Monday, July 22, 2013

Thailand: Plight of Two Australians a Lesson to NOT Rent Jet-Skis in the Land of Smiles

According to and based upon my six years of living throughout Thailand, most of our regular readers are fully aware that I have strongly DISCOURAGED the rental of jet-skis in Pattaya, Phuket and virtually all beach resorts throughout the Kingdom.

I don't make this suggestion based upon a cursory whim. I do so based on the fact that the rental of jet-skis to foreign tourists and travelers is essentially a ruse to extort large sums of money from well-intentioned visitors thinking that they are dealing with legitimate franchises. They are not. The majority of jet-ski rental operations speckled across Thai beach resorts amount to nothing more than extortionists. 

In the recent case of Australian tourists Ashleigh Allgood, 22, and Selina Lienert, 21, riding tandem at Patong Beach had the misfortune of being hit by another jet-ski rider resulting in the two women being forced to pay damages sustained by both jet-skis in the amount of 40,000 baht (A$1,401), even though the Aussies didn't cause the accident.

After fleeing intimidation and threats on the beach from two sets of jet-ski operators (who rented different jet-skis), the young tourists were stunned that the jet-ski operators had summoned the police to the resort the women were staying at to help the operators get their money.

COMMENT: Now, a small lesson-learned in the Land of Smiles. Some, but not all Thai police are the recipient of "protection money" they receive from the jet-ski operators, who in many respects are nothing more than mini-mafias.

The two Australians' day began innocently enough on Wednesday (July 17) when the young women paid 2000 baht (A$71) to hire a jet-ski for 30 minutes.It would have been far better if the two young women had asked the concierge of their hotel what a FAIR rental rate would be for a 30 minute rental.

To add insult to injury, the inexperienced women failed to read the rental contract before signing it, which are tipped in favor of the rental operators.

A friend who had been riding another jet-ski was already on the beach. He told them that the contract liability was for a maximum of 25,000 baht.

In seeking the other couple, a man and a woman who had hired their jet-ski from another group, the Australians discovered that the couple had fled. The second company also wanted the Australians to pay for the damage.

Unfortunately for Selina, her "friend" Ashleigh conveniently disappeared, leaving Selina to face the music. Worse, the two different jet-ski operators began shouting obscenities at her and threatening that "knuckle-draggers" would be called in next.

By now, the two women had retreated to their hotel to find the police as well as a police volunteer who later intervened on their behalf and helped mediate the situation with both jet-ski operators. Eight hours after they had rented the jet-ski, a settlement was ultimately reached. 

The women ultimately agreed to hand over 16,000 baht (A$560), the standard fee for a single jet-ski being out of the water, 1000 baht for the paperwork and 3000 baht a day for a maximum of five days, for the jet-ski being out of action.

In the end, the now frustrated Australians were really annoyed, having noted that the colors and numbers of both jet-skis were back in the water the following afternoon, having been duped out of a lot of their hard-earned holiday cash. 

PLEASE do other tourists and travelers a favor: Urge them NOT to rent jet-skis in Thailand.

Having lived in Thailand and seen first-hand its positives and negatives, I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that neither the Tourism Authority of Thailand nor the Association of Thai Travel Agents make it easy on tourists who travel so far to be taken advantage of.