Last night your webmaster bumped into a Swedish tourist who had just fallen prey to a ladyboy pickpocket on a Baht bus on Jomtien Beach Road. He lost not only his cash, which amounted to just a few thousand Baht and is negligible, but also his foreign credit card and driving licence in the incident.
As it happens, he noticed the loss of his wallet that he had kept in a cargo pocket of his pants only on his way to the bar where I met him (he kept his coins in a separate pocket so didn’t initially notice the missing wallet when he paid the taxi driver the usual 10 Baht fare).
At first, the 62-year-old Swede, who’s been visiting Southeast Asia and Thailand for more than three decades and told me he was well aware of the usual scams, thought he had simply lost his wallet. Only when he told me that a ladyboy had been sitting next to him on the overcrowded back cabin and I mentioned the frequent occurrence of pickpockets on Baht buses, he realized he had just lost his wallet not to misfortune but a professional ladyboy pickpocket.
I bought him a drink (he’s a regular at that bar and I know him for years) and today a friend of his in Sweden sent him some money with Western Union. On the positive side, the loss of a few thousand Baht is just some kind of unwanted souvenir for him. The bigger problem is the loss of his credit cards and driving licence which I suggested the ladyboy might have thrown away after emptying his wallet of all cash (so there’s a small chance that someone later found his wallet – minus the cash – on the Baht bus and dropped it off at the police station.)
Why I tell this story? Because less than a month ago another Swedish guy (yes, funnily he was a Swede, too, and even had the same name) had also had his wallet containing a few thousand Baht nicked by a ladyboy on a Baht bus in Jomtien. Other than his fellow countryman, however, he hadn’t kept his credit cards or other important documents in the wallet, so he just went to the next ATM, withdrew a few thousand Baht more and carried on regardless.
Now these are only two cases that I’ve personally heard of in the last couple of weeks and that were not covered by the mainstream media (both Swedes refrained from filing a formal complaint as they wouldn’t even remember the ladyboy’s face and the money is gone anyway.) No, you obviously don’t have to be a genius to come to the frustrating conclusion that stories like these probably happen every other day and simply go unreported.
But there’s a lesson to learn. If you visit Pattaya as a tourist and regularly use Baht buses, just don’t sit next to a ladyboy (or even worse, between two ladyboys) and always keep your hand near your wallet. In the first place, don’t carry more cash on you than you need, and leave your credit cards and important documents at home.
Sure enough, it doesn’t have to be a ladyboy – or a bunch of them – but can also be a gang of women or a mixed group of whatever gender, possibly including even kids, one of whom may chat you up or create some kind of diversion to distract you while his/her colleague nicks your wallet or loose cash from your pocket without you even taking notice of it.
Believe us, these guys are professionals, and it’s simply big-headed to flatter yourself that you would notice their fingers grabbing for your wallet when more than a dozen people, all babbling in different languages, carrying handbags etc. sit close together on a Baht bus and the driver, just for example, suddenly has to brake hard. As often as we’ve heard of tourists who got pickpocketed one way or another, we can recall but a single case where the culprit was caught red-handed by the victim and actually got punched in the beautiful nose. (Yep, that was a ladyboy too.)
So here’s our good advice to all you regular Baht bus passengers. Unless you really can’t avoid it, do NOT sit next to a ladyboy on a Baht bus. Ladyboys are notorious pickpockets, and aside from Pattaya Beach Road and Walking Street, Baht buses are their preferred working places in Pattaya.
Moreover, regardless of who’s sitting next to you, do always keep your hand over your wallet and never carry more cash, credit cards or important documents on you than you really need that day. Also, as much as it plays up to you when a pretty Thai girl or ladyboy approaches you out of the blue, be extra cautious when random strangers chat you up on a Baht bus; they might well be part of a pickpocket gang just trying to distract you.
Pattaya remains a relatively safe destination but is not devoid of the usual dangers tourists face anywhere in the world, so don’t be a know-it-all and take unnecessary chances.