Essential Equipment for a Backpacker’s First TripDominic Lavin
A couple of years ago a female colleague of mine had decided to take a career break and spend some time in South East Asia before taking up a new job in Australia. Stop number one on her journey planner was Bangkok. As I was the office aficionado on all matters Siamese she asked me what she should take. I sucked my lips, thought for a moment and replied, “It’s more what you should leave behind”. She gave me a look that said, “What sort of answers that? He’s finally gone gaga.”
Thailand is a country of many faces. Wherever you go in the country they’ll be smiling. Bangkok has some very wealthy inhabitants who spend their time sat in very expensive cars with the windows up and the air con on full while they watch their poor cousins scooting by. It also has some seriously impoverished rural parts, and the whole gamut of socio economic grades in between.
There are no material things I can think of that you can’t get in Thailand. Most of the things one might need are considerably cheaper over there than they are in the West, the only exception being up-to-date electronic goods. So if you really can’t live without your twenty-six inch wide screen TV or Intelligent Washer Drier, take it with you. I’m not sure on the charges you’d incur at the airport but I’m sure the airline would be happy to supply you with that information.
You can buy most thing’s that you’ll need when you’re there but people like to feel prepared and take things like toothpaste, sun tan oil, mosquito spray etc with them although you’ll be gutted when you see the price of them there. I think the only thing that’s more expensive over there is deodorant. I’m told the Tampon’s available there are bit like hand rolled cigarettes if you are used to buying them in packets, but being a bloke it has rarely been of any great consequence to me. The condoms available in Thailand are at best described as a little “snug”. A friend of mine who isn’t well regarded in feminist circles described the usage of a Thai brand condom as “Like fitting a roll of carpet in a babies sock”.
So stock up on Johnnies and Tammies before you go, although there are branches of “Boots” dotted around the larger conurbations selling Western Toiletries and medicines for Western pallets at astronomical prices. I think the best way for me to go about explaining things is to make a list for you.
1) A smile (or the ability to perform one)
2) Common Sense
4) Your time
5) A tolerance to alcohol (Although one can be acquired in situ)
6) The ability to communicatesee ( “An extensive glossary of phrases, colloquialisms and head movements essential for visitors to Thailand”
1) Your ego
5) Bad Temper (although this may become history if you take it with you)
6) Lots of clutter
AN EXTENSIVE GLOSSARY OF PHRASES, COLLOQUIALISMS AND HEAD MOVEMENTS ESSENTIAL FOR VISITORS TO THAILAND
1) Yes – a positive affirmation used in a linguistic context
2) No – a negative affirmation used in a linguistic context
3) Move your chin and the rest of your head fifteen degrees to the left, back to centre and fifteen degrees to the right then back to the centre in a continuous movement-a negative affirmation in a non-linguistic context. (If you are Peter Beardsley completing this correctly may prove difficult so stick with “No”)
4) Move your chin upwards fifteen degrees along the vertical axis, back to the centre, down through fifteen degrees then back to the centre – a positive affirmation in a non-linguistic context
5) Mai ow crap – it means “No Thank you” in Thai. If you are female say “ka” instead of “crap” (Yes Thai men do walk round saying “crap” all the time. Stop giggling at the back)
6) Mai Pen Rai – it means it doesn’t matter
7) F**k off – catch all phrase which can be used if item “5” on the “Don’t Take” list has found it’s way into your hand luggage. Also comes in handy if you miss packed item “2” on the “Don’t Take” list thinking it was item “2” on the “Take” list, and have been taken to a jewellery store where you can make a fortune buying discounted emeralds.
