You've just got back from a year / six months / a long weekend in Thailand and you're aching to let the world know about it on your blog site - but the dreaded ‘writer's block' has kicked in. There are an awful lot of Thailand travel blogs out there competing for eyeballs but fear not, I'm here with some suggestions and advice on how to make your efforts stand out from the crowd.
Let's begin with the title because it's a killer title that captures your potential reader's interest. I'm a huge fan of something simple like ‘The Ultimate Guide to Thailand'. That's right, you've written an ‘ultimate guide' to a country that's 198,000 square miles in size and you've done it in eight paragraphs. Has anyone ever told you you're a genius?
Then comes the mental anguish of the opening paragraph - the bane of any writer's life. A well-written opening paragraph will determine whether your reader wants to continue to the bitter end or go back to surfing porn. Just as my pal Frank said that you should never write a blog on Cambodia without making reference to ‘a country slowly awakening from a nightmare' you're seriously missing out if you don't refer to Bangkok as a ‘cosmopolitan melting pot' (a bit like Manchester I suppose) or ‘an assault on the senses' (similar to the feeling you get when you walk along Birmingham's Indian curry mile)
And despite the fact you probably never met my notoriously-hard-to-please grandmother, don't ever overlook the opportunity to use ‘there's something for everyone'.
Yes, I know they are phrases that have been used before but as the nun said to the bishop - "stick it in, you know you want to"
Let's move on to what will be the ‘meat' of your blog and start with the markets. Markets should always be ‘teeming with locals' (who else did you expect them to be teeming with?) and although it's far too early to play the ‘assault on the senses' card again, markets should be full of ‘exotic sights and smells' not to mention ‘vibrant colors'. Markets should also be ‘bustling' and offer a 'myriad of local products'. And when you've had your fill of walking around what feels like a ‘giant outdoor sauna' you can reward yourself with not just a foot massage but a ‘two dollar foot massage'.
You should make several references to ‘friendly, smiling Thai people' especially if you make it down to the islands. This ain't The Land of Smiles for nothing. Don't fret over the fact that the hotels, guest houses and beach bars are staffed entirely by Burmese. Your reader isn't to know that, and the natives all look the same once they've been out in the sun long enough.
In Thailand, everyone is friendly. From the guest house owner who talked you into booking day-trips to destinations ‘off the beaten track' - to the tuk-tuk driver who gave you a tour of Bangkok's finest gemstone shops ‘for the price of a cup of coffee', everyone is just so ‘smiling and friendly'. It's the way the tourist industry works in Asia. No one cares about your money! Oh, and before we move on, never forget that tuk-tuk rides are always ‘the white knuckle' kind.
So you're on a tropical island and you're down on the beach. This is where you can really make your readers wish they were there with you. The water should be ‘crystal clear' or ‘of the deepest blue' (as opposed to just blue with bits of green) and of course you'll pitch your sun-lounger on ‘white sand' (rather than the more commonly seen brown colored variety with lots of stones and twigs in it) And don't forget that a beach isn't worth the time of day unless it's ‘fringed by ‘swaying palm trees'.
You get the point. So what do the travel writing experts say: those who churn out this stuff for a living?
The dismal truth is that travel writing is hard. It's extremely hard. It's the one area where writers consistently produce their worst work.
As the late William Zinsser says in his brilliant On Writing Well.....
"nobody turns into a bore as quickly as the traveller home from his travels and now wanting to tell us all about it. And ‘all about it' is the last thing we want to read. What made your trip different from everybody else's? What can you tell us that we don't already know? We don't want a description of every ride at Disneyland or that The Grand Canyon is awesome or that Venice has miles of canals. If one of the rides at Disneyland got stuck or if someone fell into a Venetian canal, now that would be worth hearing about!"
The blog that records most or everything you did on your trip will fascinate you because it was your trip. Will it fascinate the reader? No, it won't.
Travel writing is a world of syrupy adjectives and expressions that you would never use in conversation. Towns are ‘nestled' in hills and countrysides are dotted with quaint villages. And what about those places where old meets new? Let me tell you something - old never meets old.
One of the golden rules of travel writing is that if a phrase comes too easily, then eye it with deep suspicion. Choose words and expressions with unusual care. I'm not one to discourage budding travel writers out there but spare a thought for us readers - ask yourself if the world needs another Thailand travel blog like the one you're about to unleash?
Anyway, enough of this. It's time to hail a ridiculously cheap Bangkok taxi, fight Bangkok's gridlocked traffic and run some errands in one of the city's modern, air-conditioned shopping malls. Trusting of course you managed to read this far.