Guns in Thailand

Guns in Thailand 1274 611 Greg Ellifritz

I really enjoy traveling.  I also really enjoy guns.  That means I really like learning about the gun laws and shooting cultures in different countries.  Here is a neat video about guns and shooting in Thailand.  I’m going to have to visit some of those markets when I go back to Bangkok next time.


The Bangkok Gun District in Thailand



SE Asia Travel Scams

SE Asia Travel Scams 1200 800 Greg Ellifritz

This article is specifically about scams in Thailand, but I have seen similar scams used in other SE Asian countries as well as Africa and South America.  If you travel at all internationally, you should understand how these basic scams work.  It’s a quick read containing valuable information.


9 Scams in Thailand You Need to Watch Out For




Avoiding Prostitutes

Avoiding Prostitutes 1195 1593 Greg Ellifritz

I enjoy a relatively mundane existence in a generic American suburb.  In my normal life, I simply don’t encounter prostitutes at home.  All that changes when I travel in the developing world.


I wrote a whole chapter in Choose Adventure about dealing with prostitutes.  For the record, I actually think prostitution should be legal; but it’s not for me.  I have zero interest in banging a woman who is likely an abused drug addict.  The disease risk is too high for me.  Besides that, lots of prostitutes are opportunistic thieves as well.  While you are resting in your post-orgasmic bliss, she is taking your wallet, passport, and phone.


No thanks.  In more than 20 years of serious worldwide travel, I’ve never once hired a prostitute, even in places where such conduct is legal.

Some countries are prime destinations for sex tourists.  Guys schedule entire vacations around finding as many call girls as they can.  In countries like this, prostitution is far more noticeable to the uninterested traveler than in other places.


I’m in Colombia now.  It has a lot more prostitutes than most of the places I visit.  In fact, when I discuss “running the gauntlet of whores” in my book, I was in Cartagena, Colombia.  Other countries where it’s more obvious are The Dominican Republic, Brazil, Costa Rica (especially underage sex trafficked girls), Thailand, and the very poor countries of Africa.


Many other places have their various “Red Light Districts” but you don’t see many streetwalkers outside those spots.  Most of my readers likely have no experience dealing with prostitutes, so I’m going to outline a few ways you might pick up on the fact that there is sex for sale.  Why do you care?  Because where sex is sold, so are illegal guns and drugs.


Some Red Light Districts are easier to spot than others.
This is the “Love Time Hotel” in Rio. I wonder what happens there?


The same pimps running the girls are also selling drugs and organizing theft rings.  There is an entire economy based around the sex trade.  Dudes who want girls often also want drugs.  When you watch the ecosystem of a place ripe with prostitutes, you can observe the hookers, the “Johns,” the pimps, the dealers, the pickpockets, and a whole other class of folks looking to prey upon any of those people when they become distracted.


Two Colombian women appearing to be prostitutes approached three guys in the street and organize a deal. Viewed last weekend from my third floor hotel balcony.


The dudes looking for sex in these areas are perfect victims.  They are often impaired by excessive alcohol and/or drugs.  The bad guys also know that a guy picking up a hooker isn’t likely to call the police to report any type of crime out of fear of being arrested himself or having his activities outed publicly.


These sites are really not the safest places to be. They’re probably not where you want to spend much time unless you are looking to be victimized.


Many tourists are completely clueless about some of these issues and unintentionally put themselves or their families in danger because they didn’t recognize the subtle indicators.  Let me use my trip to Colombia as an example to provide an education about some of the things you should be paying attention to.


Amsterdam’s Red Light District


As I was in the taxi going to my hotel from the airport at 2:00am on a Thursday night, I saw a massive number of street prostitutes.  Probably close to 100 girls in a 20-minute ride.  I asked the cabbie about it.  He said that they were a huge problem in the city.


The cabbie told me that in Medellin, they call the prostitutes “mujeres divinas,” or “divine women”.  He said the term comes from an old Spanish song by the same title.  Check out the video below.


If you don’t speak Spanish, the song is about some guys drinking and talking about all the women who had wronged them in the past, inspiring the creation of some drunken anti-female song lyrics.  In the end, the singers declare that despite all the ways women have wronged them, all women are divine creatures to be adored, no matter their faults.


