Verfasst von: rbontour | Januar 8, 2011

Too Much Tourism In Thailand??

We really love Thailand, the people and the culture, but we are not traveling blindly and we realized, that there is a special kind of tourism or some unique types of travelers, who can also have a negative impact on how you perceive a country. From 2003, we remember it as a hidden gem, amazing islands with secluded beaches, people smiled all the time, in some parts of the South Province we were still a Caucasian attraction for locals in more remote villages and the roads were quite bad in comparison to today (just FYI, we drove on4-lane highways this time). Yes, there were also many other tourists visiting back then, but it was bearable and there were still many beach stretches with no hotels or restaurants.

Actually, Thailand experienced less tourism due to the riots in Bangkok last year (anti-government demonstrations demanding to dissolve Parliament, calling new elections). However, when we arrived shortly before Christmas, the South was being overrun by visitors. We only noticed this in Kao Lak and on Koh Lanta, one of the many islands scattered in the warm waters of the Andaman Sea, and we heard from other people that some of our treasured places (Kho Phi Phi, Samui and Kho Tao) were also crowded and not as laid back as they used to be.

Bavarian Bratwurscht in Asia
Don’t get us wrong – tourism is a very important income source for Thailand’s economy (approx. 6% to 7% of GDP). It’s not a bad thing! In fact, it’s wonderful when people have the chance to travel to other nations, experience different traditions and, in essence, connect with the world. In Thailand, though, we had the feeling that the majority of tourists don’t travel for having any cultural experiences. Most of these tourists were Europeans, mainly Germans and also Scandinavians. We felt like at home as sometimes we were only surrounded by German speakers. And the crazy thing – you’ll see tons of German businesses in the touristy areas: German butchers, shops selling homemade German ice-cream (and we always thought Italians are well-known for their ice-cream… interesting!!), Bratwurscht places, Biergardens, German bakeries, Wiener Schnitzel on a “Thai” restaurant’s menu, and, and, and. The weird thing: it’s not the locals you see sitting in these places. It’s Germans, who go there frequently during their holiday.

Is it that our folks can’t survive without their ‘Bratwurscht’ for 2 weeks a year? We have no idea and really, we don’t want to make Germans look bad, but it’s just what we observed. It would be sad if Thailand ends up a pure drinking destination like Mallorca’s “Ballermann”. Of course, not every traveler was like this. And we ourselves have been in Bavarian places in New Zealand/Australia as you know. Still, we feel there is a difference – we are on the road for almost a year and we haven’t lived in our home country for quite a few years.

Fact: Too much tourism definitely changes a country, its people and sometimes maybe even traditions. Thailand’s beauty is incredible, but many ‘package tourists’ just don’t care about leaving rubbish behind wherever they go. They come to a country for a short time and they want to have fun without feeling any form of responsibility. They are not interested in local customs and they don’t want to experience local food specialties.

We also realized that increasing tourism has resulted in fewer opportunities to bargain about something in Thailand. Prices are relatively high for SE Asian conditions and negotiating a day trip, a motorbike rental rate or a hotel room rate is not as easy as we remember it.

That things changed was also visible in our communication with locals. Many of them appeared to be a little annoyed by visitors. Well, but at some point we understand them. Dealing with the typical ‘beer-belly-tourists’ day in and day out can be challenging. These guys can get obnoxious, very demanding, dominating and even rude.

Luckily, some things didn’t change
If you look closer, some things luckily didn’t change and we still were able to spot some old Asian culture with traditional customs. And… we loved it!

  • The way most Thais greet you – with a smile, a bow, a palms together gesture and a friendly “Sawadi ka” – is still the same. It’s such a pleasant, warm and welcoming way to say “Hello”.
  • Shoe piles outside stores and other buildings or even when you enter the post office. Thais take off their shoes and it’s a sign of disrespect if you don’t do so.
  • Golden portraits of King Rama IX, the country’s figurehead, are still present in most stores and homes. The deeply admired monarch is even placed on billboards.
  • The majority of the population is Buddhists. Temples serve as a spiritual home, the Thai person’s first home. The family house takes the second place. It’s wonderful to see the small shrines or Buddha statues in front of Thai homes.
  • Many locals still use scooters as their major way of transportation; no matter how old they are. You often see 3, 4 and up to 5 people pile up on a scooter. Of course, no helmets. It’s not mandatory in Thailand. Believe us, it’s an interesting sight! You can also see moms holding their cute babies in one hand while driving or grannies with their entire kitchen in front of them and behind them. Note: The picture below was taken by other travelers… we were never so fast and reactive with our own camera!
  • … and what should not be forgotten. The Thai kitchen didn’t change. It’s still as incredible as in our memories.
    (Dear Gina, we’ve tried all of your recommended dishes… culinary delights! Whenever we come back to CT, we have to go to that Thai restaurant together… no excuses! :-))

Well, that’s it for now in Thailand. After we received our Visa for Myanmar/Burma in Bangkok yesterday (spending two afternoons in a crowded, sticky and hot embassy), we are off to Yangon (formerly Rangoon) this afternoon. Ohhh, and we are more excited than ever!! Still, we want to return right afterwards as we have never seen the beautiful North of Thailand (Chiang Mai/Chiang Rai area).


  1. Liebe Brigitte und lieber Robert, it is very exciting for us to read this report and at the same time knowing you are in Burma already and having most probably great and interesting experiences. Looks like Thailand has changed…..and the Germans are getting more 🙂 …..yes maybe Germany has changed as well as you have been not there since a long time. I like your checklist about Thailand at the end… I wish you great excitement in Burma/Myanmar, love Dad

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