Backpackers – A Reply To The Eternal Gripe
Backpackers – A Reply To he Eternal Gripe
By Hal I Burton
55 yrs old, backpacker since the old hippie days in the late 60ties, early 70ties.
Unlike the vast majority of expats, the vast majority of backpackers, believe it or not, do not concern themselves one bit with expats, nor do they care one way or another! I guess, their paths rarely cross, and while you will find a few jaded or boozy backpackers, most of us are bored stiff when confronted by the endless repetitions of expats' whines.
When I read these expat web sites (Tales of Asia out of Cambodia being the notable exception), I can't help but notice that all there is to an expat's life in Thailand is lots of fresh young meat for hire, cheap beer and cigarettes, incompetent and corrupt locals, and a few nervous attempts at local culture. By and large, endless repetitions of the same old stories about a bargirl's mentality, devious tuktuk drivers, corrupt Thais, the girlie bar scene, the girlie bar scene, the girlie bar scene…….
Certainly the sight of a large beer gut bulging under a faded smelly shirt hanging over food and pee stained baggy pants does not entice the average backpacker like myself to strike up a conversation with an expat, or, god forbid, having to listen to his drivel. By and large I, an old fogey myself, enjoy the company of back packers of all ages a lot more than the company of a bunch of expats. Yes, there are hairy legs and armpits, tattoos and body piercings, odd fashions etc. to be found amongst the young Sandinistas. Yes, you have the occasional bald Brit wearing cheap nylon jogging pants and the home team's soccer jersey, drinking large Changs at 8 AM staring stupidly at a large screen in a KSR bar. But, by and large today's travelers are an intelligent, cheerful, open minded, well educated bunch with a wide range of interests. Colorful, yes, but why not?
Not that backpackers are the new standard of cleanliness and high fashion. Personally, I never ever wear baggy khaki cargo pants since I never could understand their purpose, nor can I stand to be dressed in what has become a traveler's uniform. The old, non-conformist hippy in me, I guess. Maybe the desire to look like a baggy panted, flak jacket wearing seasoned journo brought this fashion upon us?
Mind you, we travelers do have our jokes about expats, on occasion. The joke most often repeated amongst those KSR and Bang Lam Phoo denizens is that without fail the aging, balding, overweight, chain smoking expat will be assuring all and sundry that: "… Yes, but MY wife/partner/girlfriend is/was/never has been – a bar girl, go go dancer, hooker…..". A million laughs at that one!!!! At least, I must say, the expats I have met in Cambodia are more honest about their lady friends, and certainly get a chuckle about the "yes, but MY wife/girlfriend.." assertions by their Thighland counterparts.
I guess one of the differences between expats and back packers is that many of the latter bring their sex partners with them from back home, or find each other while traveling (and yes, this does include guys of my age !). Cheaper, more fun, no worries about a Thai hookers delicate mentality, and you can actually have an intelligent conversation afterwards.
KSR – well, there is one can of worms for many expats! The area now extends, as you may know, up to Phra Athit Rd, and the many sois on both sides of Samsen. I have known BKK since 1972, where there were only 3 traveler's hotels, the Atlanta on Sukhumvit Soi 2, I believe, the Pepsi near Hualumpong Station, and a 3rd one whose name escapes me. The rest of the "tourist" hotels in the Sukhumvit area were for European and American sex tourists.
Today's KSR area has undergone quite a change in the past 6 years or so, with a lot of very new, decent, quiet and competitively priced hotels, a far cry from the old (The Beach) plywood boxes. Some of the newer ones even offer roof top swimming pools, and staying in one of these places will not break the bank. As a matter of fact, compared to the overpriced, grubby, unfriendly dives (I guess this goes with the clientele) in the Sukhumvit area, these new hotels are a much much better deal ! And the extended KSR area ain't all that bad, plenty of quiet riverside guesthouses and decent eateries on and off of Samsen, supermarkets, and you don't have to buy your used books etc at grossly inflated prices.
Most of us are secure enough about who we are and what we do that we do not need to point the finger at others.