It's hard not to notice that there has been a rather sudden influx of Russian tourists to Thailand. It may be that there are more Russians in Phuket than Bangkok, but this increase is not just my imagination – the Russians are coming.
At the risk of offending my Russian readers – I know that I used to have at least one – I've been thinking about these Russian visitors a lot recently because they're everywhere. You go to any nightclub in Phuket and there will be a group of Russians there dancing until the sun comes up.
They're an interesting bunch, the Russians, but I worry about the reputation that some of their countrymen are earning. I have now lost track of the number of times that I've been told stories about Russian tourists coming to Thailand and wreaking havoc on bars and clubs. Just as Britain and Australia have their lager louts, so Russia has its vodka louts.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has made it clear that it is keen to tap into new markets, such as Russia. TAT's global roadshow touring has already seen an impact on tourism numbers.
One point of interest that I have noticed is that the Russians coming to Thailand have a lot of money. Furthermore, property developers have now cottoned on to this and are beginning to translate their websites into Russian.
I was told by a major property developer that Russians weren't buying property in Thailand before for the simple fact that they couldn't read any of the websites. While there have been Russian girls hanging out at Novotel Siam Square for as long as I can remember, there are now more Russians making their way to Thailand than ever before. There are even Russian clubs and bars beginning to surface.
To any Russian readers, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on what is now attracting you to Thailand. As for everyone else, what have your experiences with the Russian masses been like?
I hope I haven't offended any Russians by writing this.