New Year already and time once again to consider all the options as a tourist. Since 2007 I have been going to the same destination every year, twice a year. Won't be going twice this year and whilst some have suffered more than others during the recession we are all casualties. It must have been the worst recession on record if the politicians have also had their fiddles cut and while some would think me priviledged to be able to take two holidays a year please remember I can no longer afford it. Not through any fault of my own either. My Income Tax and NI combined went up by more than £200 a month to pay for those who lost their income completely and assist the incompetence of bankers that we have to keep paying bonuses or they will move abroad.
I love bullshit, don't you?. They made lots of horrendous decisions out of greed knowing that someone else would pick up the pieces. Nick Leeson paved the way many years before and brought down Bearings in Singapore. Banks today still keep preaching about lessons learned and obviously not one of them ever read a Douglas Adams book. Almost every quote and storyline by this utter genius of lyrical quandary applies to Bankers and yet only bankers would fail to see it. "Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so." I wouldn't mind so much if it wasn't for the fact that the overpaid top bankers we need so badly to keep in the UK are the ones who made a mess of things. Annus Horribilis? The rich don't know the meaning of the words.
But I am privileged to be able to go once this year at any cost. Now we can't decide if we're going for Songkran or Wan Awk Phansa. I prefer the latter because October is less popular with the tourists because it is possible it could still be raining. Personally I don't care too much about the weather because I do not care to shell out two thousand quid to lie on a sun lounger on the beach and I also don't care too much to share my holiday with the average middle-aged tourist.
Please don't think me a snob, far from it, but I can't stand their infernal whining. Waiter, "Everything alright for you sir?". Oh yes its fine thank you. Then lean over to the wife and whisper "my knifes dirty, there's lipstick on my glass, my soups cold, don't think we'll come here again". Then there's the opposite end of the scale of loud complaining whilst secretly trying to get it for free.
If you are a party animal you will love Thailand because they pander to the 'happy enjoy'. If you are a tan fanatic you will love the beaches and tropical weather. But there is a gulf of a difference between a holiday maker and 'the tourist'. A middle-aged tourist is a creature that has to be tolerated and endured by poor countries who need their financial input. One of the tragedies of a recession is that it merely provides a middle-aged tourist with something new to talk about. Previously they only had the weather and Margaret Thatcher as conversational topics. Now they can blame everything on New Labour. Blissfully unaware of the whole world slowly grinding to a halt. Of third world countries bordering on starvation. Possession of full knowledge that everything they have is because of their own hard work and they thoroughly deserve their over-inflated early retirement and it is an outrage that their savings are now only paying out 5%. Absolutely no idea that the waitress serving them is on £40 a month and relies on the tip that they will not be giving her.
So what does this have to do with Beggars? It doesn't matter that middle-aged tourists have no perception of desperation because the rest of us recognise a beggar when we see one. There is a man, unkempt and crouching with a cup in both hands looking down at his feet, not daring to speak. I see a man who lives in fear, who is on the breadline, who has run out of options. The middle-aged tourist sees a blot on the landscape. I will put 5 or 10 baht in his cup. The middle-aged tourist will pretend that he didn't see the beggar. What does it matter if I give and the middle-aged tourist does not when by the end of the day the beggar will have more money than he needs which means he does not have to beg tomorrow.
So what does it have to do with Hawkers? I will look at their goods and maybe even buy something because it means I don't have to shop. The middle-aged tourist will look the other way and pretend they didn't see her. Sometimes the middle-aged tourist will be quite brave and shoo them away. Just like the beggars, it doesn't matter, because the hawker will find a buyer somewhere and make a profit, or they wouldn't keep coming back out day after day to do it again. The middle-aged tourist is the loser because they now have to pay full price in the shop. Although often I think they just resent spending any more money.
These tourists obtain much more satisfaction from complaining about Hawkers and Beggars. These are the stupidest people on Earth and it baffles me how people this stupid can amass enough wealth to be able to travel around the world so they can complain about it. They go down to Thomas Cook and ask the girl on the counter 'where is this years vogue destination'. She answers some exotic location and the middle-age couple hand over their Visa card. Do they ask any questions about this destination? Maybe, and the girl will pretend she has been there and talk bollocks to coagulate her commission. Do they go home and look it up on the Internet? Do they heck! They travel to far off locations and complain that there isn't much to do and you can't drink the water and the foods awful. They do not learn about that countries customs or any of its language or what to look out for. Then they come home and comment on travel sites that it isn't very good and the people don't speak English.
These tourists are generally Americans who completely miss the point of vacationing abroad and I genuinely do not know why they travel outside of the States because if there is no McDonalds or KFC they are strategically flustered. You meet lots of young Americans who fall in love with Thailand the same way Brits do but those over 30 are this whinging 'nothing is as good or as big as back home' over paid and over here pest. They are not alone, I have met a Welsh couple who were the same and sometimes English couples who found they had booked the wrong destintation. But it's never their own fault. Then they complain to their tour rep' and the Tourist Police about the litter and the noise and most of all about the beggars and hawkers. Then the Tourist Police who are blindly led by shit scared politicians round up the beggars off the street thus spoiling my holiday experience.
My favourite quote is from teakdoor.com "there was a small police presence operating a zero tolerance to them, that was obviously an effective deterrent. It certainly added to the image of an attractive destination." If you are one of these tourists then I beseech you, don't go to countries where street selling is a traditional way of life. Stop trying to change the world to your liking because you are bloody well spoiling it for the rest of us.