Archive for August, 2009

22. Scooter accidents

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

Something didn’t seem all that safe about renting a two-wheeled motorized vehicle to cruise around on, for five dollars a day*, with no prior training or experience in operating such vehicles. Often tourists to hot destinations ride scooters with no helmet** while wearing shorts, a tank top and flip-flops. Most backpackers, being broke, forgo travel insurance*** as well.

scooter2bSo it should come as no surprise that The Times (UK) reported last week (Aug. 25) that motorbike accidents are the main reason why Thailand is the deadliest holiday destination for Britons. Out of an estimated 860,000 British tourists who visited Thailand last year, 269 were killed, according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The majority of the 324 reported hospitalizations in Thailand were due to motorbike accidents, the FCO added, noting actual numbers are probably higher.

*About road worthiness: “Some vehicles are not road worthy. The FCO says that many of the motorcycles and scooters that are available for hire in beach resorts are unregistered and cannot legally be driven on a public road. This could invalidate any travel insurance policy should the driver wish to make a claim.”

**About helmets: “The Thai law that states safety helmets must be worn is widely ignored according to the FCO, which contributes to the high number of deaths each year. On average 38 people a day die in motorcycle accidents in Thailand.”

***About travel insurance: “The (FCO)  report found that financial pressures are causing many British holidaymakers to forgo travel insurance in a bid to save money.”

A few other reasons why scooter accidents are so common among backpackers, especially in Thailand:
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  • Limited experience. A couple of years ago, I was in Ko Chang and my friends and I were about to rent scooters. The scooter rental shop was near the beach, a short walk from the town. As we arrived at the turnoff of the main road, a British guy and his girlfriend were driving toward us, also turning in. The guy slowed down and turned in without a problem. The girl slowed down, began turning and immediately sped up, lost control and smashed into a pile of construction debris – aluminum siding, scrap wood and metal. It would have been hilarious if the girl hadn’t been shrieking with her foot cut open (she was wearing flip-flops), leaking blood all over the metal, sand and grass. The problem was clear: Not knowing how to drive the scooter, she accidentally hit the gas instead of braking, panicked and revved into the garbage pile.
  • Gravelly, dusty roads. I was in Bali with a bunch of Chilean guys I’d met and we were ripping all over the island on scooters (see video). All was well until, in a hurry to catch the sunset at Uluwatu, I took a gravelly corner too fast and bam! I wiped out, scraping up my palms pretty badly. I had to drive to a nearby clinic, blood running down my wrists, where a nurse scrubbed my wounds with hydrogen peroxide and used tweezers to remove pebbles from the flesh of my palms. Good times. 
  • Sheer cliffs and mountainsides. Driving a scooter on winding, narrow roads, devoid of guardrails, makes one wonder how many backpackers have lost control, fallen down slopes and died (see above statistics).
  • Wildlife. Monkeys and elephants pop up at any time.
  • Garbage. Garbage litters the roadsides.
  • Unyielding local drivers. People don’t care if you’re “farang.” Get out of their way.
  • Unyielding local driving habits. In many developing world countries, red lights are often considered optional. Proceed with caution.
  • Alcohol and recreational drug use. ‘Nuff said.
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Backpacking in the News

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Link to article: British backpackers plead guilty to insurance fraud in Brazil

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Two British backpackers, Shanti Andrews and Rebecca Turner, have pleaded guilty to insurance fraud in a Brazilian court after admitting they misled police about being robbed while on a round-the-world trip. (Source: Telegraph.co.uk)

As you can see, just another couple of Female Backpacker Type As doing their thang. Lookin’ pretty wubes, too.

I told you guys my ESP was kickin’ in.

Aug. 21 – Here’s a link to the follow-up article: British backpackers could spend months performing community service in Brazil

Aug. 25 – These bitches won’t quit: British backpackers in false robbery claim appeal conviction

Dec. 19 – In the end, just as it happened for O.J., shoddy police work gets them off: Jailed British backpackers acquitted of fraud conviction

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21. Female Backpacker Type A

Sunday, August 16th, 2009

Female Backacker Type A is a proud species. She’s a major overcompensator who goes to great lengths to be cool. She tries to be one of the dudes, and in many cases, she is. So in her defence, at least she knows how to have a good time.

