When I was planning for my on-going travel adventure, for nearly a year, I was often asked if it didn’t bother me that I would be traveling alone. The answer, an honest one, was always “no.” However, I was very aware that there are certain limitations and cautions for a woman traveling anywhere, but most especially in unfamiliar foreign countries by herself.
So, I’ve generally proceeded with the appropriate care and oddly haven’t felt threatened in any way. However, that changed last night; both my not using common sense safety measures and my first experience of feeling frightened in my chosen environment.
I am not a fearful person but I’ve been endowed with a sort of Spidey-sense – really. I always have a heightened awareness of what’s going on around me. Once in Chiang Mai, I was at a gas station convenience store and noticed I was being followed around by a rather grubby-looking woman so I turned and stared at her. She left the store. I believe she intended to pick-pocket me. That hyper-awareness stood me in good stead yesterday evening or I might be telling a very different story.
I was invited to by Robert, a waiter at Lazy Gecko, to stop by Two Chefs where he was working a second job as a bartender. He informed me that Two Chefs, was basically a block away – down the street and around the corner to the next block and make another right. Simple enough. I could walk there I decided. I did that at around 8 pm, without incident, enjoyed a wonderful meal and being treated like a princess (who doesn’t enjoy that?)
When it came time to leave, the tuk-tuk driver Robert had arranged for me couldn’t be reached by phone, so a security guard went down the street to try and hail one for me, with no luck. I told Robert not to worry about it I could walk back (mistake #1). He hesitated but then agreed telling me I should go the opposite direction because the light was better and I took his advice (mistake #2).
I made my way to the main street. The light was better, however once I got on that street I was on unfamiliar territory and missed my turn onto the street I’m staying on. I realized fairly soon that I was lost but thought going back was a mistake and kept looking for an alternative.
In the meantime, I was suddenly aware that about 25 feet behind me someone was following and trying to be quiet about it. There were still plenty of tuk-tuk drivers around (why didn’t I just hail one? Mistake #3) so I wasn’t terribly worried but I turned and stared him down. He stopped following me and the next time I looked he’d gone.
Just a short distance later I was out of the main activity area and in my peripheral vision I noticed two large men cut across a park headed straight for me. Staring them down was not an option. In fact, I kept my gaze straight ahead so as not to alert them I was on to them. Just as they started to cross the street and were calling to me, “Hey, sweetie”, I raised a hand for the nearest tuk-tuk driver to come. Rescued! Turns out he had been watching me.
Once we were headed in the right direction, the driver, Rocky, asked me if I knew those men. When I answered no, he replied, “They were coming for you.” I said, “I know.” When I got back to my room, the reality of how close I came to a truly bad situation – probably a mugging – set in and I mentally reviewed everything I could have done to prevent it.
I think I let the cheapo in me to resist the tuk-tuk ride because it was such a short distance that it seemed silly to spend the money. I’m also aware that I occasionally have the need to “cowgirl” up.
Well, I’ve learned my lesson, big time. Caution, ladies and gents, when you’re out of your element! I haven’t ventured out at night for a reason and from now on, I’ll either be sure to go with someone else or be sure I have transportation both ways.