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member. A large number of backpackers (23 or
77%) indicated that no matter how interested
they were in a host society, they could not
immerse themselves in the host society for a
number of reasons. An additional four back-
packers (13%) stated that they were not
immersed in the host society at the time they
were interviewed but they may become
immersed if they could improve some aspects of
their travel characteristics.
Largely consistent with Huxley (2004) and
Muzaini's (2006) fi ndings, the three main con-
straints to immersion given by backpackers were
dependence on a foreign community, time limi-
tation and a sense of otherness. The depen-
dence on a foreign community in Pai was
discussed by backpackers regarding the famil-
iarity and convenience when meeting foreign
people, particularly from their own country of
origin. For example, a German backpacker
stated that he was engaging with German trav-
ellers in Pai, exchanging travel stories. Back-
packers also mentioned that the opportunity to
meet local people is rare compared to the
opportunity to meet foreign travellers due to the
increased popularity of Pai as a tourist destina-
tion. This is consistent with the idea of back-
packer communities overseas or what Cohen
(2006) called 'the backpacker enclave'. This
refers to the communities of backpackers that
are loosely constructed by the social interaction
amongst themselves. The backpacker enclave
offers backpacker-oriented services and also
conveniences or activities to enhance backpack-
ers' enjoyment. It is well known that backpacker
enclaves have developed at Khao Sarn Road
in Bangkok as well as several islands in south-
ern Thailand (Cohen, 2006). Pai is increas-
ingly considered as the backpacker enclave of
the north.
Besides the foreign community, backpack-
ers claimed that the limited length of stay meant
that they had less time to 'get to know' the local
people, saying 'It will take a little bit more time.
There are things that are different . . . but . . .
maybe if I live here . . .' [BP15], and, 'Yeah, I
think it took some time to have the feeling that
you belong to here' [BP07]. Furthermore, when
backpackers who had identifi ed time limitations
were asked, 'how much time do you think you
need to immerse into Pai society?', the replies
ranged from a couple of weeks, to one month,
several months, a year, and to be a permanent
Pai resident. As one participant noted, 'Yeah,
the more time, the better' [BP16].
According to Shipway (2000), Slaughter
(2004), Speed and Harrison (2004) and Visser
(2004), international backpacker's length of stay
in one destination ranges from 3 weeks to more
than 6 months. Logically, the longer period of
time a backpacker spends in any one destina-
tion should increase the level of immersion in
that destination. Some backpackers who had
stayed a long time, for instance 18 months, still
did not feel they had immersed in Pai society.
However, the relationship between duration of
stay and greater immersion should not be
neglected as several participants noted they
have noticed that fellow backpackers who per-
manently live in Pai have become immersed in
Pai culture.
Another reason backpackers felt they could
not immerse in Pai society was their perception
of 'strangeness'. Some backpackers sensed
'alienation' during their stay in Pai. There are
two types of alienation: being alienated by race
and being alienated by host-guest relationship.
In terms of racial differences, three backpackers
(10%) noted that they felt like a foreigner within
the host society. Ironically, one backpacker sug-
gested that a solution for this would be that
backpackers have to be born Thai to have a
greater level of immersion in this society.
Another source of backpacker alienation that
exists in Pai society is the host-guest relation-
ship. One backpacker argued that he could not
immerse himself in Pai society because he was a
traveller living in a host destination - hence the
relationship of host and guest creates a social
barrier. Cultural and language barriers were
also discussed in the interviews. A number
of backpackers (10%) experienced diffi culties
communicating, in terms of both language and
cultural background. One backpacker explained
that he had to maintain a distance between
himself and Pai society because, as a back-
packer, it would be hard for him to have a sig-
nifi cant relationship and then have to leave.
These fi ndings suggest that backpackers'
actions within a host society do not correlate
with their expressed desire to immerse them-
selves in the host society. While some backpack-
ers felt that immersion may eventuate with time,
they were quick to give excuses as to why
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