Saturday, June 18, 2011
A couple of years back I decided to embark on an expedition to the backpacker island of Ko Phangnan. My purpose was to study the modern day backpacker in their natural environment. It was quite a mission. Having returned I feel not unlike the intrepid anthropologists studying cannibals in the depths of Papua New Guinea. I managed to escape from the scene with my life, albeit with a nasty taste in the mouth.
Now what is a backpacker or a ‘traveler’ as they prefer to be called? I hate to categorise people on account of certain behavioral patterns that they exhibit, but how else can you begin to understand people who all seem to follow the same set of rules? I find it extremely difficult to determine between different sheep within a flock, as they are all sheep. The same might be said for backpackers (sorry, travelers)
Now I used to be a backpacker. There I said it. I feel better now. But when you've lived in a country for a number of years, speak the language you tend to avoid backpackers like, say, a hepes-ridden butterfly-collecter. In a lift.
In case you are not familiar with the type of personage to which I refer, here is a check list for identification purposes.
1.Brand new tattoo. The image should be sore and an antiseptic cream should be heavily applied. In earlier cases it may still be bandaged ( for those virgin pussies only been in Thailand a couple of days).
2.A bottle of water. The water should last exactly 120 mins, or about the time it takes to watch a Hollywood movie in one of the bars that cater for backpackers.
4.Cheap Asian clothes. Peasant Fisherman’s trousers with no pockets are a favorite. But most backpackers will wear anything that makes Thai people cringe. All the time they feel they are ‘blending in’ with the culture.
5.A complete disability to speak the language or understand the culture.
6.A GUIDE BOOK.
7.Some kind of bracelet or necklace normally made of small wooden beads. Both female and male subjects can be seen wearing these.
8.A constant fear of paying too much for anything. Backpackers rarely tip. And if they do it is by mistake.
Now it seems that backpacker fashion has changed somewhat. The men seem to shave their hair nowadays rather than grow it long as they did a few years ago. I did, however meet one Spanish individual in Koh Phangnan who had long shoulder length hair and a long beard. He looked like Jesus Christ; but he couldn’t manage to drive a Honda Wave let alone walk on water. And he was so tight that if he could turn the water into wine he would have either kept it for himself or bottled it and sold it back to the masses.
I am not bitter about getting old or any thing like that. I do speak from experience. I have traveled with a back pack around most of Asia, Africa and Europe. The difference is I guess that I prefer to spend time with locals. If I wanted to sit and speak with a bunch of Europeans I would have probably moved to Spain or Greece or somewhere else with peopled with barbaric semi-literates.
There is a definite fashion scene with travelers. It seems to me that they have all DARED to give up their day jobs or school or staying at home with the parents because they feel the need to do something completely ‘different’ …They are BRAVE and ADVENTUROUS And what do they do when they escape ?...They wear the same clothes as everybody else who is being ‘different’. They go to the same hotels as everybody ‘different’ they read the same guide book as everybody ‘different’ eat the same food as everybody ‘different’ etc etc etc….
What summed it up for me was whilst sitting in one of these Backpacker bars. I became quite hungry. I asked for the menu. I ordered a ham and leek pie. I don’t need to apologise for this. I was hungry and I like pie. I like ham and I like leak. On the table opposite was a French backpacker with his girlfriend. He sported a little elfish beard. His girlfriend had a metro sexual look about her. Short hair pseudo-intellectual-borderline-lesbian-chic. She was probably dating the elf to get back at her father. If you catch my drift….
He said “That is disgusting! – How can you come all the way to Thailand and eat food like this?”
“Because, I like it.”
“But you are in THAILAND!”
“That is correct.”
He looked over at his girlfriend. They exchanged a disgusted glance. “You have to enjoy the food here whilst you stay here. You have to eat what the locals eat” He told me.
“And what do the locals eat in Ko Phangan?”
“We have ordered Kho Pad Moo.” He said proudly.
“Yes.” I said. “That’s adventurous. Be careful.”
“It is REAL THAI food,” He told me.
In fact it’s a Chinese addition to Thai cuisine, but I let it slide.
They continued to stare. I grew fed up. This French fag and his dyke girlfriend were putting me off from eating my pie. They kept on staring at me like I was about to explode from cultural misunderstanding at any given moment. I had to set them straight.
It came out “Listen friend. I have lived in this country for many years. I have been married to a Thai for six years. I run a business here. I have two children who hold Thai passports. I like to eat pie because I can not get pie where I live in Thailand. I am on holiday. Let me eat my pie, please. I didn’t ask to talk to you.”
He said something in French. I couldn’t catch what it was. I should have paid more attention at school. Or maybe he should of paid more attention at school. Perhaps he is still at school. I got up from the table.
I paid the bill, leaving a twenty percent tip, and got myself out of there.