She’s a party animal. She’s crude. She’s promiscuous. She pretends to not give a shit about her appearance or she goes halfway with it. For example, her clothes are tattered but she makes enough of an effort to shave her armpits and wear eye make-up. She used to be hot in high school, but she has since developed a fat ass and cankles, which is why so many guys are on the fence about hooking up with her: Her face is cute, but her body is a train wreck, mostly because she parties too damn much (see 20. Getting “wubes”). She wears baggy cargo shorts, birks, hemp jewelry, wifebeaters and sometimes rocks the dreads. She has tattoos and a few piercings. Cute face, though.

female-backpacker-type-a2If I were to cast her in a movie, I’d choose somebody like Pink or Minnie Driver.

The thing that annoys me the most about Female Backpacker Type A is that she’s a blatant chameleon: She will self-transform to blend into any social situation and be accepted like everybody else. If The Gibbon Experience is perceived as the hip, edgy eco-tourism activity du jour, she is all over it. She’s out there promoting it like it’s the best thing since sliced bread, because  nobody knows about it (you find out later they’re booked solid for the next four months so, in actuality, everybody DOES know about it).

She’s so adventurous. If you want to know how adventurous, just ask her. She’ll cannonball off a cliff with reckless abandon, just like the fellas. She’d love to tell you about it because she’s a prolific feemou. She’s such a one-upper (see Kristen Wiig’s SNL character, Penelope), that regardless of the topic of conversation, she has something to add, relative to her own superior experience. But it’s all a facade. She’s bought into every cliche in the Backpacker’s Bible, not because she believes it, but because she thinks people will like her more if she does. A true chameleon.

I really shouldn’t complain because I’m all for women’s rights and Female Backpacker Type A is in many ways the prototype for the independent woman in 2009**. I think the bicep flexing WWII-era lady with the red polka-dot bandana was that generation’s Female Backpacker Type A. I’ve previously written that backpacking, like comic flatulence, is more of a guy’s thing, which is why hot chicks don’t do it (see 3. Where are the Hot Girls?). Well, Female Backpacker Type A is unafraid to rip a nasty fart. So, maybe I’m wrong and she actually doesn’t care what people think. If that’s the case, then you go girl.

“Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry.” – Gloria Steinem

“Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female — whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male.” – Simone de Beauvoir

“Men are not the enemy, but the fellow victims. The real enemy is women’s denigration of themselves.” – Betty Friedan

** My ESP must really be kickin’ in today: NY Times article about Female Soldiers.

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20. Getting “wubes”

Monday, August 10th, 2009

I mean I’m a big eater to begin with. That’s not a beenou. It’s a problem. I don’t have a primo metabolism anymore. That about ended at 16. I’m more of an Oprah type now — a major weight fluctuator. If I don’t do cardio, I’m in big trouble. The love handles and double chin come out and then it all starts to unravel.

That’s why traveling does a number on my body. “Wubes” is short for W.U.B.A.R. (Washed Up Beyond Any Recognition), which at my age works on so many levels: athletic ability (used to be deece at basketball, beenou — now I can barely get off the ground), party stamina (I’m old — I can’t drink all day and stay up past midnight like I did at 21), scoring game (I can admit it), the list goes on. But when it comes to overall physical fitness, however, backpacking makes me wubes.

drinking-on-the-beach2I know I’m not alone here. Every fit girl I know that spent a year in Australia came back fat. No joke. One hundred percent of ’em. “OMG the partying over there is insane. And like, after the bar, we like all go and eat kebabs, Tim Tams and these weird meat pies.” Yeah, no shit, I can tell. You’re looking wubes. Don’t worry, I know what it’s like.

Here are a few reasons backpacking makes you wubes:

1. Heavy boozing. After spending the entire day sightseeing, hiking, or even just lying on the beach, everybody is in the mood to party. You’re on vacation, so you might as well have a few drinks. Even when you plan on taking it easy, a few drinks quickly turn into a wild night. Soon enough, you’re absolutely lit. And you do this five nights a week. If you’re over 21 with an average or less metabolic rate, the calories quickly add up.

