August 22, 2006

It’s a while since I had a good moan so here goes. Backpackers. An annoying group of people if ever there was one. You can tell the places they frequent by the ubiquitous cafes selling yoghurt, muesli and greasy local food and the guest houses where cockroaches outnumber staff by 1000 to 1. The aim of most is to travel to exotic places, engage in reckless ‘adventure activities’, spend as little as possible and meet other backpackers. The only local people they meet are shifty tour operators and seedy guest house owners so it’s not surprising that they regard all locals as liars and cheats. Since they fail to take the most elementary security precautions they are also convinced that all local people are thieves. Listen as any group of them meet up after a visit to the  market.
‘How much did you pay for your bananas?’
’20 baht’.
‘Man, you were had! I got mine for 12! Mind you I had to bargain pretty hard, she didn’t want to go below 15 but when I threw them at her she said OK, twelve. You see, you can’t trust anyone in these markets..’
They then proceed to the nearest internet point where they spend 50 baht writing pathetically embellished emails to their insipid friends back home and ask Dad to send another 500 quid to Western Union, not bothering to think that market traders have families to feed, get up at 3am and finish work at 10pm having made 3 pounds profit in the day if they’re lucky. Backpackers also live in constant fear that they might be asked to leave a tip, a crime in their view only marginally less serious than rape. Normally, to get a tip out of a backpacker would require surgical intervention. I occasionally have to interpret for some of these undesirables (their knowledge of the local language is confined to the words for a greeting, ‘expensive’ and two obscenities) and I invariably up the starting price so they end up paying what the seller asked for. That way, everyone is happy even if two of the parties are not fully apprised of the true situation. I also enjoy reverse bargaining- like when someone offered me a very nice jacket in the market for 200 baht. I asked her if she would take 250 and we eventually settled on 220. She looked at me as if I was mad but I’m used to that.


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