A Rant: Travelers Who Really Piss Me Off


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’
Rant: Travelers Who Really Piss Me OffI’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.

Sex Tourists
Rant: Travelers Who Really Piss Me OffIf 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.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Fleur April 23, 2013 at 9:06 pm

I remember looking at your Chiang Mai street-food photos before deciding to move here 8 months ago. They were drool-worthy and of course I excitedly showed my friends and family what I’d be munching on in the coming months.

It’s a little funny to me how I’ve stumbled back onto your blog after living here for a while, and how I can relate to everything you’ve written about the place. Keep up the fantastic blog, and keep on being a great addition to Chiang Mai. This place needs less of the above people and more like you!


wes April 26, 2013 at 2:58 pm

Oh, I wish I was there right now. Thanks for the reminder :)


Alex April 30, 2013 at 8:45 pm

I’ve seen the same thing with people flipping out about spiciness. The upside is that all Thai restaurants have dried chillies and other condiments to add the spice. If you aren’t sure you can handle the heat, you can always order it with no spice, then add a little chili on your own.


jennifer July 24, 2013 at 9:58 am

I live in New York. I see the front backpackers all the time on the train. I have an overwhelming urge to rob them, just to be a dick. I don’t even want their wallets or stuff, I just want them to STOP IT WITH THE FRONT BACK PACK. It is a sickness on my end. I can’t help it. I just had to delete like 13 sentences where I keep saying the same thing over and over because just thinking about it is making me insane.


wes July 24, 2013 at 11:56 am

Ok, that got an honest-to-God LOL. And that’s not something I will often ‘fess up to ;)


ruggedmom July 29, 2013 at 1:40 am

nice blog!

never request ‘a little bit spicy’ too when in malaysia if you’re not into it :)


Majida/Hanel Travels August 28, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Superb Post! Thanks for bringing these issues up!
Those I really can’t stand are, those who will fill up their plates only to throw away most of the food. People (locals) work in many countries work the whole day to may be even only be occasionally in the situation to fill up their plate, as the tourists do! Show some respect!!
When taking photographs, do ask for permission and not just “point/focus” and shoot!


Rayana January 19, 2014 at 1:35 pm

I have been traveling for decades with a backpack throughout the world. I have been blessed to travel when it really was an adventure and travellers remembered they were a guest in the country in which they found themselves. I worked in Thailand as a Tour Leader and was disheartened by the quality of travellers passing through such a beautifully rich part of the world. How it gives my heart a lift to know that travellers from younger generations are interested in respecting the cultures in which they visit … and a word of advice for the “heat”. Best to say “mai pet”…meaning not spicy, remembering that if you ask them to take away all the heat you will not be eating Thai food anymore..it will be a pale version of it …and in so many ways!


Douglas April 6, 2014 at 9:55 pm

To be honest im Lithuanian im new to your site and very sorry i hit this page, Many of my grandmothers family killed in world war two fighting along with the American Army, please consider rewording this post, Not being pushy but do find it very degrading how it is written.. I have tried lets see if you can man up. Thank you in advance


wes April 7, 2014 at 7:09 am

It was a joke, Douglas, but thank you for the feedback. I’m terribly sad to hear of your grandmother’s family.


Rachel - Tasty Thailand April 13, 2014 at 9:48 am

LOL, actually most westerners who live in Thailand would still ask for ‘Pet nit noi’ – meaning ‘a little bit spicy’ and Thais do make their food to order that way as what they serve you as a ‘little bit spicy’ may be incredibly spicy for you but it is NOT spicy for a Thai.

I’ve lived in Thailand for almost 12 years, speak just about fluent Thai, and still order ‘pet nit noi’ at certain restaurants that I know are going to serve me food so spicy I’m going to have the dreaded ‘ring of fire’ every trip to the bathroom for 3 days afterwards :)

‘Mai pet’, (not spicy), for me is bland and tasteless but ‘pet nit noi’ has just the right amount of spice. Fully ‘pet’? Only in the restaurants I know aren’t going to destroy my stomach lining.


Lauren Metzler July 12, 2014 at 7:13 pm

Wow, I really love this hate list! haha!

I once knew a girl that I was teaching with in Thailand who didn’t like Thai food. Actually didn’t eat it, or even try any of it while we were there. I thought that was pretty outrageous, to travel to a country and not even try any of the food! >.<