"Khaosan Road is a gap year tragedy with lots of old men with ponytails that look like Gary Glitter."
Comedian Jack Whitehall’s new show sees him travel across South East Asia – with his 77-year-old dad. Here’s his ultimate guide to the premier gap yah stomping grounds.
The vibe: “Phuket was the nicest bit of the trip. It’s very much like Benidorm. A mix between Benidorm and Ibiza, but in Thailand: a sort of paradise. It feels very touristy, very designer, but quite me.”
What to do: “I really enjoyed the Full Moon Party. It sounds so tragic, but people doing flaming poi in the middle of the party was cool. There’s lots of glow paint that you can never get off.”
What not to do: “I went swimming in the sea like, ‘I’m going to swim round this tranquil and pretty island’, but I got the worst sunstroke and was dragged out. It took me an hour and a half. It was horrendous. It was getting to the point where I thought I was going to be one of those people you read about who drifted to shore three days later.”
The vibe: “Hanoi has an amazing thing where every Sunday night, everyone goes out onto the street in the middle of the city to play games. There are people on stilts, little toy cars and kids travelling around in them. It’s an amazing community experiment – it’s basically what happens when you live in a country where they don’t have Downtown Abbey.”
What to do: “Play the street games! I actually had a Segway race around the main square against a gentleman of restricted height. Is that the politically correct way of saying that?”
What not to do: “Use the roads. You have to pray every time your cross because there are no lights. It’s like Mad Max. I don’t drive so I’m not that aware of other drivers and not very good on the road. I didn’t pass my Cycling Proficiency [Test]. I’m just not a good person to have on the road. To be in control of my dadon the front of a rickshaw onthe roads of Hanoi – it was genuinely scary.”
The vibe: “They’ve basically built Vegas but on the Cambodian border. It’s illegal to gamble in Thailand so the Thais go over. If Blackpool isa tacky Vegas, this is three or four notches below Blackpool. It looks like you’ve travelled back in time to maybe the 1970s. We stayed in the weirdest hotel and my dad’s bathroom had a urinal in it – he did not like that.”
What to do: “We went gambling, which was quite funny. We were trying to film it but all the Thai people were there illegally gambling, so we got shut down quite quickly. I think I lost a fair bit of my dad’s money.”
What not to do: “The food was not good. You go down the market and they’ve got rats and frogs and crickets.I ate a rat when I was there which I still haven’t quite got over. The food market that I went to in Cambodia, I had to run away and throw up in an alleyway. The smells and the stuff… There was a woman with a live frog chopping his head off. It was horrible.”
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DA NANG, VIETNAM
The vibe: “They put lots of floaty lanterns out onto the river which was very pretty. It looks like a set.”
What to do: “I had an amazing bánh mì. And I rented a bike, had a cycle. Bought one of those hats – but that was a mistake, you shouldn’t wear them. It looks silly and disrespectful.”
What not to do: “They had a tax on boats so they build boats that look like a basket to cheat it. It’s completely round; I just ended up being very dizzy and frustrated, so that would be a no-no.”
The vibe: “I wasn’t that big a fan of Bangkok. You’re just in traffic all the time, and it’s a really ugly city, so most of my memories of Bangkok are being sat in a car for hours on end. We went to some quite weird places as well: Khaosan Road is a gap year tragedy with lots of old men with ponytails that look like Gary Glitter, and people thrusting scorpions.
What to do: “Elephant polo – that was good. Quite a pointless sport, but they’re so slow it’s relatively easy to get the hang of it quickly. It’s not the kind of game you can play on a whim in the park though.”
What not to do: “We had quite a depressing afternoon where we went to an Irish bar on Khaosan Road, drinking Guinness and eating chicken out of a basket. It wasn’t actually on the show, but that was quite a low moment. Don’t go to the Irish bar on Khaosan Road and eat chicken out of a basket.”
Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father is on Netflix from September 22