A Cranky Cheeseburger Dinner in Thailand

35 comments

A burger in Chiang Mai, Thailand and an Ugly American

I’m sitting in a farang restaurant in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I’m there for the fast wifi and cold beer, eating a cheeseburger. An American man sitting next to me decides to chime in: “I see you’ve come halfway across the world to eat American food.

Now, this is a tourist place — their Thai food sucks. It’s toned down for Westerners. If you want real Thai food, you go to a place with plastic tables and chairs and sit in the heat. He’s eating what appears to be the worst plate of pad thai ever made. They don’t even have chili in this joint. If you ask for chili, they bring you a bottle of tabasco.

Heresy.

“How long have you been in Thailand?” I ask.

“The wife and I have been here for six days now. We’ve got a couple more before flying back.”

“Oh. That’s nice.” I just let the comment hang there — I’m not going to give him the satisfaction of explaining my story.

And, of course, after a minute he takes the bait. “How long have you been traveling?”

“Four years. I’ve eaten my body weight in Thai food. And sometimes I just want a friggin’ burger.”

That pretty much ends the conversation.

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason June 4, 2014 at 6:14 pm

You should have taken him out to a Thai restaurant with spicy food and shown him what Thai food should taste like.

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Mo @ Mosaffer.com June 4, 2014 at 6:21 pm

Six days Vs four years… Tourists will always be tourists!
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Jonathan Look, Jr. June 4, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Ah yes, a real traveler. Someone that goes for the “real” experience. I guess this guy would only eat pasta in Italy (not knowing it is really Chinese food).
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Oceana June 4, 2014 at 6:53 pm

I’m with you on that one, used to get that as an expat in Bali all the time. Sometimes, comfort food and air conditioning are VERY MUCH required.
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Brian June 4, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Hah-ha. There are so many experiences like that. I think it’s hard for people to understand the difference between traveling fulltime and vacationing.

We made the mistake of admitting that we stream American T.V. while traveling. Oh, the howls of protest we got from “real” travelers who said they like to leave their home culture behind when they’re away.

We’ll we’ve been away for 1,496 consecutive days. Sometimes in our lives we like to watch a little friggin T.V. ;-)
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wes June 4, 2014 at 10:55 pm

Amen. I download my faves and then occasionally watch the local channels. Even if you can’t understand the language, you can learn a lot about the culture.

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Bryan June 4, 2014 at 9:05 pm

While I agree that this guy was being an ass with his accusation, I’m not sure I entirely agree with some of the comments from your community. “A ‘real’ traveler.” “Tourists will always be tourists.” Why is being a tourist necessarily a bad thing? Not everyone in the world can afford the luxury of travelling full time or even take a month off a year to hit the road. Should we make fun of them because of that? For opening their mouths like your encounter did, sure. But thinking everyone in the world has the luxury to travel off-the-beaten path and completely immerse in a culture is downright foolish. At least tourists are trying to see more than just their hometown with their limited time off a year.

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wes June 4, 2014 at 9:50 pm

I don’t really get into the tourist vs. traveler debate — I just think it’s a waste of time. My lifestyle is, indeed, a blessing and most don’t have that luxury, as you say. To me, this was just a case of someone being arrogant and rude. He was judging me, based on his situation without stopping to think that maybe we were on different paths. To quote from Bad News Bears: “Never ASSUME. You make an ASS out of U and ME”

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Bryan June 5, 2014 at 3:09 am

We are on the same page then. I just like to see people trying to see the world as best they can and don’t like to see them slighted. That is unless they are being an ass like this dude.

I am new to your site and find the posts very entertaining. You definitely have a new follower!
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Sara Marzougui August 5, 2014 at 2:16 am

Sorry to barge into the conversation like this, but that quote was just too good for me not comment about it. I am a flight attendant. Does it make me a tourist or a traveler? -:) More seriously, I don’t think they should be any rules while traveling. I once got dirty looks from the table next to me when I asked the waiter in Barcelona for a shrimp less paella. If they had been a bubble on top of their head, it would have said: “it’s not real paella without shrimp.” But being allergic to shrimp, no matter how much I like to try local food just the way it is, staying alive is higher on the list.

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Keyta June 4, 2014 at 10:18 pm

Haha love this. I am headed out to Thailand for three months, and I reckon I would want some western food now and then!

