Unfortunately, too many visitors bring with them their sorrows, tension and antagonism. But instead of benefiting from this relaxed, friendly culture. They act against it ("Damn third world / idiots, These people can be bought, etc."). Sometimes this is more subtle. But none the less, tourism has a beneficial effect on the Thai economy, but generally a negative effect on the people. That is sad both for the tourists that miss out, and on the damage they do to and for others in the future. Many talk about responsible tourism regarding hill-tribe treks, but this should surely apply across the board.
In places like Pattaya and Patong (Phuket). Asian girls and boys (often juveniles) are solicited without cause. Just because Thais can be rented in bars. It is assumed by visiting men that every girl can be bought. What do you think this will ultimately do for the people of Thailand and for visitors? I for one, if ever I hear a tourist solicit a Thai outside of an area for that thing, report them to the tourist police. So far, I have had 3 people arrested and I know at at least one of them was deported, as they solicited a 14 year old in school uniform. And I am not alone in this disgust, so be warned.
Thailand, more than any other country, has taught me about humanity. And this from someone, just the same as many others, who was used to swearing at every driver just because they drive differently then we, and to prejudging people. For example, in my opinion and new experience, the friendliest people in Phuket are the people of Kamala, where I had the pleasure of living for a while. Kamala is a Muslim village, and not a particularly wealthy one for Phuket. And the friendliest, warmest people I have ever met in my entire life, are the people of a really remote Palong (subset of Karen) hill tribe village, who only had electricity run into their village 4 weeks before I visited.
On this subject, if you would like to help the economically poorer Thais, around Nan, Isaan, and the hill tribes. Why not take a large quantity of colored pencils, face paints, pavement chalks and small bouncing balls (a very small quantity of sweets is also OK) when you visit these areas. They also really love things relating to other people's home country, and to be sent copies of the photographs you take. But if you do these great things, please do it graciously. These are rightfully a proud people, and you will do yourself / them no favors if you make a big deal out of it.
A wise man once said, "If you can speak two languages or be a part of two cultures, you will both live two lives and be twice the man." Which also means, if you come to Thailand and embrace their warmth / ways, you will have twice as good a holiday (actually more than twice), trust me. And if (as most westerners are bound to do), come on holiday from that infernal rat race back home. Please leave it at home! As the Thais say to someone upset / unhappy, "Chai Yen Yen" (have a cool heart / be kind / take it easy).
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