So if you hear the words “mujeres divinas,” the direct translation may not be quite correct. I’d never heard that particular term before.


I arrived at the hotel safely.  I was staying at a very trendy and expensive (by Colombian standards) place.  It wasn’t a cheap hourly rate motel in the ‘hood.


At registration, the desk clerk warned that the hotel does not allow guests to bring girls under 18 years old back to the room for overnight stays.  All overnight guests must show identification to ensure that people aren’t bringing back underage prostitutes.  The hotel wouldn’t need such a policy if there hasn’t been a problem with it in the past.


When you hear of such things, your guard should go up a bit.


When I got to my room, I had two more clues that there was a lot of “pay for play” going on in the neighborhood.


I don’t ever remember seeing condoms (extra secure at that) available right next to the M&Ms in the hotel room mini-bar in any of the US hotels where I’ve stayed.


I then went into the bathroom.  They have a special separate trash can for disposing of said used condoms.


Another thing I’ve never seen in the USA.


During the weekend, you might see even more prostitutes trying to sell themselves.  I’m staying at a ritzy hotel in the most expensive neighborhood in Medellin.  The security guards chase the hookers away from the entrances so they don’t harass the guests.  So then the women line up on the sidewalk just out of sight of the hotel guard and go to work.


Last Saturday night I walked to a restaurant about five minutes away from my hotel to eat dinner.  On my short walk home, eight different hookers directly offered me their services.


Another clue that there is a lot of prostitution going on is seeing old Gringo tourists walking hand in hand with very young local girls.  As I strolled the city yesterday I saw an American guy who appeared to be between 65 and 70 years old.  He was holding hands with a local girl who looked to be about 15 as they were walking down the street.  He stopped at a street vendor and bought the little girl a long stemmed rose.  This is very common in Thailand as well.


Besides the street-walking prostitutes, a lot more women meet their “clients” on dating websites.  Guys who get a sudden burst of online attention from young, hot women want to believe that they have stumbled upon a dating paradise.


Sorry, dude.  That hot 20-something doesn’t really think you are cute, she’s just looking to get paid.  A high percentage of women on dating sites in busy South American tourist towns are working prostitutes.


Take a look at the photo below.  She liked my Tinder profile.  It’s funny.  I never have 24-year old girls interested in my profile at home.  I’m more than double her age and live in another country.  Do you really think she’s looking for a relationship with a dude like me?


At least this one is honest about what she’s doing.  Read her bio.  “Busco” means “I’m looking for” in English.


A lot of your online dating matches will be prostitutes. Not all of them will be this obvious.


The issue is so common down here that the locals have a term for a woman who trades sex for favors, travel, or expensive presents.  They call that girl a “prepago.”  It means “pre-paid” like a pre-paid credit card.


It denotes a woman who doesn’t directly demand money for sex like a regular prostitute, but instead will gladly provide sex to a man who “pre-pays” her with expensive dinners or gifts.  “Prepagos” are so common that women who are not prostitutes will often note they aren’t “pre-paid” directly on their dating profiles.


Here is another woman who swiped on my Tinder profile.  Note what she says in her bio: “no soy prepago o amigos con derechos.”  It means “I’m not “pre-paid” and will not be a “friend with benefits.”  That shows exactly how common prostitutes are using dating apps to get their clients.



If you are single and in the dating market, be extra cautious about your online dating matches.  Down here some of the girls use scopolomine to knock out their dates and rob them blind.  Others will lure them to a secluded location where they are robbed by the hooker’s friends.


Meet all your dates in a public place.  If you are going to get intimate, take your date back to your hotel or rental rather than going back to your date’s place.


One other good thing to do is to ask your date if he/she has identification.  You can tell them (whether true or false) that the security in your building is strict and won’t let anyone in without an ID.  Criminals don’t want you to know their true identity.  If they don’t have an ID, that should be a real warning sign.  If the name on their ID is different than on their online profile, that should also worry you.


Dating in other countries can be really fun, but there are a lot of pitfalls to avoid.


Here’s the bottom line.  Even though I don’t partake in prostitution, I don’t judge.  I think consenting adults (not trafficked children) should be able to make an agreeable business relationship, even if it involves sex.  That doesn’t diminish the potential dangers of being around a bunch of prostitutes, pimps, and drug dealers.


