During the Full Moon Party on the Thai island of Koh Phangyan, seemingly intelligent twenty-somethings jump into a skipping rope made of fire. For absolutely no reason. In fact, all travellers, from loose-trousered European liberals to lads on tour, tend to agree that things which seem life threatening when at home are an essential part of going native when abroad. Seven children on a moped with the family dog in tow becomes a symbol of an easy, carefree lifestyle away from the overbearing nanny state. Couples will happily tow their three-year old around barefoot in a 40 degree meat market, while anxiously checking for E numbers at home. Backpackers down a bottle of home brewed whisky before going for a land rover trek to a magic mushroom bar, but tremble at the thought of cycling in London. Plaintively citing the tired complaint of extreme European health and safety regulations, many feel that travelling is the time to take some risks. Obviously; that’s why we go.
There are some things, however, that are blatantly stupid in any culture. If the locals do it, chances are it’s because they have no other option. If in doubt, imagine your gravestone; “Died from heat exhaustion after seven rum buckets, RIP” may cause awkward scenes at your funeral. Here are the main culprits:
Much like the ability to attract the opposite sex, many assume that tolerance to alcohol is hugely increased by crossing a border. This is never true. Even less so because it turns you into a pissed, sweaty target of a tourist who is as likely to fall off a cliff while dancing creatively to ABBA as pay £20 for a five minute cab fare. Basically, drinking five times more than you usually do at home makes you into a prize idiot, while sticking with your usual habits makes you have fun. What also needs to be taken into account is that alcohol abroad is not as nicely regulated as it is in Europe. Last year, villagers outside Siem Reap dropped like flies from a poisoned rice wine, while tourists in the Balkans had a particularly unsavoury end to their life engineered by raki made of pure ethanol. Essentially, avoid drinking clear liquids from old coke bottles, and you should be fine.
Earlier this month, the Phnom Penh Post produced an illuminating report into the three main causes of death among Cambodians. These were named as ghosts, love and helmetlessness respectively. Spirits and affairs aside, riding a scooter with your hair blowing attractively in the wind is a particularly effective way to increase your chance of a horrible death. This is especially true if prior to arrival, the closest contact you’d had with a motorbike was watching Easy Rider. If you think Hells Angels are scary, and can only drive an automatic, there is categorically no chance you will be able to ride a 250cc motorbike straight off the bat. Particularly in a country where road safety simply involves swerving out the way of whoever’s going faster. Wear a helmet, and at least you’ll be able to consider your mistakes as your leg is being amputated.
When travelling to tropical countries, most Europeans aim to up their suaveness by getting bronzed. Full of hope, they run from their beach huts to fry pallid skin into submission. Suncream, after all, is only for when it gets above 20 degrees in Milton Keynes. At best, they end up burnt and sweaty, at worst, they get heat stroke. This is a singularly unpleasant condition, where you lie shivering and perspiring on the floor for hours as some unfortunate soul is charged with pouring water on you. You then spend the next few days simultaneously freezing and acutely burning under a wet towel in your room. At least though, this outbreak of stupidity will only affect you. Parents of all nationalities often seem to completely lose it as soon as they board a plane. All of the carefully accrued knowledge from ‘Health and your Toddler’ disappears during check-in, meaning that after landing they happily leave a two year old in the burning sun covered in baby oil with only some raw shrimp to snack on. This is not a good idea. Put a large hat on them, and they will at least live.