I discovered a love for writing, photography, scuba diving (okay -- that one took a while) and got my first freelance breaks there. I got engaged there, learned to drive a scooter and discovered a deep love for 7-11 toasties. I learned a bit of Thai, I made Thai friends and I realised that I adore Isaan Thai food, but hate Pad Thai. I had regular eateries, favourite beach spots and more hiking opportunities than I've ever had before -- and I loved every second. Okay not every second, as this post highlights.....but 90% of it anyway.
Every damn sunset, all the San Miguel lights, and all the shots at Banyan -- those memories are some of my most precious. When I think of Koh Tao, I feel deliriously happy and wistful that I no longer call it my home. I am happy where I am, but those are the emotions you have when you love a place right? I think I'll go back one day, but I'm not in any hurry right now. But you should go.....if you want to, not because I've just told you to -- and you should absolutely never worry that it is an 'unsafe' place to travel to. I have been to plenty of places where I felt less safe, and most of those were in Europe. Yes, five tourists died in Koh Tao in a year......but the other 500,ooo odd tourists leave the island a-okay, maybe a little hungover with a Koh Tao tattoo (a bike crash scar).
What I didn't see covered is what I want to say here, on my little space of the internet is tourist responsibility. Thailand is a Buddhist country, and they are incredibly tolerant (nobody bats an eyelid at a ladyboy) but it is not really part of Thai culture to drink heavily, take drugs and generally be loud and rude. But still, locals don't get cross at tourists stealing tuk tuks drunk, gathering at 7-11 to shovel toasties at 2am and PDA to their hearts content. To be honest, it never failed to make me cringe when I saw a tourist behaving badly, then heard the unmistakeable British accent. It made me feel ashamed, and embarrassed because I knew that while no Thai would be rude to me just because I was a Brit, they would often be a little surprised if I said a few words in Thai or wasn't a complete douche-bag.
This isn't the first place in the world I have been where young backpackers run rife, and headlines place blame with the native countrymen -- Laos is a perfect example of that. Tubing hit the headlines a few years ago because so many tourists died when holidaying in Vang Vieng. But what the headlines can't say (because the headline would be ridiculously long) is that they were doing CRAZY things -- drinking, taking drugs and swinging from bungee ropes into a shallow river. That is retarded. You would 100% NEVER do that in your own home country and expect to come out alive or with no scrapes....so why on earth would you do it in a foreign country, where you don't know what the hospital's are going to be like? And FYI -- why would you ever take drugs in a country where it's punishment by DEATH? Have you not seen Banged Up Abroad?!! Anyway, I digress.
All of this is just to simply say, that Koh Yao is VERY safe, it is incredibly beautiful and you are highly unlikely to come to any harm when you are there. Just be sensible, do your research, be respectful and don't do anything you wouldn't do at home. And yeah -- that means no driving home drunk, and no drugs. Also - do me a favour, and don't pay any credence to any shit you read about the 'mafia' either. Okay, there are a few families on the island who own a lot.....but you're not gonna wake up with a horses head in your bed if you cross them. So calm down, and carry on with your travels.
Read my Koh Tao posts here > http://wanderluce.com/tag/koh-tao/
Have you been to Koh Tao? And did you see the C4 documentary about it? If so, let me know what you thought in the comments box below :)
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