characteristics of local residents (53%). Accord-
ing to backpackers, these characteristics have a
positive infl uence on their self-identity. The
most infl uential local characteristics are 'learn-
ing to be patient', 'learning to trust other people'
and 'learning how to view life optimistically'.
Other characteristics that are typical of Pai peo-
ple, including enduring the harshness of life,
relationships within the community, and the
variety of ethics and tribes, were not identifi ed
by backpackers. Eight backpackers (27%) men-
tioned that they had generally learnt the local
way of life, although the context in which the
participant viewed the local way of life was dif-
ferent depending on the individual's point of
view. It seems that backpackers generalized that
the major difference between their own society
and Pai society was the typical local way of life.
Besides learning local traits, ten backpackers
(30%) stated that they had learnt the Thai
language from the host society in order to
overcome language barrier problems and to ful-
fi l a personal lifelong dream. Participants (13%)
also noted that they had learnt local wisdoms
such as local herbal remedy, Thai massage and
Buddhism. No backpackers acknowledged the
Pai traditional craft works like woodcraft tech-
niques, domestic utensils, local tobacco made
from banana leaves and hand-made textiles
One participant considered a non-Thai cultural
experience in Pai as their participation in the
culture, 'I am going to do the drumming on
Wednesday . . . like a drumming session . . .'
(which is African culture).
This raises a question that requires exami-
nation in the future: should the international
cultural experience be the new type of back-
packer-oriented service? It has generally been
assumed that backpackers travel to new destina-
tions to experience and learn about local culture
originating from that area. It is ironic that the
number of international activities is rapidly
increasing in backpacker destinations. This sup-
ports Cohen's (2006) assertion that backpackers
are always catered for with backpacker-oriented
services. This is a consequence of what Cohen
(2006) has called 'the backpacker boom'.
Eight backpackers (27%) stated that they
had never participated in events, particularly
cultural and religious events. Of the 30 back-
packers, only one believed he had an excellent
level of participation in local traditions and cer-
emonies. He was also one of the three back-
packers who claimed to have experienced
socio-cultural immersion in Pai. The high level
of participation by this backpacker could be the
consequence of two factors. First, this back-
packer's father was married to a Lisu woman.
Second, this backpacker had been staying in
Pai a long time and decided to reside in a rental
house, rather than a guesthouse. Because of
these factors, he may have had greater opportu-
nities to attend local events and to have a
deeper level of understanding.
Degree of participation in local festivals
Since the 1900s, Pai has hosted a variety of
local annual events (Pai District Offi ce, 2005).
Almost every month, Pai offers a variety of local
festivals and still maintains the long-standing Tai
Yai and Thai Lanna festivals. The results of this
study suggested that backpackers only 'gaze'
at the local events. Many backpackers (47%)
used the terms to 'see' or to 'watch' when describ-
ing the nature of their participation. Backpack-
ers could not provide detailed information
about the festival that they had attended. For
example, backpackers could not remember
the name of the festival. No backpackers could
recall a Pai-based cultural element, as distinct
from typical Thai culture. Arguably, the increased
number of international cultural events in Pai
confuses backpackers' perception of local events.
Degree of immersion overall
Lastly, backpackers were requested to evaluate
their degree of social and cultural immersion in
Pai. They were asked directly, 'Do you consider
yourself immersed in Pai society and culture?'
There were three groups of answers - 'yes, I
have immersed in Pai society already', 'no, not
immersed yet', and 'I don't know'. Of the 30
backpackers, there were only three backpackers
who identifi ed themselves as immersed in Pai
society and culture. These backpackers believed
that immersion comprises of a familiarity with the
community and being accepted as a community