Our 3 week transit vacation to Thailand turned out to be, unfortunately, a horrendously stressful and generally unpleasant way to kickstart our years travelling around New Zealand.
A holiday we were immensely looking forward to was spoilt by, I regret to say so bluntly, the majority of the Thai people we came across, and a few tourists too.
We were, undoubtedly, hassled more than the Hoff and it’s not like we were not expecting it, it’s just we were not prepared for how openly passive aggressive and deceitful they could be.
I consider us both to be seasoned travellers, and we’ve taken out fair share of shitty situations over the years but there comes a point where the consistent lack of respect, on their part, forces you to build a passionate dislike for a certain countries inhabitants and the type of tourist frequenting.
Here's 7 reasons (I could write loads more) why we won't be returning:
1. FALSE PRICING
Whilst in Thailand we ate and drank in a variety of restaurants, from swanky cocktail bars to street food stalls, nevertheless no matter where we frequented the bill was seldom correct. In fact, in the three weeks we were in Thailand the bill was correct only a handful of times and, surprise surprise, the bill was never less than it should have been. When confronted about their 'poor mathematical ability’ they simply said ok, changed it to the correct amount and ironically smiled with a face that said “You can’t blame us for trying”. Not once did we receive an apology.
On one of the few occasions they did manage to get it right. I had a chicken salad for 80 Baht and Marta had a chocolate pancake for 60. We asked for the bill and the waiter came over with a calculator, proceeded to press 80 + 60. "one forty baht plea". We gave him 150 Baht. He then proceeded to do 150 - 140 to come to the conclusion that he needed to give us 10 Baht change. So maybe they are slightly mathematically challenged.
2. ISLAND ANTICS
On Koh Phi Phi, one of the many islands in the south famous for snorkelling and diving, we went for a walk along the beach at night. I still haven’t decided how I feel about what I saw, which makes it incredibly hard to write about. We witnessed, in no particular order, a girl getting fingered, a guy getting a blow job and a young male lying trousers down on the sand furiously masturbating. Countless drug dealers, countless prostitutes, a woman so intoxicated she was talking to her flip flops whilst performing, what looked like to me, an African rain dance. Too many passed out tourists in tattoo parlours and far too many people, both men and women, publicly urinating. The whole place stunk of piss and reeked of shame and what’s even more alarmingly, no one looked as if they were having a good time (apart from African rain dance woman, she was loving life).
Marta believes that it is a right of passage and that everybody does it at least once in life, whether it’s here, Ibiza, Ianapa or even Berlin, but we simply don’t think true partying involves many of the aforementioned activities.
3. MISCHIEVOUS MARKETS
Another anecdote involved a market stall owner in Bangkok. I was interested in buying a pair of second hand, or second foot, water shoes, and after all the preliminary questions about size and price I asked him where he got them from. He response was priceless “Stole from tourist” he proclaimed then started chuckling to himself like he was sitting in the front row at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He had no shame whatsoever and I’d go so far to say that he was proud of himself firstly from getting one over on a tourist and secondly by making some money from it. I didn’t buy them in the end.
4. TOURIST (S)INFORMATION
As we set off on our way to Lebua State Tower we quickly popped into one of the many tourist information offices in Khao San Road area to about the best way to get there by public transport. The woman then proceeded to tell us that she had only moved to Bangkok the previous day and knew nothing of the city, I reluctantly asked if her colleague knew, who was looking at pictures of red Ferraris on google images. She looked at me and said “Noooo, Hee own lee 1 day n Ban Cock tooo”. I have no idea why this woman refused to help us but I find it hard to think the 2 employees of a tourist information office had spent less time in Bangkok combined than I had.
5. COMBI - TICKET
We had booked a bus + boat combination ticket whilst travelling around the southern islands. We set off early and the driver stopped for some diesel around 100m down the road. Then he stopped so he could buy some flowers, then so he could talk on the phone, then so he meet his family, then to eat some food, then to go for a wee, then unbelievably to smoke a joint and then finally, about 5 minutes from our destination he walked around the minibus and checked the tyres. This was meant to be a 90 minute journey and it took us 145. He must have known we had a boat to catch as it was with the same company. We obviously missed the boat and we’re forced to buy another ticket or spend 5 hours waiting at the pier for the next boat run by that company. I felt sorry for the woman who took all of our abuse after the driver left, although I do think she was in on the scam.
6. SPECIAL MASSAGE
One especially stuffy and humid evening, on which we couldn’t sleep, we decided to do an experiment with the ‘masseuses'. We walked past them hand in hand and not a single word was said to either of us. We walked around the block and then Marta walked 20m behind me. As I passed this room filled with brightly stained curtains they descended upon me. Alfred Hitchcock couldn’t have directed it better. Grabbing me, stroking me, running their hands through my hair whilst screeching “Me horn ee big boiii” “I wan u big banana” “Where u fom?” (I was a bit disappointed I didn’t hear the classic “me luv you long time”), spinning me around and pulling at my tshirt, refusing to let me go until thankfully Marta came to my rescue. Pretty hastily the harpees retreated, unpaid and unsatisfied as another client was lost. I went back to our room and opened a new tube of anti septic cream and lathered my entire body in it and after a few disinfectant wipes and half a bar of soap I almost felt clean again.
Consistent annoyance from prostitutes, taxi drivers, store owners, street food vendors, et cetera, made it really exhausting to enjoy anything.
7. ME NO INGRISH
Another thing, that was to us incomprehensible, was the extremely poor level of English spoken by nationals. Thailand has been a popular tourist destination for a few decades now and has seen a huge boom since the arrival of cheap international flights and the success of the film The Beach in 2002. We obviously didn't expect perfect fluency but we thought places such as hotel receptions, tourism information offices and travel agencies to have slightly more than just basics.
I think the reason why, and main underlying problem, is that Thailand sold out to tourism, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I just think that they did it far too hastily and now lacks the tourism infrastructure that's needed to host around 27 million tourists every year.
Generally, I am of the opinion that the Thai, those of which who work in tourism, think all tourists are the same. We are all stupid, we all have far too much money and we all want a bracelet that says “I FUCK LADY BOYS” and, believe it or not, it’s not always the case. They presume we all want to drink beer and want massages with happy endings, and now because of their misguided beliefs, the country has become famous for women shooting ping pong balls out of their vaginas, excessive amounts of alcohol and drug taking, men who look like women, theft of all kinds, and now recently, the murders of two British Nationals on the island of Koh Tao.
Thailand should try and keep as much of its rich cultural heritage as possible and start to drift away from the smut it’s currently showcasing.
Basically Thailand, sort you shit out or you’ll start losing more tourists like us and cater exclusively for travellers on a glorified piss up.
OTHER THINGS WE DIDN'T LIKE
Drugged dressed up monkeys to take photos of (also taking part in fire
Caged tigers on ketamine everyday so they can be stroked (not all sanctuaries are
Chained up elephants walking the same route everyday with tourists on their
Children forced into begging.
Did you have the same experience or were we just unlucky? I would love to hear it in the comments!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jack Bolshaw is a 24 year old English vagabond and the contributor to www.inafarawayland.com with a big bug for travelling and an even bigger ginger beard. In his lifetime he's been a cook, bar man, cleaner, security guard, tour guide, salesman, operations manager, promoter, fire performer, receptionist and, most exciting of all, photographer. After graduating from university in 2011 he set sails on conquering the world, hoping to see as much as possible for as little as possible.