2. Unhealthy eating. It’s not just the drunken eats that get you. You’re in a foreign country, so you always have the excuse of trying some local fare. No matter that you’re on a 17-day bender and haven’t done any physical activity (apart from masturbating in the hostel shower) in months, you simply HAVE to try the deep-fried pork hocks. It’s a local delicacy, so fuck it — you’re on vacation.

3. Sleeping irregularly. You try sleeping on a bus or train that may or may not be going to the right town (which you can’t pronounce, in a language you don’t speak) next to people whose feet stink and who have no concept of Western personal space. And when you arrive at 3 a.m. you need to wake up, pick up your heavy backpack, find something (unhealthy) to eat and figure out why you’re in the wrong town. And when you are in the right town, you eventually lock into the sightseeing-by-day, partying-by-night routine anyway, so there goes the quality shut eye. Oh and you have to rush to the airport tomorrow at 4 a.m., too.

4. No exercise. I hate  guys that try to work out while backpacking. Some might argue that surfing should be considered an exception. I suck at surfing. Surfing is fucking difficult. I hate surfers too, mostly because they’re way cooler than me, jacked and get more vibes. They also wear white sunglasses, so whatever. I don’t really want to be the guy doing push-ups and sit-ups on the hostel floor, either. Others would insist that all the daytime sightseeing/hiking/biking/[insert eco-tourism activity here]/etc. is sufficient exercise, but it’s not when you’re eating fatty delicacies at every turn, boozing all night and sleeping irregularly.

5. Smoking and drug use. I don’t smoke while at home; I smoke when I travel. There’s so much idle time spent waiting in line for tickets, hostels, information, currency, food, vehicles… Smoking helps pass the time. And did I mention you’re boozing non-stop? From my experience, smoking accompanies boozing fairly well. As for drugs, well, suffice it to say that nobody is as experimental as when they’re backpacking.

6. Stress. See #3. Backpacking can be extremely stressful: constant travel, visa acquisition, sexual frustration, perpetual hangovers, tight budgets, douchebag/thief aversion, and unexpected catastrophes can get to a person. Whoever said the journey is more important than the destination clearly never went backpacking.

If you’re able to stay trim while on a hardcore backpacking trip, please share your secret. As long as it doesn’t require me to stay sober, watch my diet, go to bed early, or work out, I may give it a shot.

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19. Coming Home with a Lame Accent

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

I’m happy for you that you had a good time in Australia, but do you really have to ask me “How are you going, mate?” every time you see me now? I respond better to variations of  “What’s up?” or “How’s it going?” or even “How are you doing, bro/buddy/friend?”

It’s not “no worries,” it’s no problem. And when you say thank you or you’re welcome, just say it. None of this “cheers” stuff. “Cheers mate,” is even worse.

You’re not Australian. It’s not cute. You sound ridiculous.

You’re not English either, even though you did a semester abroad in Leeds. Quit calling your apartment your “flat,” your roommates “flatmates,” dudes “blokes,” and trying to use some semblance of Cockney slang. You don’t sound cool like The Streets or the guys on Lock Stock.

It’s cool or awesome, not “brilliant!!” That chick is ugly, not “mingin.” And when you get takeout it’s takeout. Quit calling it “takeaway,” you pretentious prick.

It’s just because  it’s English that people think they can get away with it. You don’t see people coming back from internships in South America or France and carelessly speaking to their friends back home in Spanish or French.  There’s a reason for that. If they did, people would just stare at them blankly like they’re some kind of freak, and rightfully so.

People who drove overseas on the left side of the road for an extended period of time don’t come home and unintentionally veer into oncoming traffic. Please refrain from pulling a linguistic James Bond behind the wheel with me.

You’re from here. Cut the crap. You’re not a charming alien. It’s OK. Tell us the stories, show us the photos, but please leave the accent where you found it. It belongs to actual charming aliens.

You’re not “taking the piss out of” me, you’re making fun of/mocking/fucking with me.

Also, don’t beenou to us whimsically about places we’ve never heard of or stores we’ve never shopped in in foreign countries we’ve never visited. We don’t give a shit (see 4. Nobody Gives a S#%&). All of these things require explanations. Tell me “Boots” is like “Shoppers Drug Mart” or “Walgreens” before you carry on with some banal anecdote, complete with senseless tangents, about a typical day for you in England.

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