I have to get a few things off my chest. I’ve been in Chiang Mai for a couple of months now and see tons of fellow tourists every day. And while the majority seem like pleasant, well-adjusted people, there are a few that are driving me absolutely insane. Here are a few of the worst types:
Mr. ‘Make Mine a Little Bit Spicy’
I’ve seen this countless times, with the most recent instance involving a French tourist who was ordering a curry at a small Thai cafe. When asked if he wanted it spicy or not, he replied “yes, a little bit spicy”. It was, of course, too much for him and he spent the next ten minutes haranguing the poor waitress about how irresponsible she was to serve him such an outrageously hot meal.
‘A little bit’ is a completely useless phrase because there is absolutely no frame of reference — there is nothing to gauge against. Thais eat red hot coals for breakfast, so when the cook hears ‘a little bit spicy’ he thinks “Okay, I’ll use smaller coals”. If you can’t handle spicy food, don’t order it. Just lie when you go home and tell everyone about the amazingly spicy food you ate. No one will know.
The Backward Backpack Guy
There are times when it makes sense to wear your daypack backwards so that no one can open zippers or slice into it without you knowing. If you’re wading through a crowded train station full of pickpockets, it’s a smart move. But when you’re wandering through the sedate streets of a small town in Laos, wearing your pack on your chest sends a different message: “I’ve traveled thousands of miles to visit your country and learn about your culture, but I’ve already decided that you’re all thieving bastards”.
What are you carrying in there anyway? Gold bullion? Good luck meeting people with that attitude, touron.
Miss ‘Look at My Titties’
For the love of God, put some clothes on. The locals aren’t impressed by your ample cleavage or your tight shorts — they actually find it rude and disrespectful, so please save it for the beach. Just last week I saw a young woman in a Buddhist temple wearing a see-through mesh shirt with a lacy push-up bra underneath and shorts so tight that she was sporting not just a camel-toe but the whole hoof. The poor celibate monk across from her was working his prayer beads so fast it looked like he was twirling a lasso. They sounded like helicopter blades — if she’d bent over he would have left the ground.
And of course, this applies to men as well. Would you walk shirtless through downtown Manhattan? No? Then don’t do it in Bangkok, asshat. Don’t show me yours and I won’t show you mine.
If you’ve traveled to the developing world solely to hire prostitutes for the price of an Olive Garden dinner, please go stick your junk in a light socket right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
I’ve heard all of the arguments for such behavior: “It’s part of the culture”, “They need the money, so I’m helping out” and “Everyone does it”. These defenses are, of course, total bullshit.
You’re simply taking advantage of the fact that the hourly wage where you live is about ten times what it is here and in doing so, you’re exploiting a fellow human being in the most intimate way possible. I sincerely hope that your rash turns out to be more than ‘just a rash’.
Okay, this one is going to take some explanation. I really don’t dislike Lithuanians — in fact, I’ve never met one — but I needed someone to pick on and poke fun at. I considered the French first, of course, but c’mon… a man needs a challenge. While researching the issue, I stumbled onto this entry in Wikipedia and knew that I had found my new comic foil:
“This small Baltic country was originally intended to be named “Lissuania” but the man who made the announcement had a severe speech impediment and no one realized it. Lithuanians are widely considered to be some of the rudest, most insensitive travelers and can be easily recognized while abroad due to the fact that they all wear smarmy little mustaches — even the women and children.”
Who am I to argue with Wikipedia? I mean, the greatest Lithuanian artist was named Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis — how weird is that?
When I presented this idea to my friends Shannon and Jodi, their reactions weren’t quite what I’d hoped for. Shannon hated the idea because her nephew is half-Lithuanian. My reply was something along the lines of “Yeah, but does he read my blog? I didn’t think so.”
Jodi protested for two reasons, the first being that it was rather mean-spirited and the second that it was just a stupid idea. I admit that I wavered in my convictions but the universe would soon prove me right.
The very next day, she stopped at her favorite local Thai restaurant to find a heated argument in progress. A Westerner was red-faced and screaming at a waitress, causing such a ruckus that the police had been called. When Jodi asked a server what was happening, he explained that the man and his family had eaten lunch –running up a whopping $6 tab– and he was demanding to pay by credit card. This was a small family-run, open-air cafe with plastic chairs and tables and they weren’t set up to take cards — only the largest tourist-oriented places have that capability.
As she went to leave, she asked where the irate man was from. The answer? “Lithuania”.
I rest my case.