Posted by: facetothewind | June 24, 2013

The new Chinese traveling class

The most notable change in Thailand since I was here a little over a year ago is the significant presence of Chinese tourists. As China’s middle class is on the rise, so is their wanderlust. They now join the ranks of Europeans, Americans and Australians who ply the streets of Thailand looking for all the same things we do: cheap, tasty food, massages and a chance to experience the laid back lifestyle of Southeast Asia.

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And with any influx of foreigners, there are cultural offenses. Westerners are known for wandering around Thailand with their shirts off which really bothers the very modest sensibilities of the Thai people. Americans all over the world have held the title for worst behaved tourists for decades. Well, the Chinese are taking the torch and running with it. They have brought some of their slightly brash ways to Thailand and are meeting some resentment. For example, see this photo below…

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I shot this picture over the shoulder of my friend Sam as I witnessed a Chinese family standing their toddler on the table, pulling his pants down and allowing him to urinate into the green bottle you see placed on the table. I was so shocked I didn’t get a photo of the actual act, but you can see they left bottle of baby urine on the table to the horror of the Thai restaurant staff. Apparently the Chinese government has issued advisories for Chinese travelers to not spit, slurp food or wear pajamas in hotel lobbies. I guess the family above didn’t get the memo. Unfortunately the Thai people make it worse because they never speak up about such offenses. They will just quietly resent you while smiling at you.

Now a word about fashion. Yes, this is going to be bitchy, but I’m a bit nervous about 1.3 billion people exporting fashion like this. When you go on vacation you wear your best, right? You shop and match things and build ensembles for your trip. But something has gone seriously wrong in China with pattern matching and color mixing. Polka dots with camouflage, mosquito netting sewn over a dress, pink, red, yellow and orange all in one outfit? Come on, my eyes are hurting!

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And here is the requisite long lensed camera that everyone from China seems to be carrying. I dunno, is everyone a professional photographer in need of such equipment?

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Mosquito net dresses come in handy in the tropics with dengue fever swarming about.

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Two sweet young Chinese guys traveling in Pai after their graduation from college. I said hello to them and we just struck up a conversation. They were happy to practice their English with me and showed no signs of homophobia at all when I talked about my love interests. I did want to wipe the food stains off of the mouth of the guy on the right. I think he had been slurping.

Don’t let my observations of this new generation of travelers be construed as my dislike of Chinese. Two of my favorite lovers have been Chinese. Some of my favorite friends are Chinese. Chinese tend to be more educated, informed, and earnest than most Southeast Asians. And a LOT less capricious. If you want to experience China without having to go to visit their polluted metropolises, just sit back and let China come to you!

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Responses

  1. I think they do NOT want the same things from travel — I think they want most are the photos to take back home to show their friends! D.

  2. I was glad to see the caveat at the end of your post, and I was sorry to see the criticism of Chinese fashion that preceded it — such observations are the commentary of a lesser traveler than yourself, David. Anyway, I want to defend the way the Chinese tourists dress: I find it charming. How refreshing and wonderful it is to see so many people who dress for comfort and practicality, not to please the aesthetics of some fashion dictator or to make other people rich. I am very glad that they have not yet been seduced by at least one aspect of Western “values,” and I hope they never are. And besides, I think the netting over the dress is kind of cute. 🙂


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