Belligerent. Noisy. Rude. These are some of the accusations that are often levelled at tourists from the People’s Republic of China (PRC) – particularly by Thais where some nine million, or about a quarter of all forecast 2017 inbound arrivals, are expected to visit this year.
With Chinese workers flexing their economic muscle as the country continues to cement its place as one of the world’s economic (and political) powerhouses, the number of tourists from China has also spiked, with many choosing nearby Asean countries as destinations due to their affordability and relative closeness.
However, the surge in Chinese tourists numbers has generated a backlash among some Asean citizens, especially from those living within close proximity of tourist attractions, as well as frequent-flyers who are most likely to bump into a groups of Chinese tourists dutifully following a guide with a flag or plush toy dangling from an extended pole.
Particularly vocal in complaining about the behaviour of Chinese tourists have been Thai netizens, whose stinging, scathing, and judgmental vitriol knows no limits.
From an underwear-drying incident in Chiang Mai in 2015, to a Thai AirAsia flight that had to perform an emergency landing after one of its flight attendants had her face scalded with boiling water by two Chinese tourists – one of who then threatened to blow up the plane – to more recent video of a throng of Chinese tourists stripping a prawn buffet bare faster than a plague of locusts descending on a corn field, Thai netizens have held little back when venting their self-righteous spleens at their Chinese guests.
Thais lose the moral high-ground
Now the shoe is on the other foot, with Thais no longer able to attempt to claim the moral high-ground over which country has the better class of tourists.
During the week video emerged of a group of Thai tourists behaving badly at the world-famous Yellowstone National Park in the United States.
Originally uploaded to YouTube by a ‘Jeff H’, the video was viewed more than 400,000 times before it was removed. However, almost immediately after its removal it was back on line again, with its second posting already garnering more than 349,000 views.
The narrative included with the video, presumably by ‘Jeff H’, says that it was recorded on July 27 at a point near the Fairy Falls trailhead (sic), and that the person who shot the clip was guiding some guests from South America through the park.
The video starts showing a group of people trampling around the edge of a geothermal feature in the park, taking photos, and testing the water temperature.
After being yelled at by a voice from off camera – presumably ‘Jeff H’ – and told to “get out of there”, most of the people, including at least one visible Caucasian, leave. A small group of what are identified later as Thai tourists, remain.
The video continues to record the Thai tourists antics, including stepping right to the edge of the hot pool, and more members of the group joining the others for a photo.
The woman at the centre of the video says she knows she shouldn’t be in the area, “but I want to”. She then laughs. An older woman with the group holds both hands up and makes a V -shape with her fingers, which she then waves while saying “from Thailand”.
A male member with the group then approaches the cameraman and after admitting that he knew they shouldn’t be around the edge of the thermal pool, attempts to intimidate him to “delete, delete” the video.
Others from the Thai tourist group attempt to intimidate him by taking his photo, while the audio and a blurred finger indicate that one of the Thai tourists attempted to grab the phone.
According to information posted at the end of the video the group of Thai tourists again attempted to intimidate ‘Jeff H’ when we passed them on the way out of the park a short time later, by which time National Park Service employees and law enforcement authorities were already en-route.
Thai netizens launch hunt
The video kicked off a fire storm in Thailand where the countries netizens wasted little time mounting an internet search to try an identify the Thai tourists in the video. The laughing woman was quickly identified by Thailand Channel 3 as Anna Orawan, a Thai national residing in Los Angeles. Thai chat forums have been ablaze since.
While Ms Orawan might defend her actions by saying “other people have done it”, she perhaps should reflect on what has happened to some of those people.
On June 7, 2016, 23-year-old Colin Nathaniel Scott of Portland, Oregon, slipped on the edge of the Norris Geyers Basin and fell into the 93C (about 200F) water. The next day when emergency services personnel went to retrieve the body they were unable to find any human remains. Mr Scott had been dissolved by the acidic, hot water.
Earlier this year a group of Canadians were convicted on multiple charges for breaching national parks’ rules. The one member of the group convicted on the single charge of foot travel in a thermal area was required to pay more than $3,500.00 in fines, restitution, community service, and fees, in addition to being banned from public lands managed by the US Department of Interior, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the US Army Corps of Engineers for five years.
The next time a Chinese tourists needs to change clothes in an airport rest room, or do some laundry between destinations, Thai netizens might be best advised to mutter mai pen rai (lit. no problem, not an issue) rather than attempting to claim any moral high ground.
Update: This story was last updated at 09:50 on August 20, 2017:
As a result of the Thai netizens online witch hunt using, among others, a Facebook fanpage titled ‘Social Hunter1‘, the identities and social media accounts of those involved were soon identified and shared across Thai social media sites.
In a video statement Nukool Moolchot, believed to be the man making the intimidatory gestures in the video above, says on behalf of the others in the group: “I take all the blame and would not excuse myself from the blame.
“Our acts were done without prudence and wisdom and have resulted in negative images for the country.”
Local media also reported that two other women in the group identified as ‘Anna’ and ‘Jenny’ had posted their own video expressing egret for their actions and the shame it had brought to Thai people.
A spokesperson for the US National Parks Service was not able to be contacted for comment over the weekend as the national office was closed.
Featured video: Dude inAsia
- What’s Really Behind Thailand’s Hostility to Chinese Tourists? (South China Morning Post)
- Chinese tourists pig out at buffet in Thailand, criticized as wasteful (TomoNews)
- Gruesome hot spring death highlights problem of tourists breaking the rules at Yellowstone (Los Angeles Times)