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The successful, low-budget Chinese comedy Lost in Thailand has lured tens of thousands of Chinese tourists to Chiang Mai, but they left locals in Thailand’s historic and culturally rich northern city complaining.
After seeing a record number of Chinese tourists over the Lunar New Year holiday, some locals described what they experienced as “cultural clashes”, others simply found the visitors' behaviour disturbing and rude.
In a Letter to Editor published in Thailand’s English daily The Nation, Lamphun resident Vint Chavala wrote:
[Chinese tourists] tend to drive speedily on the wrong side of the road, and often go against traffic on one-way streets. Chinese tourists also often stop in the middle of busy intersections - just to argue among themselves about directions.Some hotel and guesthouse operators are turning them away because they say Chinese tourists often rent a room for two, but stay overnight in a group of four or five. They also deplore their tendencies to litter and hang their clothing on the balcony railing.
Chavala then went on to urge the Thai government to work with the Chinese consulate to better educate its tourists so Thailand will “thrive” instead of “suffer” from Chinese tourism.
On social network sites and local forums, locals posted more evidence of what they say are offensive acts by the Chinese:
- A tendency to not flush the toilet.
- Flouting traffic laws when driving, riding a bicycle, or parking their car.
- Being loud - even in five-star hotels.
- Littering, spitting, queue-jumping.
- Allowing children to defecate in public pools.
- Terrible English-language skills that lead to difficulties in communication.
Even Chinese people living in Chiang Mai said they found the behaviour of their fellow countrymen shocking and embarrassing.
“In the past I’ve always told people with pride that I am Chinese. I will be reluctant to do that in the future,” wrote one local.
"Please stop bringing shame to our people," wrote another.
Still, more Chinese tourists are bound to visit. The Tourism Authority of Thailand expected more than 1.5 million Chinese to visit by 2014.
Why the increase in visitors? When Chavala asked a Chinese tourist why he came to Chiang Mai, the man in his 30s "stabbed a thumb to his chest and said 'I am rich'."