Monday, September 7, 2009

Thailand Travellers..who are they?

People who travel to Thailand come in all sorts of weird and wonderful guises (believe me I’ve seen some “characters” over the years!!!). They arrive in the Kingdom with all manner of hopes, wishes and dreams…..all searching for their own unqiue experience in the exotic East.


But….if Fox news and the loony religious zealots are to be believed then anyone going there, particularly single guys or groups of young men, are all rampant ”kiddie fiddlers” and degenerates, prancing around in Borat-esque “mankinis” while singing Gary Glitter’s classic “do you want to be in my gang” and knobbing 10 year olds.

According to them we are going to burn in the eternal fires of damnation….but in my humble opinion we’ve got a lot more to worry about than the risk of meeting lucifer….if the credit crunch and global warming continue then we’re going to be broke, unemployed, homeless and under 100ft of melting polar ice caps and tidal surges. Gordon and Barrack et al are doing a better job of taking us to Hell than we can ever manage!!!


Apologies for that slight digression….going back to my original point about the different types of people who spend time Thailand. I will give a brief resume of who to look out for, their personality traits, where they can be found etc etc. I also intend to apply a star rating to each group, so you know who to avoid or to mingle with. The star rating is a follows: 5* = fun/enjoyable company to 1* = avoid like the plague/do not approach under any circumstances.


1) Hippies


These creatures are easy to indentify by the skanky unwashed hair, beards (on both the Male and and females specimens), cheap flip-flops and a propensity to talk complete and utter tosh about having an “authentic Thai experience”. They tend to scoff at those who want to spend their holiday partaking in other pursuits instead of staying in a jungle tree house to “find themselves” or “re-balance their ying and yang” .


They have invariably dropped so much acid that they think they are in 1967 and Jimi Hendrix is still top of the “Hit Parade”. I think they must all be descended from Scottish ancestry….as they quibble at having to pay more than 30 baht for a Beer Chang and think that 100 baht for a room with a fan is an extortionate price to pay.


They are normally found congregated around the Khao San Road in Bangkok or staying in Beach huts on Koh Tao….thinking they are an extra in the film “The Beach”. I’d like to suggest that not washing for a month, wearing horrific tie dye pantaloons and surviving on a daily diet of steamed rice and half a bottle of Beer Leo is not my idea of fun….My suggestion for this group is to get a f**king job, have a shower, buy some clean pants and get on the next flight to Tristan Da Cunha.


Star rating – 2*


2) Package holiday tourists


A loose definition of a package tourist is someone who comes to Thailand for 7-14 days or some variation thereof, has their flights, hotels, transfers and an excursion or two organised for them and generally get herded around like sheep….baa-rilliant!!!


I like to call it “Lazy Tourism” and that’s not knocking it in any way as I’ve been on this type of holiday before and it definitely has a market.


The average punter comes in many shapes, sizes and nationalities, although I think the package tour phenomenon is mainly limited to Northern Europeans, Japanese and Koreans and to a lesser extent the Yanks.


The problem with package tours, particularly in recent years, is that as Thailand became cheaper it attracted the sort of ”Wayne & Tracey” crowd. The type of British chav couple or family with 2.4 screaming brown babies from Croydon/Wolverhampton/Liverpool…(insert as approriate) who used to spend their days on the beaches of the Costa del Sol and have now invaded Koh Samui and Phuket by the tuk-tuk load. I would rather poke my eyes out with a bottle of Beer Lao or smear myself in butter and run naked into a nest of fire ants than spend a single second of my time with Wayne & Tracey…listening to them arguing about their benefit payments or demanding sausage, egg and chips from a bewildered Som Tam vendor.


At the other end of the scale you have Cuthbert and Brenda, the retired doctors from Chipping Sodbury, who have booked their £12,000 Saga trip and then smugly tell all their friends at every given opportunity. Personally, I wouldn’t want spend my holiday stuck with a couple like that….discussing whether their hedgefunds are maturing and how their Grandson “Johnny” is volunteering in an African orphanage…yawn, yawn.


The other quirk of package holidays involving Europeans is the fact that many gentlemen (mostly morbidly-obese Germans over the age of 40) insist on wearing the ubiquitous “speedos”. I don’t want to see multiple Josef Fritzl lookalikes waving their tackle at my Missus, thank you very much. “Hey Fritz…I don’t want to see your meat and two veg, put it away you dirty so-and-so”.


