When you are reading an article about mishaps in foreign countries, you are often reading it from a perspective of an outsider, a foreigner that went into a country and had a bad experience with the locals and wrote about it on his/her blog. What is often neglected and missing in these types of articles are the perspective of the locals. What do they think about us, backpackers going into their countries, exploiting however we can and treating them like they owe us the world?
I was born in Thailand and I have backpacked through the region many times in the past 4 years. Throughout my journey I had the opportunity to sit and talk to many locals who shared their bad experience with some backpackers who came to Thailand just to exploit the Thai's easy-going and smily attitude for their own excitement or gains. This article is a collection of those stories told from a perspective of the locals.
The Missing Hundred Baht
"Maybe 100 baht will extend my trip by 3 seconds"
Due to how cheap it is to travel through South East Asia, the influx of many types of backpackers from all around the world has skyrocketed. One of those type is the backpackers who would do anything to save money.
One night in a hostel near the infamous Khao San Road, a lone backpacker from Finland woke up and readied himself for a long morning bus ride to the south. The day before, he had told the owner of the hostel to leave a key by the counter so he could go to the bus station in the early morning. In the typical Thai fashion way, the owner trusted the backpacker and gave him access to the office so he can retrieve the key. The next morning, the owner came down and realize that a metal case where he kept his small changes was gone.
Apparently, this Finnish backpacker thought that it would be a good idea to steal the metal case with only a 100 baht inside so that he could lengthen his South East Asia trip. The owner took a screenshot of him stealing the money from the security footage and sent it to the embassy of Finland in Bangkok, hoping their own government would teach him a lesson or two when he gets back.
A Beautiful House and a Stolen Bag
"Can I take a photo of your house?"
Late morning one day, an unknown backpacker walked along the street of the Khao Sok village in the south of Thailand. As he walked past this one house, he saw a local inside living out his usual day. This strange backpacker decided to walk into the house and started chatting up with the local. As the strange backpacker praised how beautiful the house was, he casually asked the owner if he could walk around the house and take some photos. Excited to show his hospitality, the owner agreed and while he was not looking, the backpacker decided to steal a duffle bag that were in the backyard, being dried on a hanger. When the owner realized what had happened, it was already too late as the backpacker was in a van on his way to somewhere else.
What the backpacker did not realize was that everyone in that village knew each other and they all were kept in contact within a local chat room in an app called Line (Whatsapp for Thailand). They coordinated with hostel owners, van drivers, and eventually found out which van he was in. The van driver then stopped the car, humiliated him and asked that backpacker in front of everyone to return the bag or face charges.
Recreating a Crime Scene from a Hollywood Movie
"Why pay when I can jump off the window?"
In a remote area of the South of Thailand, stood a cheap resort equipped with a pool and several private traditional bungalows scattered in a forest, all for less than 1,000 baht per night (30 USD). A group of backpackers decided that it would be fun to recreate a scene from a cliche Hollywood crime movie and not pay for the bungalow by tricking the hotel staff and escaped through the window. They tied all the bed sheets together into a rope and jumped down from a window while having all the fans and lights turned on so that the staff would not bother checking.
Trusting that no one would never take advantage of a resort that is already generously priced, the staff did not bother until the next day when they realize that something seems wrong. Before they knew it, the backpackers were long gone. They went through all the trouble to create such an elaborate plan just to evade paying 30 USD.
Perks of Having a Dual Citizenship
"You are Free from any accountability"
In Vietnam, it is common for backpackers to rent motorbikes and explore the country. It is also common to see reckless backpackers being involved in accidents crashing their motorbikes due to negligence. In order to hold these backpackers accountable, the rental stores had to ask for the renter's passport and hold on to it until the motorbike is return back in good shape.
One day, a reckless backpacker got himself hospitalized because he crashed the rented motorbike and completely wrecked it in the process. Out of good manner, the rental store allowed the backpacker to be treated and recovered before pursuing for a damage claim. Once they got around to doing it, they realized that the backpacker already went back to his country without paying a dime for the damage.
Apaprently, he had a dual citizenship and the passport he gave to the store was not the main one he used to travel with. The store ended up having to report the incident to the embassy wondering whether they will ever get compensated for the damaged motorbike.
I Steal. Deal with it!
"For the lolz"
In the north of Thailand, there is a small town called Pai where a local bartender was serving drinks and attending backpackers. To accommodate the many backapckers visiting her bar, she decided to lend her lighter to anyone who asks for it. After all, it was only a lighter and she thought no one would make the effort to steal such a small thing. She was wrong.
One night, a young backpacker walked in and while she was sitting at the table with her friends, she saw a lighter that was left by the bartender for sharing. The young backpacker decided that it would be fun and exciting to have it for herself so she put it in her skirt and walked away. Awhile after, the bartender came asking them if they saw her lighter and this young backpacker, with the biggest poker face, lied straight to the bartender's face and ignored her. Apparently she could afford to travel to Thailand but didn't have the money to buy her own lighter.
So What Should We Do?
I am by no means attacking all backpackers here. After all, I am also a backpacker, but this small percentage of backpackers that believe they are entitled to everything and that the locals have to cater to their every needs are as sickening as the locals who scam or rob tourists. The only different here is that the bad backpackers are well educated and the bad locals are not.
The fact that these bad behaviours are coming from well-educated backpackers who have the money to fly all the way to South East Asia whereas the locals have to scramble their ways just to survive, makes it even more unforgivable.
Next time you travel to a developing country, before you start blaming the locals because they charged you double for that elephant pants, think about what we (as a backpacking community) have done to them and what they have to go through every single day. Treat them respectfully and they will treat you the same way.
The backpacking community strives because of the trust we put into each other and when one breaks that trust, the damage to the community, to the locals and to the future backpackers maybe be long lasting that you could ever imagine. Just like someone told me,
If you think Thai people are nice now, try visiting Thailand 15 years ago.
What do you think? Have you ever heard notorious stories of backpackers behaving poorly in developing countries? Please share them in the comment below.
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