“This article first appeared on keithhancock.co.uk it is reproduced here due to a number of requests. It was written when I lived in Bangkok and from a light hearted standpoint. I have to say the backpackers here in Saigon are nowhere near as bad as they are in Bangkok.”
Now I realise that this post will not sit well with some of my folky friends from around the world, but I crave your indulgence. This is written from an ex pat’s point of view remember, not from the standpoint of a young carefree traveller of exotic lands, but from a wizened old, road weary guy, striving to live and earn a living in a crowded city.
I’ll come out and state my stand point right here, I hate backpackers, and here in Bangkok we have thousands of them. They are the biggest pain in the arse to curse my day. They seem to live in their own little world, a vacuous little bubble all of their own making, oblivious to the nuisance they cause and the embarrassment when someone realises, “My God! They’re from my home town.”
They add nothing to the landscape here unless you think that looking at dirty, crusty misfits is a pastime in which it is worth partaking. Worse still they add nothing to the Thai economy, they spend nothing, do nothing and generally annoy the locals. To see one of these idiots trying to haggle the last baht from a woman who has just cooked their dinner is an embarrassment for me and puts my country in a bad light. The woman has cooked your meal, shut your mouth and eat it! (if you know what I mean)
Last month I was trying to catch the MRT underground to go to a hospital appointment. I should point out here that I walk with the aid of a stick, following spinal surgery a few months back. Just as I embarked two backpackers arrived and got on next to me. Their packs would have caused a marine to moan. They then proceeded, for the next 20 minutes, to play a kind of pinball with the locals. Every time one turned round, a small Thai person crashed against the safety poles. When they had clouted me for about the fourth time I had to intervene and politely ask why they wouldn’t just piss off home.
They sit on Sukhumvit Road in the early hours of the morning (they don’t come out until well after midnight) drinking the single bottle of Leo that they have managed to bum off some idiot who has taken pity on them, blocking the pavements whilst strumming on a badly tuned guitar and warbling incoherently. Guys, the world does not need yet another version of “American Pie” and I don’t know who told you that dreadlocks look good on white people, but they lied.
Obviously I have nothing against young people, on a budget, seeing something of the world whilst on a gap year. I just ask that you follow a few basic rules:
1. Respect local people and local customs. It might be cool to haggle with a jewellery seller on the Khao San Road but it isn’t cool to argue over the price of your Khao Pad Gai in the heart of the business district.
2. Have a shower occasionally. Standing next to the great unwashed on a crowded sky train in the rush hour is not pleasant. Not when the temperature outside is in the 40s!
3. Leave the guitar at home. There are Thai and Filipino musicians here who can actually play their instruments. Now I know this is an alien concept to you, but believe me, you simply look and sound dumb.
4. If your tattoo resembles something that was drawn in the second grade, cover it up, there’s a good chap. Thailand is famous for its tattoo artists and a 90 year old blind monk will still do a better job with a sharpened piece of bamboo, than Teddy’s tattoo parlour on the promenade at Blackpool when you have a dozen pints inside you.
5. Girls, if you have piercings in every conceivable place, tattoos on your ears and green hair, don’t be surprised if people stare. If you want anonymity, lose the metal work and wear a shawl.
6. Go somewhere other than Thailand, please! For the love of all things holy, there are 196 countries on the planet, why do you all come here?