Inspired by a recent piece by Time Magazine on deaths abroad, I took a deep dive into the U.S. State Department’s mortality records for citizens living abroad.
I figured that if I’m going to make Thailand my home, I might as well figure out the most likely way it’ll try to kill me.
Would it be death by a cobra attack? Shot while poking around dark sois where I didn’t belong? Or maybe struck by a motorscooter zooming illegally down the sidewalk?
None of those, actually.
Sadly — and probably not at all surprising to many — I’m more likely to die by suicide than anything.
Though motorscooter accidents come in a close second.
Apparently it is the fall that kills you
Looking at the deadly data collected across all of Thailand and ignoring for a moment the obvious categories, it seems that Americans are twice as likely to die by falling as they are by being executed or by becoming a victim of terror.
Good news to my friends and family: it doesn’t look like we Americans are being targeted all that often by foreign powers.
Then again, just because we’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get us. Both of those state-sanctioned means are twice as likely to kill as than when the car we’re traveling in is struck by either a train or a bus.
So we’ve got that going for us.
But those are just raw numbers of all deaths for Americans over the last decade or so, and Thailand is a big country.
I wanted to understand the risks I really faced. So after hours spent cleaning up poorly spelled city names and normalizing death categories entered by countless fat-fingered bureaucrats, I found some interesting facts.
(Feel free to check my math. The data is online if you’ve also a curious mind and too much free time.)
Bangkok is below average
When population density is factored in, Bangkok is actually a pretty safe place to be, relatively speaking. Of the 49 geographical areas on the list, my adopted home ranks 29th, putting it markedly below average.
What city tops the list? Pattaya, of course.
Americans are 36 times more likely to die there, with suicide and motorscooter accidents as the leading causes of death to Americans.
Other beach hotspots like Phuket and Koh Samui also make the top five, where you are 29.1 times and 11.5 times more likely to die in those cities than in Bangkok, respectively and again relatively speaking.
And again, it’s suicide, motorscooter accidents, or drowning that will probably do you in.
I was surprised to see Chiang Mai take the #4 spot on the “most deadly cities for Americans in Thailand” list.
I’ve jokingly referred to Chiang Mai as the place in Thailand where travel bloggers to go to die. By “die”, I really meant “get stuck and never leave”, but it seems the city honestly earns the title.
According to the data, Americans are 21.5 times more likely to die there than Bangkok, with accidents involving motorscooters topping the charts.
Helmets people, helmets!
American visitors, expats, and those who just get stuck in Chiang Mai are also at a heightened risk of death by crime (murders or drug-related deaths), with that same 21.5 factor over those of us in Bangkok. An eerie coincidence, to be sure.
Pro tip: when visiting Koh Chang for a getaway, keep away from waterfalls and say no to drugs, my fellow Americans. Because this hidden gem on the eastern seaboard comes in at #2 spot, with Americans 29.3 times more likely to die on the island than in in big, bustling Bangkok.
Because math. And meth, probably.
Stay safe, stay alive
There are plenty of islands, cities, and provinces that didn’t wrack up a single death on the U.S. State Department’s list.
But seriously, where’s the fun in taking away all the risk, right?
Out of all 49 areas that made the list, your safest bet is Roi Et. In this sleepy little province some 500 kilometers north of Bangkok, Americans are only 6% as likely to die there as they are in Bangkok.
It’ll take you 7 hours to drive up there.
But I wouldn’t suggest making the trek on a motorbike. The odds just aren’t on your side, Yank.
Featured image is by angus mcdiarmid and used under a Creative Commons licence