Thai people differ greatly from Westerners. They’re nice. Nothing is too much trouble. I suppose I should explain the list. Thailand is a chaotic place. The idea of planning isn’t something they’re comfortable with. We’re starting to get the picture. In the West you’ll have got used to things happening within five or ten minutes of when you expect them to. Thailand is similar just replace the word “minute” with the word “hour” or possibly “day”. Now lets run through a few scenarios:
Yesterday you booked into “Smiling Guesthouse/Internet Cafe/Massage Parlour (traditional of course)/Restaurant/Travel Agent/Laundrette/Motorcycle Repair Shop” and paid the handsome sum of $5.50 US to spend the night in the room where “Ducky” from “The Beach” killed himself (it’s true you can still see the bloodstains). You also booked onto a “Luxury Air Conditioned Coach” to Surat Thani for $10 US. From there you will catch the ferry to Kho Samui or Kho Pha Ngan. The coach is due to leave at 10 am.
Today you’ve woken up. You have a cold shower (good for the soul) dress and go and wait for the “Luxury Air Conditioned Coach”.
It’s 09:55, you have an American Breakfast (it’s good to get into the customs of a country) and wait. Some other people with back packs turn up.
It’s 10:25. You ask the Lady in the apron you bought the ticket off for the coach, who served you your breakfast after fixing the Internet connection where the bus is.
“Is coming soon” she smiles.
10:55 a 15-year-old Toyota Hi Ace pulls up. It only has one headlight. The rear bumper is held on with blue string, it has a large “Manchester United” sticker in the back window. One of the rear tyres is almost flat and one of the front ones looks like it was stolen from a handcart. The people with rucksacks jam themselves into the vehicle. You go for a slash. When you return the vehicle is trundling off in a large black cloud of diesel smoke.
The lady you bought the ticket from sees you laughs uncontrollably points at the vehicle through the smoke and says, “You miss bus.”
Take item “1” from the “Take” list. Use it as genuinely as is physically possible. Make sure item “5” from the don’t take list doesn’t rear it’s ugly head and use item “6” from “Appendix b”.
You have established that no refund is available. Your ticket is valid for tomorrow. You have decided to stay another night. Have a walk round. The traffic is very busy. You become thirsty. Ensure that item “5” from the take list is fitted and functional. Sit in a bar and try some of the local beer Singha is very good. Once you’ve tried seven of them try a Beer Chang or 6, then move on to the Mekong the Thai’s call it a whisky (but is technically a rum for all you grog snobs out there).
Walk around in the sun. Come very close to being killed by a scooter. Use item “1” from the “take” list liberally. It must be pointed out that failure to fit item “5” from the take list correctly will seriously interfere with function of item “6” on the take list and may lead to item “2” on the “Don’t Take” list creeping up on you.
You wake up the next day having misplaced item “6” from the take list. You check your rucksack again. You look at your watch it’s 11:45 am and realise your “Luxury Air Con” has left again without you. Stroll downstairs for breakfast.
Scenario 3 Run back to your room. Unfortunately you brought item “1” from the “Don’t Take” list and it has been torn from your back and stamped on by a family of laughing Thais. Say to your self, “Fuck this for a game of soldiers”. Get a taxi to the airport and pay $130 US for a flight to Kho Samui that afternoon. Whilst on the plane use item “3” from the “take” list while wondering if it is possible to catch Aids when using a condom and mulling over that article you saw on the telly about a plane crashing at Samui Airport killing all but two of the passengers.
The pedantic among you may notice that item “3” on the “Don’t Take List” also appears on the “Take” list. Paranoia can save your life and also ruin it. I believe there are different brands available in the west. If you can only find a brand which must be fitted like a steel plate in your knee and can’t be removed don’t bother. If however you can find a brand similar to Bic Razors, which can be used once and thrown away this is ideal. Carry it with you at all times.
Once you’ve got to Kho Pha Ngan. If someone stops you in the street and offers you something/anything grab item “3” quickly out of your pocket and wave it at them in conjunction with item “7” from “Appendix b”. If your dancing away at the Full Moon Party and your vision has become distorted after a shake, try and get one of your friends to look after “item 3” for you.
Enjoy your trip!