Is Bangkok Dangerous? Not Unless You Look For It

What’s up homies, Seven here, bringing you another frowback for your Friday. I’d completely forgotten about this little ditty until last week, when a quick blurb in Sweet3Mango jogged my memory. I’m pretty sure this was published at BKKNites, though. Anyway, here’s a 5-minute distraction from your day…

“I carry a knife in Bangkok. Every day and everywhere. I do this knowing there’s a very slim chance it’ll ever be used for self-defense, because in point of fact, Bangkok is a very safe city. I’ve been to many cities that are more dangerous—Barcelona, London, the whole of Essex, San Jose, certainly my hometown of Los Angeles. And yet, I carry a weapon in BKK. It’s not because I think I will need it. I think I won’t need it. But then again, in Bangkok you just never know.

I took up the practice of carrying a knife when I lived in Krabi. It’s a handy tool to have in the south, where you may find yourself trying to get through the rind of a fruit that, without a knife, you’d be reduced to throwing it against a wall, Castaway-style. Cutting twine, turning tiny screws, opening packages….the list of things you need a knife for in the jungle is long. But the secret reason I had one on me was the slim chance of a confrontation—not with a Thai, but with another farang.


In the seedier areas of Krabi and Phuket, the atmosphere is more volatile than Bangkok. It seems like the further away from the capital that foreigners are, the more apt they will be to fly off the handle. Because I spent my first few years in the south, I thought all of Thailand was this way…..rife with farang whose fuses were pre-dipped in gasoline and waiting to be lit. Then I moved to Bangkok, and was surprised to find it safer than Ao Nang.  One theory I had is that, in the south, there’s a greater concentration of nouveau fake hippies and stupid Millennials devoid of morals, intelligence, and respect for human life, thus the population of stab-worthy douches is thicker there. Large numbers of scumbags living cheaply, littering the beaches with their deplorable selves, making a bad name for all farang and just generally ruining everything. But I could be wrong. Anyway, that’s when I got in the habit, and then carried it over, almost unconsciously, both figuratively and literally, to life in BKK.

Mostly, I use it to cut cigars. Once, a gogo dancer got part of her bikini tangled in her bra. Seven’s knife to the rescue. I’ve opened more than a few Chupa-Chup wrappers with my trusty blade. But I’ve never been close—knock on wood—to needing it in a tussle. In fact, the greatest danger I encounter is self-created. When I’m sober, I have no intention of ever needing or using it in a fight, but if I’m honest, the more I drink the stabbier I get—in my mind, at least. I’m too afraid of prison to actually attack someone, but in the midst of a drunken stupor, every little thing a tourist does pisses me off to no end. In truth, the only time I envision ever using this thing in a fight is a situation where I’ve already been clobbered and I’m down on one knee, losing consciousness, knowing that if I black out I’ll be kicked till I’m dead, so as the lights are going dim, I break out the blade and bury it in the dude’s armpit. I can’t think of any other situation when I’d be forced to use it.

Having said that, though, I do admittedly spend an inordinate amount of time in parts of town where, if a drunk farang could be in danger, it would be there. OK full disclosure, I’m only really talking about one place—Patpong. There’s a tiny hint of danger in Patpong. It’s a magical place. If ‘One night in Bangkok’ could be personified—or soi-idified—in a place, it would be Patpong. Even as it’s being gentrified, gussied up, classed-up, spit-polished, getting the crust wiped out of its eyes, it hangs on to a vibe hailing back to its original days. If you’ve been on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, it’s kind of like that, except instead of animatronic mannequins, the place is full of real scallywags. Or if you remember the mutant town of Venusville in the original “Total Recall,” it’s like that. A chick with 3 tits would fit right in on the Pong. It’s a marvel to behold, and the hint of danger makes it even more enticing, which is why I love it, and also why I carry. More than likely, your night won’t go sideways. But if there’s a part of Bangkok where it would, it’s the Pong (and also Khaosan).


So the knife, like so many other things, is necessary in the red-light like a condom is necessary. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.


Coincidentally—or not—Patpong is also a great place to buy one. There are at least 4 vendors in the night market with a dazzling array of blades on display. I bought my Samurai sword set from there, as well as a few spring-loaded pretties. The guy next to Kiss has a great selection. I got a credit card knife, a buck knife, a throwing star, the swords, a belt buckle knife, and a two-inch push knife necklace there. He also sells airsoft pistols, stun guns, knuckle dusters, machetes, axes, and retractable batons, all at reasonable prices.

It’s ironic that, in a place where anyone can buy a stabbing implement in the street for peanuts, there aren’t more stab-related crimes. I hope I’m not jinxing myself. More foreigners are injured by motorbikes, flip-flops, and poor decisions than by violence, though it’s not completely uncommon. Occasionally saying the wrong thing to a ladyboy will earn someone a bottle to the face, but that’s more on account of that person’s stupidity. Also, insulting the owner of the bar where you just got drunk could end with you in the hospital. I saw a Brit do that once, and he nearly lost an ear to a cleaver-wielding Thai. Oh, and if you’re foolish enough to get a crazy Thai girlfriend, you might get chased down the street with a butcher knife once or twice—seen that a few times, too. And Bangkok can be very dangerous for Thais, who are more apt to strike each other in anger than they are to attack a foreigner. So as to the question of whether or not Bangkok is a dangerous city, the answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ Yes if you’re a stupid, belligerent jackass, no if you’re not. Does that mean I’ll leave the house without my knife on me? No. Because like I said before, a knife is like a condom…except that you shouldn’t let one get anywhere near your junk.”

A year on, this remains true. The only real danger in Bangkok is other farang. I can rampage through the red-light district, grabbing pussies left and right, forget to pay checkbins, put various staff at various gogos in headlocks, and never come close to starting a fight with a Thai person. But the knife hidden on my person helps me feel less concerned when elbow-to-elbow with a random drunk belligerent tourist or expat, and so all remains right with the world. And if a dancer has a hanging thread or broken bikini strap, or can’t get into her Chupa-Chup wrapper, Seven’s blade is at the ready.

Check back on Sunday for the weekly, and cheers to the impending weekend, which I’m sure will be epic and violence-free here in the greatest city in the world: Bangkok.