Arriving in Phuket after a month-long stay in the little village of Home of Hope Malawi, Africa, I had my sights set on relaxing in a pool, washing my hair in a proper shower and replenishing my clothes after leaving most of them behind. I did get to all of this, but my experience of Phuket as an exotic holiday destination was somewhat overshadowed by the severe take over by Australian tourists. Most people complain about the Thai locals being to pushy or getting ripped off in Phuket. My biggest complaint was that there were to many Australians ruining Phuket.
I had arrived in what was coincidentally the first week of winter school holidays in Australia, so the place was packed with Australian families and couples escaping the mild winter weather of home, for the hot and humid conditions of Phuket. They were there to stay in 5 star hotels, shop for designer knock offs, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, eat anywhere that didn’t serve local food, have their hair done into hundreds of little braids and enjoy cheap massages. I sat around the pool reading, indulging myself in a moment of inner reflection on my experiences in Africa. Of being one of only three white people in a hundred kilometre radius out at Mchinji, to now being surrounded by Australians everywhere. Their complaints breaking through my thoughts, as the water in the pool was too warm. Kids complained to parents about items they still hadn’t bought while shopping and boyfriends complained to girlfriends about the lack of tomato sauce to cover the Thai food they were sick of eating.
I couldn’t relate to any of this. It was irritating me, listening to the trivial dribble coming out of their mouths, the lack of understanding or open-mindedness to new adventure and culture. Why didn’t they just stay at home or at least go on holidays on the Gold Coast? Then it dawned on me that for these travellers, this was stepping outside their comfort zone. They were being adventurous. Now, instead of feeling irritated by them, I just felt sad for them. After my relatively short stint living in the middle of next to nowhere in Africa, with its lack of communication to the outside world and continually power outages, I’d lost some of my understanding for Western world problems and attitudes. I was struggling to comprehend the people I had grown up around and lived with my whole life, other Australians. At dinner one night, the family at the table next to me, leaned over to ask if I was by myself. They were perplexed as to why I would be travelling alone, where was my boyfriend/husband? I gave them a brief run down of my travels so far. The look of disbelief was quite funny. As they were having a similar reaction to the one I’d had earlier by the pool. To them coming to Thailand was adventurous, so attempting to comprehend the places I’d travelled and the experiences I’d had, was mind-boggling. I stopped feeling sad for them and all the other Australian tourists I’d seen in Phuket. I realised that in a way I was like them. I was a person in a foreign country just living out my adventure, just like they were.