Friday, December 17, 2010

Southeast Asia Backpacker's Credo and Motto

The Credo
1. I shall eschew the ways of the tourist and have an authentic Asian experience rather than a shallow, contrived, package holiday. I am Traveler.
2. I shall wear the largest possible backpack to bear proud witness of my creed.
3. I will spend my travels on the quest for Our Holy Grail - for the ‘Unspoiled Place’ - a place undiscovered by tourists, where happy, welcoming, generous natives tend vast fields of ganja along a deserted, previously unknown tropical beach, and that has Internet access.
4. I shall begin my quest on Khao San Road.
5. I shall not leave Khao San Road without a Lonely Planet guide.
6. I shall never admit to using a Lonely Planet guide.
7. I shall follow ‘Wheeler’s Way’, a mystical school of thought, which both eschews and embraces Khao San Road – a way of finding the Unspoiled Place without ever leaving the path.

(Editors note: ‘Wheeler’s Way’ is a school of thought posited as a possible answer to the decades old conundrum known as the ‘Sang Thip Paradox’: If it is in Lonely Planet then I can find it, but it won’t be the Unspoiled Place. If it is not in Lonely Planet, it might be the Unspoiled Place, but I won’t be able to find it.)

8. I shall wear the traditional international backpacker’s uniform and don at least one piece of local clothing (conical hat, krama, yam, etc.) to show my oneness with the Asian people.
9. I shall not clean the local soils and aromas from my uniform for I wish to always carry a piece of where I have been.
10. I shall never wear a souvenir tee shirt in the tee-shirt’s country of origin.
11. I shall eat banana pancakes on a regular basis, for it is the quintessential Asian food.
12. I shall eat in the cheapest restaurants. Hygiene is for package tourists.
13. I shall travel by the least comfortable means, for comfort is also for package tourists.
14. I shall drink the local beer, for I shall always endeavor to be in tune with the local culture. And because it is the cheapest.
15. I shall stay in the cheapest guesthouse. More money for beer.
16. I shall not allocate more that 75% of my daily budget to alcohol and drugs. Moderation in all things.
17. I shall make a pilgrimage to a Full Moon Party at Had Rin Beach Koh Phangan at least once in my life. For it is Mecca.
18. I shall revel in food and mosquito-borne diseases, for these are the badges of the true Asian Traveler.
19. I shall not leave Thailand without having my hair colored, dreaded, corn-rolled or shaved off.
20. I shall model my travels on “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac
21. I shall read “The Beach” before entering Thailand so that I understand the goal of quest.
22. I shall read “Off the Rails in Phnom Penh” before entering Cambodia so that I understand the dangers of the quest.
23. I shall read “The Quite American” while travelling through Vietnam because everybody else is.
24. And this above all: I shall bargain without mercy and hone my skills to a sharp edge, so that I can proudly proclaim our sacred motto:

“I get it for less than the locals”

The Mantra
In times of trial and doubt – as I lose all feeling in my legs in the 14th hour of a local bus ride…when I can’t sleep for the noise of a thousand rats scurrying through my $2 room…as vomit and diarrhea spew simultaneously from my salmonella saturated body – I will repeat this mantra unto myself…

I am not a tourist
I am not a tourist
I am not a tourist
I am not a tourist
I am not a tourist
I am not a tourist

…until the doubt passes and I am ready for more authentic Asian experiences.

(I originally published this several years back. A couple of the references are a bit dated, but otherwise it seems to be holding up pretty well. Yes, I know, backpackers are an easy mark and perhaps picked on a bit too much, but having visited Khao Sarn Road today, I  just can't help myself. And it is, after all, the season to be jolly.) 


  1. No, really, they do deserve it.

    Esp. when dressed in local unifrom yet shopping at the deluxe shopping malls with bags of authentic gearing hanging off their backpacks.

    Truly they are d#%&s.

  2. Funny, but also slightly offensive. Is this what all expats think of travelers? Not all backpacking travelers - particularly ones aged 30+ like myself - subscribe to this stereotype.

  3. Re no. 17:

    Haadrin Beach is on Koh Phangan, not Koh Samui

  4. ts - You're absolutely correct. I don't know came over me. Thanks for the catch. I made the change.

  5. Interesting that you've dedicated an entire blog post to hating people, these economies thrive on tourists, does it really matter so much to you how other "travelers" are living their life and enjoying THEIR vacations? But, I guess you're "better" or "more authentic" than the rest of us, so you're allowed. Holy shiznit, you need to start spreading the love my friend.