I just coming into that realization that I was robbed - feels weird. I'm in my dorm in Bangkok and my roommate just told me how people went through his bag on the night bus we took to get here from Krabi. I felt quite confident that my bag had remained untouched. I'm a computer security analyst by trade after all. If I can secure a complex high-tech server, securing a backpack shouldn't be that difficult. But I also know how to break into those systems, as every security chain can be breached.
- Soundtrack of the report
- Thieves In The Night
- Hot Chip
I decided to write about this story because we haven't talked much about security on Hejorama yet and while this wasn't the most spectacular heist, I figured it would be a good opportunity to share some insights on my safety measure when I travel.
The basic principle of my security strategy is that I'm prepared to potentially lose everything I travel with, except for my passport and one method of payment (a bit of cash or credit card). I don't want to be paranoid and try to secure everything I have all the time when I travel. Most of the things in my bag aren’t really worth much and I'm not too materialistic anyways.
So I decided that I would generally trust people to not steal my fairly old computer, my tablet or my cool t-shirts. It's important to have a bit of faith in humanity, something that helps me to be quite relaxed when I travel. In the case that this trust is misplaced, I have installed Prey on my electronic devices for a minimal chance of recovery. More importantly, all my important files are encrypted and stored in the cloud. On my hard drives I have thousands of photos and hours of video footage. But really if I lost them I'd be sad for half a minute and then would carry on with my life. My plans to conquer the world are safe and stored on multiple servers across the world, that's the most important thing. And as long as I'm not hurt, I don't care much about losing stuff I own, or having it stolen, where there is nothing I can do about it.
Details about my organization:
- My backpack contains my clothes, my computer (a bit bulky for my day bag), a copy of my passport and two 50€ bills for emergencies.
Security: two padlocks which have proven to be the flawed in my security chain.
- My daybag has my tablet, my notebooks and various items without much value.
Security: I keep my bag close to me all the time. If I lose it, it's not a big deal, however.
- I use a small neck pouch to carry my passport and two more 50€ bills, and sometimes my credit card when I feel it won’t be safe in my pocket.
Security: I usually wear it under my t-shirt and while I know it's not stealth, it's still fairly easy to secure. It's mostly efficient against pickpockets and bag snatchers. If I get robbed at gunpoint, I'll give it without any doubts along with my panties if they ask.
- In my jeans pockets I keep my card holder, my cell phone, my national ID and some local currency (never too much).
Security: I wear skinny jeans and grew up in Paris so my pockets are not that easy to reach. It's not always true when I'm drunk though, as a tranny proved to me in Barcelona (but that's another story).
As you can see, everything I own is usually spread across my body and in different bags to follow my grandma's rule: "don't put all your eggs in one basket."
I know that in multiple circumstances I won't be able to protect everything, but in most cases I'll be left with at least some money, some ID and a means of communication in one of my baskets.
Back to Thailand, where the drama occurred just 12 hours ago as I write this. Basically, my less-secure location on the bus was breached. While me and about 30 other passengers were sleeping, one or more people went meticulously rifling through all our bags to get any cash they could find, leaving no traces at all. Just like in any computer intrusion, one wants to leave as little trace as possible to be detected only after you are long gone. Those guys were smart. They didn't take my computer, which I would felt straight away as it is about 20 per cent of the weight in my bag. But in two months, I haven't checked even once to see if my emergency cash was still there. I know for sure the thief took it on the bus, as they opened a part of the bag I never use and forgot to close it. Without my roommate telling me about his misadventure I wouldn't have checked until getting back to Paris, most likely.
So there I was, confidently opening the still intact padlocks to see if everything is in order. Nothing was missing except for my shiny new 50€ bills. I was robbed. Me, the apparent security expert. Because of two stupid locks which I always felt were weak but never took the time to replace. Honestly, it's not that bad and I would have been far more annoyed had they stolen my computer, something I will need to use quite a bit before the end of the trip.
In the end, it's just money, and not even the whole of what I had with me. But had this not happened, I would have passed on this story and gloriously returned home without being scammed at all - unlike most tourists here. At least I now know that I need to improve my locking equipment and that I could also store less cash in my safety stash in cheaper countries like Thailand. That's the base of security, knowing how to consolidate your system with every incident - the bad guys are always a step ahead unfortunately.
So beware of the buses going to Bangkok from the South (Krabi, Surat Thani ... apparently this is very frequent) and don't carry any cash in your bag or anything of real value if possible. But I'm pretty sure they only go for the cash, as they didn't even bother taking my 500€ camera ...
Ever had any incident like this happening to you? What are your security measures when traveling?