One of the reasons I love Sukhumvit Road?
It’s not Khao San Road.
I am quite happy to pay a Sukhumvit-sized premium to stay on a road that protects me from:
- Bed bugs
- The 67th account of ‘How I Found Myself on Ko Phi Phi’
Indeed, my one (and only) visit to Khao San came after a trip to nearby Dusit Zoo.
If that adventure taught me anything, it’s that you can’t always tell where animals end and tourists begin.
Spoiler: The queue of 400-baht tuk tuks is a useful start.
Sadly, Sukhumvit is not without its share of Tourism Gone Wrong.
Here are five ways to spot the worst offenders on Sukhumvit, from the view of a young urban douchebag (who happens to also be a tourist):
#1. He Haggles The Set Menu
There’s a golden piece of advice littered across Thai travel forums that goes like this:
“Be prepared to haggle on prices. The Thais will respect you for it.”
Fair enough, but Sweet Mother of Jesus, can we learn some timing in here?
You see, there’s a time and a place to haggle.
- In markets
- In business
- Before signing any contract
The time and place to haggle is not — as I witnessed yesterday morning — in Au Bon Pain, over a 95 baht bagel.
“Can you do it with the coffee for 120?”
“Sorry?” *smiley face*
“Can I have the bagel and coffee for 120 baht?”
“Sorry sir…” *points at menu*
Most astonishingly of all, the guy was somehow offended by this adherence to pricing — you know, in a clearly-franchised American coffee chain.
Can I get some extra baggage allowance for your common sense, sir?
#2. The Progressive Loss of Sensible Clothes
I recently greeted some friends from the UK.
One of the most striking aspects of their journey — because, don’t you know, every trip to Thailand has to be a journey — was the slow shedding of clothes (and dignity) between arrival and departure.
Brits are the world’s worst offenders for misjudging the climate of their holiday destinations.
My friends were no exception, and so:
- Tight jeans made way for board shorts.
- Smart shoes made way for 50 baht flip-flops.
- White skin made way for seared carcass of lobster.
If you could flick through a picture book of the holiday, it would resemble a 2 week striptease.
This transformation in dress-sense to Lost Hobo Abroad doesn’t only betray the tourist — it also reveals how much longer he has to endure his own dirty laundry before boarding time.
Take the singha tank top:
Come on, pal.
We all know what this means.
“It’s my last day, I’m out of clothes, and this is all I could afford from MBK.”
“Mummy, please pick me up from the airport.”
#3. Elephant pants, loads of elephant pants
There is one exception to the ‘Progressive Loss of Clothes‘ rule.
And that involves the rapid accumulation of Elephant Pants.
Let me ask you…
How many times have you seen Khon Thai lolloping down the soi with patterned parachutes for trousers?
I’ll give you a hint.
Elephant pants are a western tourist phenomenon.
The artefact of a generation toiling through the sweat to Eat, Love, Pray; with as many f***ing bangles as it can fit on one wrist.
#4. He thinks Medium actually means Medium.
Listen, if there’s one phrase I’ve come to love in Thailand, and I mean, absolutely-cannot-live-without… it’s Nit Noi.
I don’t know if that’s how you spell it, and I don’t care.
A little spice, please.
A little chilli, please.
A little hotness, please.
This is accompanied by pinching my fingers to say, “Just a small bit for me,” with a wince that screams, “My bowels depend on this translation.”
Nit noi = A small amount.
Of course, you can spot the untrained tourist by his absolute neglect of this word; and to that extent, his own short-term wellbeing.
“Would you like spicy or medium?”
“Yeah, go on then. Let’s have the spicy.”
I sometimes wonder what happens to these reckless souls.
I wonder what accommodation they are returning to.
- Is it a hotel room?
- Will they have privacy?
- Did they pack Imodium?
- God, you’re not staying in a hostel are you?
#5. He gets off (literally) at Nana BTS.
I’ve had the misfortune of alighting at Nana BTS on several occasions — for non-transactional purposes, I might add — and I knew exactly what the entire carriage thought of me.
Because I felt the daggers in the back of my head.
“Farang gets out at Nana. Farang wants good time.”
Never mind that it’s broad daylight, or that I’m thirty years too young for Nana Plaza.
Once you’ve passed The Landmark, and Soi 4 is rearing its ugly neon head, there’s no going back in the eyes of Bangkok, or anybody watching.
You’re a sex tourist, now.
Sadly, the stereotypes are justified — by the immense quantity of paid shagging that goes on there.
Just remember, Sex Tourists:
Nothing screams old todger on a mission like the guy departing Nana BTS, on his own, after 8pm, with a slipstream of 75 baht cologne in his wake.
Even worse is the return journey.
There are many pleasures to be had in this city.
The drying sweat of a recently satisfied and wheezing farang (one false step from a Chang fuelled coronary) is not one of them.
On second thoughts, maybe Khao San isn’t so…
Give me Sukhumvit, any day.