Since I first visited Thailand back in 2012 for the first time, I’ve been back 7 times more. Most of them times were part of the same backpacking trip I took across SE Asia, using Bangkok as my port and stopping point. At the time, I knew there was alot of backpackers in Thailand. A place fit for backpackers, ones with an open mind to a new world, interested in its culture, intrigued by its different ways and wonders across its smiley lands, but still, under the understanding that it is Asia, good and bad can happen here.
The reality is, backpackers want something more beautiful and unique, which is a sharp contrast to people who love holidays in the sun. The holiday makers see the smiles only, the package deals, the bliss beaches and cheap prices, bearing no real interest to what the place is about. OK, its something ‘different’. But going to a ping-pong show or saying cheese with a drugged-up, ill health Tiger doesn’t make you ‘different’ or what people would say ‘ that looks crazy’. For me, it’s all for the ego and an individual’s personality CV. I’ve done that and been here. But how many of these holiday makers memories actually last? Most of them want western foods to accommodate their weak stomachs. They want silly photos (such as kissing Buddha statues which is offensive to locals) to show braveness, want hand and foot service because they think they deserve it by local Thai’s. Well it’s wrong to impose a way of life in other cultures. It’s actually quite pointless to go abroad to other ends of the globe, just so you can do similar things than you do at home. And the different things you do because you want to fulfill the ego. I see photos and stories of Military men, heading to Pattaya drinking shots and acting crazy. Bulk head brutes with no appreciation nor respect for where they are, only to drink cheaply, act stupidly but funny to them, and be surrounded by Thai Prostitutes. At the same time they think its manly and alpha male like to do all this when really these things are not applaud able, nor difficult. To pay a desperate Thai girl 20 dollars for there night of love, the jokes on him, not her.
It’s a shame that the Thai government relies so heavily on Tourism for its countries sake, but who can blame them? A ever so populated place for backpackers for years now, the more discovered it gets by the true explorers, the more the word gets out to the ones who feel they can handle it too. Nevermind the additional marketing that social media and the internet brings. Painting a ‘paradise’ looking picture with gorgeous beaches and cheap prices, of course its going to attract more than the curious traveller. I remember seeing a bunch of girls on their hen night, dressed in trashy pink and showing far too much flesh than many would desire. This was in Bangkok. I remember thinking, ‘This place is destroyed’. Even people you know about or have an idea of there common interests, you know, the friend of your friends. Then you see their times in Thailand, and you begin to wonder, why are you there? Just because you know what kind of person they are, doesn’t necessarily mean bad, but just doesn’t fit to being somewhere in Asia. That’s where it’s becoming more of a trend. People see others do it and gain confidence in doing so to do themselves. Hoards of more people I see visit from the UK. One person does it, the rest follow. It’s the same as anywhere really, well anywhere unique and off the beaten track. It will become popular with the true explorers, the ones who don’t want to meet someone who is similar to your crowd back home, or to have the same luxuries, it’s because it’s out of the comfort zone, its difficult to travel but beautifully worth the challenge. I see some people who travel, and I think they are asking for trouble. They are illuminated to the bad ways of travelling, such as being robbed, mugged, conned or even killed by locals, gangs or corrupt police. Some have it written on their foreheads and they just don’t know it. Nor can they help it either. But, if a country grows, such as Thailand has and is, especially amongst the tourism sector, then inevitably more and more prawn sandwich tourists will arise. I guess Thailand is the first country, that was once backpacking haven to backpackers, and that as we look at it now, is in decline, and it’s sad to see it.
I will always love Thailand, and I’m going back next year briefly. However, in years to come, maybe the increasing number of common tourists, chav travellers and familys will put me off. I can go to places in Spain for that which again have unfortunately been transformed into places un-Espanyol like. I do believe that in Thailand, it is tempting fate. Women wear next to nothing, which agree or not, like it or not, isn’t acceptable in Thai culture. This unfortunately leads to locals being tempted into things that we despise and are against the law, but it does kind of ask for it. I guess it’s the ignorance we show as a western country. Similar to America, Canada, Australia and other parts of Europe. It is the mindset of ‘ Our countries are strong and we have better currencies, we look down on this part of the world because they are poorer and have less structure in place so we can do, wear and say what we want”. Again, imposing our way of life. I hate it. It’s the same as having no top on as a male in the city. It’s truly embarrassing and an offence to many. It’s not a beach. Okay its hot but deal with it.
I would do anything to go to Thailand 20 years ago. When it really was a backpackers place. I can’t imagine the beauties and gems that were re-discovered then. Giving the fact Asia is generally a warm hearted country, that initial feeling of exploration and satisfaction must of been incredible. I guess there are new places like that now though. Even people ‘backpacking’ are really holiday makers.
Despite what people will say, within backpackers, which now I would say has a different term to its predecessor. Backpacking is now for any person who owns a backpack and is moving from place to place for a prolonged amount of time. Yet, despite this, there are huge different between backpackers themselves. Because places like Thailand are becoming more common for all kind of tourists, it illuminates who is there for the place, the trend, the boredom, the party or the longer and cheaper vacation. Backpacking or backpackers, historically has a definition of people living on a shoestring, making the best use of anything, mingling with the locals, exploring more beautiful and dangerous situations, trying to get away from the normalities of home. Yet, backpacking now has a whole range of varieties. People still do that, but more and more ‘backpackers’ are just moving hostel to hostel, recommended by Google search, doing things set on Trip Advisor, with countless funds supplied by Family, Student Loans or Credit.
Don’t get me wrong; especially with the accommodation factor I’ve hit the recommended hostels. But as much as possible, especially within big backpacking trips, I try to mix up the experience. Going to SE Asia included India and Myanmar, whilst my current trip in South America has already surpassed the off the beaten track Guyana and the ever dangerous Venezuela.
I find more and more people travel through other people’s routes or expectations. For me, proper travelling is when the challenge is a challenge. Thailand, for me, was a challenge, like for many who first arrive, but how easy it became was a a shock to me. And, still to this day, I can’t believe how many tourists were there. I honestly thought the place was a secluded haven. I mean, in terms of the world, it’s not even a blip in terms of tourists there to population, but in terms of backpacking? It now must be one of the most visited. And that is getting bigger. I always question, why is she travelling here? Why is he travelling there? They like the brochures, they want the picturesque experience.
Imposing different ways of life into a beautiful already amazing set of rules and religion, to somewhere as incredible as Thailand, is a crying shame. For someone who is only 27 and 2 years into travelling the world, I have older, more respective values. I cannot see a stop to these parasites getting in to Thailand, and I’m sure ones older than me reading this will say it’s been happening for a way longer time prior. I love you Thailand, but I fear for you. For the ones who are coming to the shores of your soul nowadays are not there for you, they are there for a picture perfect image of their mind, ego and wallet. For these are the revelers you want to avoid, as imposing their conservative way of living only ruins what natural beauty the original backpackers once were in awe of.