September 12, 2013

Risk Assesment

“Contact!” outside my hotel, Siem Reap, 1992

There are moments in the day when I think about what could possibly go wrong with the latest trip. I try to focus on the positive, but as they say, it’s always good to hope for the best but plan for the worst.. I have been fortunate in having very few problems travelling around Asia in the past, but one notable exception was being part of the war in Cambodia as the UN and Vietnamese withdrew in 1992 – leaving the government to deal with the KR. I spent a few nervous days watching troops engaged in a bandit style war up in Siem Reap and the heavy armour just outside the town. My friends took my war stories with a “pinch of salt” until I showed them some of my travel snaps. I haven’t been back to Cambodia since then, so this will challenge my generally negative memories of the experience. I haven’t mentioned the tripping out on Larium or the minefields either..

I have been through each leg of the trip looking at the current position and have concluded that I can see no big risks other than petty theft as far as Saigon. Once I get to the Malaysian border, I think the risks are probably a lot lower than a night out in London or Leeds. Finally, Singapore must be one of the safest places on the planet. That just leaves the journey through Cambodia and Thailand, and there are a few problems off the beaten track here..

I guess by its very nature long distance bus travel in Cambodia has its risks, but the roads are supposed to be better now and the people I’m planning to use (Mekong Express) restrict the speed of their bus to 50mph. I’m going to travel by day.

In terms of political “issues” (aka terrorism) the only real problems for my route at the moment are in Phnom Penh (the elections have just taken place) and in the far south of Thailand, near Hat Yai. The advice for Hat Yai is “only essential travel”. The problem is that my travel is essential if I am to complete my overland objective, so I’m going for it. I will cross from Cambodia well south of the “no go” area by using Poipet, and I will take the International Express train from Bangkok to Butterworth through the “orange zone” past Hat Yai, so will only be in harms way for an hour or two if all goes to plan.

UK Gov (FCO) advice for Thai borders

I had a look at my travel insurance this week and decided to ditch what I have and get a new policy. Given the peace of mind it brings, I have upgraded to the best cover I can get and extended its length so I can be away for up to 60 days at a time (check your home insurance for a clause on this time period too). These days the big companies seem to compete on price by allowing you to tailor your policy. The trap is that the “base” policy, before being upgraded, is quite limited. My medical cover is now up to a level of £10m and I also have cover for travel disruption for just about everything (no volcanic ash worries on the train though!)

Red spells danger

On the medical front I feel like I have an “Expedition Doctor” on board as my new GP has taken an active interest in a couple of aspects of the trip. This was a pleasant surprise as I normally use a travel clinic who tend to be a bit less bespoke. We are waiting back at present for specialist pharmacy advice on the interaction of certain drugs I might have to take. I’m going to get prescriptions for a few extra antibiotics in case of some possible problems. On the subject of dreaded malaria, the route goes through some resistant areas. I know some people don’t bother, but I have always been “Mr Doxycylene” in these parts – I just don’t want to take any avoidable risk.

So there you have it all the negative aspects in one post – as they say – “better out than in!”

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