Where people are openly selling sex, it’s an indication that the people in your location likely abide by different social norms than what is common in the place where you live.  You should be alert to the fact that if some social norms are drastically different, it is likely that other norms are different as well.  That makes social situations harder to judge and places you in a bit more danger.

Be extra careful in these areas.


Begpacking? 470 301 Greg Ellifritz

Have you heard of the latest “begpacking” trend?  It’s when a Western tourist runs out of money in a foreign country and sets up as a beggar asking locals for money.  What a strange phenomenon!


I can’t say that I’ve seen this more than a couple times in my travels.


For more information, take a look at this article that describes the practice in Thailand.


Begpacking is shameless behaviour that is outlawed in Thailand and poisons goodwill between cultures


Ignorant, ‘cool’ trend continues

Despite this, this ignorance is now a ‘cool’ trend among hip young millennials some of whom continue to come to Thailand. The activities are insulting to the occupations of Thai men and women as well as their right to a livelihood in their own country, something many of these young people have no understanding of apparently. It also, inherently, deeply disrespectful to the laws of the kingdom.”


I haven’t been to Thailand since 2013.  With their crazy Covid-19 restrictions, it doesn’t look like I’ll be going back anytime soon.  I’ll give you a “begpacking” update the next time I make it to Asia.



Travel Log- SE Asia

Travel Log- SE Asia 620 488 Greg Ellifritz

*My Travel Log series describes various past travel adventures and provides perspective about living and traveling in different countries.  This particular segment covers a trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand in 2013.


I just got home from an amazing 22-day trip through South East Asia.  Last year I visited Thailand and really liked it, so I wanted to see more of Asia.  This trip took me through Vietnam and Cambodia and ended up in Thailand.  It was one of the best trips I’ve taken in my life.  The trip included all kinds of cool activities like hiking, sea kayaking, motorcycle tours, water buffalo rides, cave rappelling, ATV riding, and visiting various temples and ruins.  I could write for hours about the fun stuff I did, but I’ll focus on the gun/fighting/training stuff that most of you are here for…


I started out in Hanoi and spent a few days in the city.  I visited the famous “Hanoi Hilton”, the prison where American POWs were held during the Vietnam War.  It was quite an interesting demonstration of communist propaganda.  Every exhibit talked about how well American POWs were treated during their stay.  It didn’t quite jibe with the history books I’ve read.


After leaving Hanoi, I made a stop at the world famous China Beach, near the city of Da Nang.  Da Nang is one of the cleaner cities in the country.  The cops there have an interesting way of handling beggars and vagrants.  The police place a $10 bounty on beggars and homeless people!  If a citizen notifies the police and identifies a beggar, the cops give him $10.  The beggar is arrested and forcibly taken to an “education center” where he is held and taught a skill that makes him employable!  I wonder how that would work in the USA?



China Beach

China Beach


The propaganda indoctrination continued when I reached Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and visited the “War Remnants Museum”.  Three floors of exhibits showing how evil the Americans were during the war.  I can’t disagree that some horrible atrocities occurred there, but the presentation was pretty one sided and not the most historically accurate.  Here are some pictures to show you what I mean…



This room was filled with pictures of mutilated babies and aborted fetuses allegedly from the use of Agent orange by US forces

This room was filled with pictures of mutilated babies and aborted fetuses allegedly from the use of Agent Orange by US forces


Photo of US soldiers using water torture against a "Vietnamese Patriot". I actually thought waterboarding was a relatively recent invention...

Photo of US soldiers using water torture against a “Vietnamese Patriot”. I actually thought waterboarding was a relatively recent invention…


Caption for the photo above...

Caption for the photo above…


Besides the blatant propaganda, there were quite a few historical inaccuracies.  There were displays of CS tear gas grenades (that the soldiers used in tunnels) labeled as “deadly chemical weapons”.  The displays of American firearms were comically inaccurate.


Did you know that the M-1 Garand was used to "repress demonstrations or torture suspected V.C."?

Did you know that the M-1 Garand was used to “repress demonstrations or torture suspected V.C.”?


Once I got over the obvious political slant, I found the museum to be quite interesting.  If you get to Saigon, it’s well worth your visit.  For what it’s worth, even though I was obviously a westerner, I experienced absolutely no animosity from the Vietnamese people.  They were incredibly friendly and candid in our conversations, even those who lost relatives in the war.



