Expat

Is Chiang Mai Safe?

barbed wire
Typical. Rusty barbed wire near Kad Luang market.

I can’t tell if crime is getting worse or if I’m more clued in. I heard about an increase of purse snatching on Ratchadamneon Soi 5. Apparently you know when there has been a crime committed because suddenly the police show up to patrol the area.

I’ve also learned that my friend has been harassed (grabbed) while cycling around the moat. She’s an attractive bubbly (yeah I called you bubbly) farang but one of the things you learn about Thai men is they are not aggressive…

When I lived inside the moat I felt confident that Chiang Mai wasn’t the kind of place where I would be attacked or violated. So I walked, cycled, biked confidently. My friend Nick seem to think my Thai looks made me more of a target but I’m not the novelty white girl so maybe I’m safe.

It doesn’t matter though. No girl likes to hear about another woman being violated.

I’ve also notice more aggressive behavior on the roads. Part of the problem is Thais are driving their new cars like they would motorbikes. They want to be in trucks and SUVs on roads not made for larger vehicles. I’m sorry, but the US has got some f’n spacious roads in comparison. Any prior complaints about folks back in the States not knowing how to drive, I take it back. I take it all back.

Car culture is so new here, it’s frightening. I can’t tell you how many times I hear grinding gears, see ill judged U turns, cars weaving in and out impatiently, and my favorite, people trying to park. Everyday drivers make red truck drivers look professional and red trucks are infamous for not seeing anybody but their customers on the side of the road!

I hate to complain though. You know me. I want to be more zen zen when I drive. I don’t want to get angry when a truck can’t stay in his own goddamn lane and it’s me and the shoulder, on a turn, at night. I don’t want to care if a car goes around me at the traffic light because they don’t want or can’t wait for the light.

But then I think of my father. He died because someone couldn’t wait. At a four way intersection, the bus just had to go around and I want to say, Fuck You! I know I’m not patient and there are plenty of times when I’m sure someone is thinking, “Women drivers.” But I also know I’ve been driving since I was 13, took a driving class in high school and basically come for the school of defensive driving.

Sometimes I just tell myself that those drivers are more important than me and that makes me giggle. Or that they have to really get to a toilet. I’m not in a hurry. I don’t want to be in a hurry. Of course, driving fast on the motorbike is fun but I’m just feeling so sensitive about traffic lately!

And don’t get me started on the weather! The pollution is so bad right now. Sigh. Maybe it’s the poor air quality that has gotten everyone in a fix and it’s effecting me too. But I think something needs to change. It’s commonplace for a student to come in and tell me that they have been in an accident. Most expats I know have a motorbike story.

Did I mention the pollution??? Are we crazy to live in Chiang Mai???

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10 thoughts on “Is Chiang Mai Safe?

  1. I don't want Thailand to become any more like the west, but if Thais are going to insist on driving SUVs on the tiny streets around CM, the police are going to have to start acting a little more western and start giving some double parking tickets. Seems like the solution now is just to turn every street in the city into a damned one-way.Good post. Sometimes it feels good to just gripe a little.

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  2. Thanks William. Usually I don't gripe but I had to because the driving around town has been driving me insane!!!I wish we didn't need the police to police but in Thailand they are given a lot of respect so maybe it needs to come from them.

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  3. Hi Lani!Not sure exactly how I stumbled across your site, but I'm glad to have found it. As a white girl farang, I feel pretty safe in Chiang Mai, but I've lived in some rough places in the US, where it was common for friends to be mugged at knife or gun point. Traffic and air pollution are totally different stories. I do fear for my life every time I scoot through certain roadways in CM. And the air is awful, but I think these are just prices we pay to get to enjoy all of the good parts!

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  4. I hope the air is clearing up there? We've been hearing how bad it is/was from those there and those who have just left CM. I always felt safe in CM unless I was in traffic on the back of that scooter…some days I just shut my eyes 😦

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  5. Well, Snap, it got better when it finally rained but as soon as it did, the levels of smoke rose again. It's bad! I hate Thailand this time of year!!!!

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  6. Pingback: Looking Back: 2012
  7. The pollution isn’t any worse than Cuenca and Quito is it? LOL About crime. We’ll have to get used to it. It’s bound to get worse as more Americans show up. We’ve advertised too much on TV such that we are perceived as wealthy. My Cuenca banker laughed at that notion, knowing a great many Americans doing business with him. The best we can expect is perhaps the standard refrain in Ecuador, “It could have been worse.”

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    1. OH dear god. That quote does take me back. I never ventured to Quito but the pollution here is pretty bleak….yeah Cuenca was making the Lonely Planet’s best of lists and I saw that a few years back, I’m sure it has been “discovered” and w/ it the crime 😦

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