All I can say is God help me…my parents have recently been looking a South East Asian package tours through Saga…but fortunately my old man doesn’t wear speedos…….aaaarrrgggghh.


Star rating – 3*


3) Backapckers


Backpackers have two sub-categories which are as follows:


a) The “full-time” backpacker more commonly known as a lay-about or bum
and


b) The “Gap Year” student


To sumise…….


a) The "full-time" backpacker


These wasters are just below the Hippies on the evolutionary scale. Many of them came to Thailand from places like Goa in the 60’s and 70’s and never left, scraping by on 100 baht a day and trying to befriend other foreign tourists in the hope of bludging a few drinks, scoring some weed or better still some hard currency.


Like it’s Hippy cousin it can be smelt the length of the Khao San road and it’s uniform consists of beads, good luck amulets and the longer the dreadlocks, the further away you should stay!!!


The Thai’s have a great word for this sort of individual “Kee Nok” literally meaning “bird sh*t”.


Star rating – 1*


b) The “Gap Year” student


These chaps are normally jolly good eggs….ok, ok I admit it I’m biased…I did fall into this category about 6 years ago….I first discovered Thailand during a “round the world” trip with a chum from my home town. It was this first visit that opened my eyes to what South East Asia had to offer…it is a million miles away both geographically and culturally from what we know back in blighty…..I liken it to Marmite you either love it or hate it…..and I love it.


Some Gap Year travellers do charity work or teach English whereas others are just there for the “craic”. These travellers can be from a broad range of socio-economic backgrounds and some will slum with the “Hippies” in Khao San road but others (me included!!!) like to go slightly more upmarket and stay in hotels with TV and air-con.


You find these guys normally have an appreciation of the country they’re in and it’s culture and make an effort to interact with locals. Unfortunately, you do find the odd numpty among this bunch….. those who are obnoxious either by birth or by upbringing. The pompous twats who are spanking their trust funds or spending Daddy’s millions.


Star rating – 4*


4) Expats


Like backpackers Expats fall into a couple of distinct categories.


a) The business Expat


and


b) The retiree


These are my interpretations of the different types of expats.


a) The business Expat

They are either offered a permanent placement with their employer or go to Thailand on a short-term contract.
In my opinion these are the luckiest buggers on the face of the Earth. Getting paid exorbitant sums of money to live in one of the most exciting and vibrant countries in the world. They are many and varied and work in a range of fields from large multinationals, consulates and government departments, international broadcasting and telecommunications. They can be found dining at the best restaurants, living in plush condo’s with maids and being chaffeured to and from the office.


But just before you go green with envy, they can struggle to understand the office politics that occur in Thailand, often work 12 hours+ a day and I have heard that women, particularly single or unmarried, struggle to fit in even more than their male counterparts.


As with any walk of life you can encounter some incredibly nice and friendly individuals but the over-blown salaries and the fact they have every whim catered for can mean, to quote Del Boy, you do meet some right “plonkers”.


Star rating – 3*


b) The retiree


The vast majority of those who retire to Thailand are either single or divorced Western gentleman who after finshing working in ”Farangland” are looking for a change of scenery. There are also many gents with Thai wives or partners who after having both worked in the West decide to return to Thailand.


These chaps are normally found on the golf courses and frequenting the many bars that cater for Westerners, particularly in towns like Cha-Am, Hua Hin and Pattaya. They may also have a property in Isaan or the north of Thialand which in all likelihood is where the partner originates.


Retirees are often very genial and I often find them good for some intelligent conversation..not all the time though as they are often more iniebriated than me. There are people from all backgrounds and I have struck up conversation withs doctors, pharmacists, pilots and teachers. However, one of the few occassions I’ve ever personally experienced aggression in Thailand was in a bar in Hua Hin. A Scottish Expat took exception to a conversation I was having with a fellow drinker about Margaret Thatcher (she still has the power to provke anger and divide opinions to this day!!!). I left the bar promptly as I didn’t want to have to resort to violence with a chap who was old enough to be my Dad.


Star rating – 4*

I trust you've found this amusing and informative and I will endeavour to continue the theme of this post at a later date. There are a plethora of social groups who travel to Thailand and this post just scratches the surface....

Over and out

Penfold

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