As far as guns go, I only saw one gun being carried in Vietnam the whole time I was there!  It was an MP-5 being held by a local guard employed to protect the US Embassy!  The uniformed cops there didn’t carry guns, only black and white striped batons.



One of the few guns I saw in Vietnam! Playing with twin 20mm antiaircraft guns at the war museum. This would be a great suggestion for anyone looking to buy me a birthday gift!


Also in Saigon, I toured the famous Cu Chi tunnel complex and museum.  This was a huge facility that showed how the V.C. lived underground.  Actual sections of the original tunnels were available for walk (or crawl) through.  Those tunnels were incredibly small and hot.  I could barely fit into the largest tunnel and it was about 4x the diameter of the smallest one!  I really don’t know how people lived and worked in that environment so long.


Entrance to one of the largest tunnels

Entrance to one of the largest tunnels


One of my friends popping up from a camoflaged tunnel opening in the jungle. It's easy to see how difficult it was for us to locate the hidden tunnels

One of my friends popping up from a camouflaged tunnel opening in the jungle. It’s easy to see how difficult it was for us to locate the hidden tunnels


Within the Cu Chi complex there was also a shooting range!  You could fire most of the weapons used in the war…kind of.  All the guns had the muzzles bolted to the bench so they couldn’t be moved away from a safe direction!  That was probably a good thing after seeing how some of the Chinese tourists who had never fired a weapon attempt to shoot without supervision!


A bolted-down AK-47 on the range

A bolted-down AK-47 on the range


You thought ammo prices were bad here? This is the price list at the shooting range. Exchange rate is roughly 20,000 Vietnamese Dong to the dollar.

You thought ammo prices were bad here? This is the price list at the shooting range. Exchange rate is roughly 20,000 Vietnamese Dong to the dollar.  That’s $2 a bullet for .223 ammo.


After Vietnam, we crossed the border into Cambodia.  I spent a couple days in Phnom Penh.  That was the only city where I saw cops with guns.  A few carried Makarov pistols in full flap holsters (with no spare ammo).  The others were armed with AK-47s in poor condition.  Check out the local cops’ muzzle discipline and weapon retention…


The "cover the muzzle with your hand" position.

The “cover the muzzle with your hand” position.


That position must be taught in the academy..

That position must be taught in the academy..


How most of the cops carried their guns...

How most of the cops carried their guns…


The word on the street was that the Cambodian cops were universally corrupt.  They get paid about $70 US a month and are forced to supplement their incomes through bribes.  The going bribery rate to avoid being arrested for just about any crime was $5.  Tourists generally pay more.  I didn’t have any problems with the cops because I avoided all contact with them.  When in a third world country, nothing good can come from an interaction with a local cop.  It’s best to do what the locals do and avoid all possible contact!


While there, I visited both the S-21 prison and the “Killing Fields”.  For those of you unfamiliar with those places, a quick history lesson is in order…


During the 1970’s a dictator named Pol Pot rose to power in Cambodia.  He attempted to rapidly transform the country into an communist “ideal” agrarian paradise.  He forced all city dwellers into the countryside to grow rice for the good of “the people”.  The cities were deserted, except for former schools and monasteries.  Those were turned into prisons and torture chambers for political dissidents and intellectuals.


After the prisoners were tortured for several months in the prisons, they were sent to the “Killing Fields” where they were killed by being struck in the neck with bamboo rods.  Their bodies were piled into shallow mass graves.  In just a few years’ time, Pol Pot killed almost two million innocent Cambodian citizens.  It was quite sad to see the remnants of his regime.


The S-21 prison...a former high school

The S-21 prison…a former high school


A photo documenting the excavation of the killing fields.

A photo documenting the excavation of the killing fields.


Genocide monument filled with skulls excavated from the graves of the killing fields.

Genocide monument filled with skulls excavated from the graves of the killing fields.


While touring the Killing Fields, I got into a gun discussion with the local tour guide.  He explained that citizens were not allowed to own guns in Cambodia and that’s what makes his country so safe.  I asked him about how the citizens could protect themselves from another Pol Pot-type dictator if they were unarmed.  The guide had survived the Pol Pot regime, although both his father and mother had been killed in the fields.  He seemed truly perplexed by the question.  It seems that the spirit or idea of resisting tyrannical government isn’t common among the Cambodian people, even those who had personally experienced genocide.  He had no answer for me, just repeating that his country was “safe” because no one but the police and soldiers had guns.


