Vacation rental horror story…More horrific news for tourists to Bangkok…

The drive to Smithfield Regional Park which we visited yesterday was pleasant. The day started out sunny quickly changing to clouds and sprinkles.

Each morning as I begin the day’s post, we turn on the news to see what’s happening in the world. This morning, we were shocked and devastated by the news of a bombing close to the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok, Thailand which was crowded with tourists at the time, killing at least 19 people and injuring more than 120. The full story and videos may be seen here.

As we discussed over the past few days, one can never be too careful. We’ll be in Thailand a year from now and since I’d been there in the past (before Tom), I felt there was no need for us to stop in Bangkok, a highly congested city plagued with crime. Instead, we’ll be flying directly to the island of Phuket.

We didn’t stop at the bungee jumping spot (spelled this way in Australia as compared to bungee in other countries). 

Sadly, Phuket wasn’t safe for tourists in 2004 when it was hit by a devastating tsunami killing over 5000 people, many of them tourists staying in oceanfront properties along the exquisite beaches.

With caution in mind, the beautiful vacation property, we selected is a few miles from the ocean. Also, with prices high close to the beach, we had two reasons to stay inland a bit. We’ll visit the beaches at our discretion. 

Many of the trails are designated for mountain bikers requiring a quick jump to the side when a biker appears.

The story Tom discovered a few days ago, spotted in the New York Times newspaper reminded us once again that the reality of booking vacation rentals online presents certain risks in itself. 

Of course, this particular story is an isolated case. A similar situation could easily occur in any apartment building complex anywhere in the world, whether it was a vacation rental or a long term apartment rental.

We stopped and talked to a pair of mountain bikers who’d stopped by the check out the trails before bringing their bikes back for the miles of trails.

Here’s a portion of the story and a link to the balance you’ll find by clicking here:

“Airbnb Horror Story Points to Need for Precautions

Early in the evening of July 4, Micaela Giles’s mobile phone started sounding alerts, and a series of messages straight out of a horror movie began scrolling down her screen.
Her 19-year-old son told her that his Airbnb host in Madrid had locked him in the fourth-floor apartment where he was supposed to be staying and removed the key. The host was still there, he said, rattling knives around in the kitchen drawer and pressing him to submit to a sexual act. He begged his mother for help.
When she called Airbnb, its employees would not give her the address and would not call the police. Instead, they gave her a number to the Madrid police and told her to ask the police to call the company for the address. But the number led to a recording in Spanish that kept disconnecting her, she said, and when she repeatedly called back her Airbnb contact, the calls went straight to voice mail.
According to her son, Jacob Lopez, he was sexually assaulted that night. Eventually, he persuaded his host to free him. He returned home to Massachusetts and is in trauma therapy.”
The remainder of this story continues here.
As shown in the remainder of this story at the above link, Airbnb was unsure as to how to handle this situation.  Hopefully, by now, some new procedures are in place that may have averted this horrible situation by prompting the police to the property immediately. This never should have happened.
We walked into the park for awhile, eventually turning back when we realized the trails weren’t as suitable for walking as opposed to mountain biking.
We’ve used Airbnb a few times, but have shied away from it since they require the full amount of the vacation rental paid at the time of the booking as opposed to paying a deposit and paying the balance at a later date. Supposedly, they are revising this policy to make it more user friendly, which would make it more appealing to us.
This is one of the reasons we don’t like renting apartments as many travelers prefer, finding the cost of an apartment less than a condo, townhouse, or single-family home. The proximity of public transportation and access to popular tourist site is highly appealing to many travelers.
The sky was overcast when we arrived at the park.

Younger travelers often prefer to be in the hubbub of the big city. For us, a suburb or the country is ideal for us, as is the case living here in Trinity Beach with a current population of under 5000. 

Even, the bigger city of  Cairns, 20 minutes south of Trinity Beach, has a population of 156,000, not a huge metropolis by any means. Tom always says, “The closer you get to tall buildings, the more likely to find crime, poverty, and increased risk.”
At points, the trail was cleared of debris, but at other points, mountain biker enthusiasts would be in for quite a ride.
Our style of living tends to keep us away from tall buildings as much as possible although we’ve encountered our fair share over these past three years. As for the above traveler’s experience, traveling alone in a big city, he fell prey to greater risk based on location and circumstances.
In reality, there are definitely certain locations and circumstances that add to the risk of crime for tourists.  With all of our precautions, we could easily be a target in the most seemingly innocuous locations.
In the US these shops are referred to as auto body shops. Here in Australia, they are called smash repairs. We love the differences!
Luckily, for us, we find the most joy in our travels in quieter less populated locations far from tall buildings.  However, exposure to increased risk may be unavoidable such as the case of our upcoming river cruise in Vietnam where we’ll be staying in hotels in big cities and dining out for a few weeks before and during the cruise/tour. We chose to take these risks although the likelihood of an incident is relatively slim.
Also, the fact that we don’t visit nightclubs and seldom visit bars added to the fact that we seldom wander dark streets at night adds another layer of safety.  Had we been younger, these types of venues may have been more desirable. We both easily recall the fun times we had “nightclubbing” in our younger years. 
I don’t drink alcohol at all (health reasons) and Tom has little interest in having a cocktail other than when we’re on a cruise (along with partaking in the vast array of foods he doesn’t otherwise enjoy). This fact alone, generally keep us out of bars and the resulting higher risk scenarios of leaving the bar and walking to one’s car or grabbing a taxi at night in the dark.
As we exited we spotted this site which appeared to be used for dumping the debris on the trail.  We’ve found parks in Australia to be well maintained.
Are we the typical overly cautious senior couple?  In some ways, we are. But in other ways, adventure which may include a certain degree of risk, is the highlight of our lives and some of our best experiences. 
As for how we’ll handle vacation rentals going forward? We’ll handle the booking process and eventual occupancy, in the same manner, we have thus far, with a degree of caution coupled with an expectation of a good outcome.
Have a good day!
Photo from one year ago, August 17, 2014:
 While in London (and Paris) we had no choice but to walk the streets at night (we were in fairly safe South Kensington) or grabbing a taxi to return to our hotel in the dark. Spending an entire month in these two large cities left us with no option other than to dine out for every meal. This photo was of a sign posted at our reserved table at Andover Arms in London, one of the best restaurants we experienced in our travels. Please click this link for more photos of our fabulous meal and evening.

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