6 Feb 2019
Almost robbed and kidnapped on the way to Phuket Airport- DO NOT TRAVEL TO THIS COUNTRY
My girlfriend/domestic partner and I travelled to Phuket and Bangkok during the 2019 Lunar New Year. Being from New York, the scams (though quite numerable and tiresome) at first seemed manageable: taxi fare haggling, hotel staff in cahoots with travel and taxi services charging inflated prices, questionable arithmetic on dining and tourist service bills, etc.
However, the taxi ride to Phuket Airport for our flight back to Bangkok almost turned dangerous. We agreed with a Chinese taxi driver located outside the Novotel Phuket in Patong to pick us up for our flight. His van (Thai License plate 30-6063, Taxi Medallion 2565) seemed safe enough. After leaving the hotel, he then started with some BS story about having to stop on the way to airport to pay a taxi medallion tax.
About halfway through the ride, he picked up a Ukrainian woman dressed in running gear and a green-yellow skullcap who was “hitchhiking” for a ride. At first it appeared the driver was going to charge her for her ride as well, which was common, but their conversation was staged and it became clear they were acting together. The driver told the hitchhiker “I no charge you, you have no money. They American, they have lots of money”.
The driver then made a turn into an official looking building to pay his “tax” while we waited. After he exited, he came to our passenger side entrance and gestured for us to get out, meaning he expected us to get out of the van and leave our luggage inside while he took off with the van as part of his sham story. Then all hell broke loose.
The hitchhiker exited and tried to eject us from our seats. Fortunately, it was just her and the driver pitted against us and size-wise they were not physically intimidating, though if other accomplices showed up that would have changed quickly.
We pushed the hitchhiker away from the van, screamed at both of them so passers by could hear, and demanded the driver take us to the airport immediately else we would report him to the police (in hindsight, fat lot of good that would have done).
We closed the passenger door in the hitchhiker’s face while she gave us the finger. The driver, not sure about how to proceed, got back in and started to comply with our demands and drive us to the airport, leaving the accomplice behind.
We then turned on our Google Maps / geolocation services and made it clear to the driver we were tracing his route and if there was any turn or deviation we would call the police immediately. The situation, though fluid, was under control as long as the driver was complying. We were however on his terrain, so I was going through how to stop the van by pulling the emergency brake if the driver tried to make a wrong turn.
About a mile from the airport we arrived at what turned out to be the last main traffic light on the main road. While stopped and waiting for the light to change from red to green, the driver, probably not aware I was watching like a hawk even during the lull in confrontation, locked the passenger doors from inside the van.
By then I’d had enough, opened the door in the middle of the road while the van was stopped, and stood in front to block the driver in case the light turned green while my girlfriend popped the rear hatch and threw out our luggage.
Must have been our lucky day as there was a police kiosk right at the intersection. They had been observing our bizarre escape drama unfold in real-time. The driver pulled over at the command of the police and immediately started into a bullshit story to cover his tracks and avoid getting arrested.
We calmly identified ourselves, stated our story and made it clear we were nearly robbed. The driver then had the audacity to demand payment for the ride during which he tried to rob us.
Do not come to Thailand, ever, unless you have money to launder. Sadly, it’s ultimately honest Thai people who suffer having to deal with corruption, human trafficking, assault, and intimidation/violence.
I’m sure the ones with intelligence and means are doing the same as we are and as countless others in countries that suffer from kleptocracy are: packup, leave, and don’t come back.