I don’t know…two million people killed by their own government in just three years doesn’t seem too “safe” to me!


I had another experience that showed me how the guide wasn’t quite correct in his assumption that people couldn’t access guns.  I’ll write a separate post about this experience next week, but I was able to purchase and fire an RPG in less than two hours’ time!  The people here can get guns (and grenades, and RPGs), it just takes a little money!


Me, preparing to fire an RPG that I bought on the black market for $350.

Me, preparing to fire an RPG that I bought on the black market for $350. Come back next week for details…


After seeing the prisons, torture chambers, graves, and photos of mutilated babies, it was time for a change.  I moved on to Siem Reap and spent a day at the amazing Angkor Wat Temple complex.  It provided a much needed psychological respite.


Angkor Wat at sunrise

Angkor Wat at sunrise


The trip ended in Bangkok, Thailand.  While there, I couldn’t miss watching a few Muay Thai fights.  I went to the world famous Lumpinee Boxing stadium and got ringside seats for 10 fights.  If you’ve never seen a Thai fight, it’s an amazing experience!  People screaming, locals playing fight music and a sweaty boxing arena combine to provide some great entertainment.


It may not look too impressive, but it's one of the best known Thai boxing arenas in the world.

It may not look too impressive, but it’s one of the best known Thai boxing arenas in the world.


I know Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand aren’t in most of my readers’ vacation plans, but they really are amazing countries.  I never felt the least bit unsafe at any time.  The people were some of the friendliest in the world and I will treasure the experiences I had visiting those countries.


The world is full of opportunities for excitement and fun.  I think a lot more people in the “tactical” community should make an effort to seek out some adventure and get a different perspective on life instead of spending their money buying yet another AR-15 rifle.  Not everyone is out to kill you.  Spending time unarmed in a third world country without knowing the language or customs hones your social skills and protective instincts better than any tactical class you can take.


In the end, adaptability to unknown circumstances, maintaining your composure under stress, and knowing how to socially interact with people from different cultural backgrounds are the best “tactical” skills you can master.  Those skills are acquired easier through third world travel than by any other method I’ve discovered.  It’s a big world.  Don’t be scared.  Go out and have some fun!


There is definite “tactical” knowledge to be obtained while traveling. Now I know how to cook and eat a scorpion! These were appetizers at a local restaurant where I ate. They weren’t too bad.


Martial Arts Vacation?

Martial Arts Vacation? 2560 1912 Greg Ellifritz

Have you ever considered traveling for the sole purpose of learning or practicing a martial art?

I haven’t.  I did take a couple of Capoeira lessons on a trip to Brazil once, but the trip’s purpose wasn’t to do just that.

Capoeira sparring in the street in Paraty, Brazil. The agile capoeira guy is about to eat a roundhouse kick from the bulky, non-agile American.


If I did travel for training, it would be to Thailand to train Muay Thai at the world famous place where the kickboxing art was developed.


I’ve been to Thailand twice now.  On both occasions, I watched the local Muay Thai fights.  It was an amazing experience that I would recommend to anyone.


World famous Bangkok Thai boxing stadium


Did you know that you can go to Thailand just to train in Thai kickboxing once or twice a day?  Check out the article linked below to find out how to do that.  I may try it after I retire.


Everything You Need to Know About a Muay Thai Holiday in Thailand


Unsure about Muay Thai?  Check out the article History of Muay Thai – Thailand’s 600 Year Old Sport for more details.


I hope this inspires some of you to do some training in Thailand!

Airport Kidnapping

Airport Kidnapping 634 357 Greg Ellifritz

Take a look at this article/video of a foreign tourist being kidnapped in a Bangkok airport.  The kidnappers used a five-man team and had ten more airport and immigration officials on the payroll to make sure things went smoothly.

Snatched at the airport

This is certainly a unique and rare crime.  It might still be worth the mental effort to figure out how to avoid/escape such a well-coordinated attack.


If you saw this, would you recognize a kidnapping was taking place?