- Keyta

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Kevin Revolinski June 5, 2014 at 1:45 am

Funny how uppity people get about stupid shit. So if I am Thai and traveling in America and I go out for Thai food, is that lame? Do I have to eat a burger every single day in the US? I love a lot of foods, but there are very very few things I could eat every single day. My wife on the other hand can eat noodles 24/7. Bacon. OK, bacon I could eat every single day, though those days would likely be numbered.
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Rachel of Hippie in Heels June 5, 2014 at 6:40 am

I had to laugh at this. I get the same a lot in India when I’m ordering western food. I don’t even tell them I’ve been living in India 2 years. I don’t care about the whole tourist/traveler thing- it’s more that people travel for themselves, so don’t make it your business what someone else is doing! Who cares! People like that guy piss me off. It’s like if you see someone looking touristy taking a photo with their iPad, maybe their camera and phone broke and that’s a sentimental pic for them- you NEVER know so don’t bother judging. :D
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neale June 5, 2014 at 8:32 am

Reading that 1st paragraph, I’m just like wow!

I often get called out when I mention Mac Donald’s like yourself I have eaten more Thai food than most and would love to stick some of these types in a small Thai village with no 7/11 for a few days – weeks and see where they head off to eat on returning to the big city.

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Paulina Seroczynska June 5, 2014 at 3:22 pm

Thank you for making me smile on a raining day in Berlin. I start my Thailand trip in a few days for six weeks.
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Suki F June 11, 2014 at 8:39 am

Haha! That’s funny. Another example of why we should stop judging before we know.
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Terry June 16, 2014 at 7:31 am

I was in China last year for three weeks and after eating Chinese cuisine for two weeks for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I couldn’t resist stepping into a KFC in Beijing for a piece of chicken…just like I got at home!

http://diaryofanordinarytraveller.blogspot.ca/
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Valerie June 17, 2014 at 6:54 am

Oh my goodness hahahaha this is hilarious! Some people can be so ignorant. Great come back xD
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jack smack the rythym pusher June 25, 2014 at 10:18 am

I can’t believe all you guys are so bored as to engage in conversations about burgers, unless it is an In’nÓut. but good story

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wes June 26, 2014 at 3:08 am

Hey, I didn’t start it! ;)

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CrazyGuyinThailand July 6, 2014 at 1:29 am

Hello. Great story.

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vagabondette mandu July 7, 2014 at 11:58 pm

Ugh. I hate those people! I used to get that a lot, particularly when I would spend the day at the hostel working. “Why bother going on vacation if you’re just going to spend all day in the computer?” “I’m not on vacation, I travel full time and a couple days a month I have to spend the day working so I can keep traveling”

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Nathan Mizrachi July 9, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Dude…plastic tables and chairs, plus sitting outside without the luxury of air conditioning–definitely the best scene for street food anywhere, be it a taco stand in Tijuana or a couscous joint in Marrakech. I feel you with the burger cravings though–I’ve been mostly in Europe the past 11 months and have stayed away from American food, but sometimes we need to indulge ourselves in a little guilty pleasure.
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Frank July 15, 2014 at 6:30 pm

What a dickwad, you set up your response perfectly. The only thing you missed was saying “and you should mind your own fucking business…”.
Frank (bbqboy)
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Tina July 17, 2014 at 12:09 pm

This is hilarious.. :)

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Shannon July 19, 2014 at 1:37 am

Love it.
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Dana Newman July 25, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Yes! I’m an expat and every now and then I just HAVE to go to Hard Rock Cafe.
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Kevin August 3, 2014 at 9:41 pm

Haha, that dude had no idea who he was talking to. Way to go, Wes.
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Alex August 10, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Love it! There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have some food from home once in a while. It’s not like Thais only eat Thai food 3 times a day… hence why Japanese, Vietnamese, and Italian restaurants are so popular out here. I’ve lived here for 10 years, I’ve seen a Thai order pad thai maybe 5 times.

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Rishi August 15, 2014 at 9:04 pm

Love it … especially ending the conversation!!! #boom
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Tim August 17, 2014 at 9:51 am

You put that idiot in his place … some people never miss a chance to feel high and mighty to feel better about their miserable lives!
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Chad August 18, 2014 at 6:12 am

It’s crazy how passive aggressive total strangers can be. Glad to see justice was served along with that cheeseburger.

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Riki Milton August 21, 2014 at 7:51 pm

I love Thailand and Thai food. Thai food is tasty and yummy.
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Mike November 10, 2014 at 10:48 am

Fun post mate. I’m working here in Phuket Thailand for a Phuket lawyer and I have been in love with thai food!
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Jayne November 27, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Brilliant!

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