The Big Benefits Of Being The Only Tourist In Town

“As I’ve explained,Vicki and I considered canceling this trip to Chiang Mai,” continues Intrepid Correspondent Paul Terhorst, picking up where he left off yesterday.

“On the Thursday before we planned to travel, Switzerland, Brazil, the UK, and Australia raised their travel advisories to: Do not travel to Thailand. These four countries joined 14 others already making this recommendation, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Spain, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Taiwan, Germany, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Israel, Belgium, and New Zealand.

“We came anyway. We flew into Chiang Mai, 700 kilometers north of the main violence in Bangkok.

“I wrote yesterday that unrest comes with the territory these days. Terrorists, natural disasters, riots, strikes, and more make our world a dangerous place. We need to deal with these problems on the ground and within the context of our own real-world experience. More often than not, it’s a bad idea to run away. That was my first tip.

“Here are two more…

“First, pay attention to details. Before coming to Chiang Mai, Vicki and I determined that Bangkok indeed had a serious problem. But Phuket, Ko Samui, and other southern beaches carried on as normal. Chiang Mai suffered a few isolated incidents but quickly returned to calm.

“Apparently, though, most tourists never do the analysis. Tourism has dried up all over Thailand, not just in Bangkok.

“Travel advisories might be one source of confusion. We at Live and Invest Overseas downplay travel advisories. To us, a travel advisory means that some bureaucrat, in some foreign country, giving average advice, is telling you to change your travel plans. We at LIO think you’re smarter than that.

“You might want to read travel advisories to see if they contain something new. But, unlike bureaucrats, you can discriminate. You know that some parts of Thailand are safer than others, just as some parts of the world are safer than others.

“Second, take advantage of opportunity that results when much of the world is being scared off. Innkeepers give you deals, restaurants go out of their way to take care of you. You’re among the only customers in town.

“In our current case, we’ve gotten a good long-term rate on our room. At our favorite Italian place, the owner greeted us with hugs. Everyone seems happier than usual to get our business.

“Years ago, Vicki and I went to Chile while riots were raging in Santiago. General Pinochet had declared a curfew. Vicki and I headed to Vina del Mar, Chile’s premier beach on the Pacific Ocean. We went to a hotel overlooking the ocean and found that front rooms with views cost less than rooms in the rear. Reason: The noise from the coast road below kept people awake. Vicki and I cheerfully took the cheaper, view rooms, knowing that, thanks to the 11 p.m. curfew, there would be no traffic noise at all after that hour.

“In general, all during our stay in Chile, we got better deals, better service, and easier access. The casino, which normally opened after bedtime for Vicki and me, now opened at 4 in the afternoon. We got our first-ever chance to check it out. Seafood vendors sold off their catch at bargain prices; they needed to get rid of it.

“Chiang Mai now has a curfew. You must be off the streets by 9 or 11 p.m., depending. The front-desk girl at our guesthouse works from 5 to 11:30 p.m. How to get home? She called the police and explained her situation.

“‘No problem,” they told her. ‘Just drive your motorbike home as usual.’

“Most tourists tend to avoid conflict areas, unrest, or economic collapse, no matter what. Until recent years, the Mexican peso would tank every now and again, because of one internal crisis or another. This meant that, for brief periods, Mexico would become very good value. Yet, during those periods, tourism to the country invariably dried up. American and Canadian tourists refused the bargains, I believe, because they felt guilty, uneasy, or afraid. Because of these peculiar feelings, they stayed home, leaving the Mexicans–who would gladly have sold them 10-cent tacos–to suffer.

“These days, tourists stay out of Mexico because of the drug wars. Yet only Ciudad Juarez and a few other towns, mainly on the borders, have become actually dangerous. I would travel to Puerto Vallarta, Ajijic, or Cancun without a worry, exercising only normal caution. Later this year, Vicki and I plan a trip from Los Angeles down the Baja, across to Mazatlan, and south along Mexico’s Pacific coast beaches. I doubt that trip will be anymore dangerous than usual.

“Recognize that unrest has become a part of life. Discriminate between place A, with real problems, and peaceful, delightful place B next door.

“Above all, enjoy. You make out very well in hot spots that others have deserted. It’s great being the only game in town.”

Kathleen Peddicord

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