Jack Whitehall missed out on a gap year so, aged 29, he went travelling in south-east Asia – with his 77-year-old dad, Michael. We sat down with the father and son duo to see if the trip strengthened their bond.
What Jack thinks about Michael
Dad likes the good life
Dad insisted that we stay in nice places. I protested that it was meant to be an authentic gap year trip and we should stay in less luxurious accommodation – but only up to a point, because five-star hotels are actually very nice.
When I was a child we went camping in France and Dad refused to stay in the tent. He booked a hotel down the road while my mum, my little sister and I all stayed on the campsite. We met up every evening for dinner – it was probably the best holiday we’ve ever had.
He’s a foodie philistine
The food was a big issue because Dad’s terrible with anything that’s got any spice or any flavour. At dinner he’d bring out a suitcase full of tins of tuna and mustard. There was a lot of me making him tuna baguette sandwiches for lunch in the middle of nowhere. That was probably the most challenging aspect of his personality.
He hogs my space
I didn’t get any sleep on the sleeper trains, not once. They’re not nice and they’re not enjoyable, no matter how you dress it up. Being in a confined space with your dad for that long can be quite stressful and the trains were particularly cosy so those were the most difficult moments.
He’s not really grumpy
Dad can be a bit grumpy and I make all these jokes about how he’s this reactionary old bigot and recluse, but actually he is very charming in person. He was very good with all the guides and locals we met. We met a monk in Cambodia and my dad and him got along famously – they swapped Facebook details.
He’s a party animal
Dad definitely let his hair down – what’s left of it – and did a lot of things I thought he’d refuse to do. We got “Jack and Mike” tattoos on our arms (although only in henna – next time we’re going to go full -blown! Dad would look good with a neck tattoo). But he really entered into the spirit of everything I wanted him to and even went to the full moon party in Thailand.
Dad said that he’d stay for 15 minutes and after that he was walking out , come what may. In truth, it was horrendous trying to film ourselves at a full moon party. Everyone was extremely drunk and as soon as they saw the camera they started screaming, shouting and exposing themselves. I think Dad secretly loved it – he stayed out until 4am!
What Michael thinks about Jack
Jack is a phoney
I wasn’t surprised by Jack wanting to stay in “authentic” places – he’s one of those phoney people who pretend they want to stay in squats but would really rather be staying somewhere luxurious. Before we went he assured me we were going to stay in five-star hotels throughout the trip so I booked a beautiful suite, but as I was checking in and ordering a newspaper, suddenly Jack arrived and said, “What are you doing here? You can’t stay here! It’s meant to be an authentic trip…” I firmly told him I was staying put but he could go back and stay at that hostel. Funnily enough he chose not to…
He will eat anything
In England you go for a breakfast buffet and it’s got croissants, toast, eggs and bacon, but it’s amazing what you encounter on the buffet tables in the far east. Curries, fish, fried rice, noodles, odd-looking meat products – all covered in chili – and Jack would be down there clearing the buffet of all this stuff at 8am.
He has questionable hygiene
Jack never changes his socks, he can go for several days without putting new ones on. He waits for them to fall off. I don’t think the underwear department is all it should be, either.
He is dreadfully rude… to me
Jack was absolutely lovely to everyone we met and it was nice to spend some quality time with him but, as always, he was incredibly cruel to me. I’m writing a book and all the way through the trip he would say, “Daddy, why would someone go into Waterstones and say, ‘I was going to buy Barack Obama’s biography of David Beckham but, instead, do you by any chance have Michael Whitehall’s book – you know, the retired theatrical agent? Have you got HIS biography?’ Nobody’s going to buy it!” Thanks, Jack, that encourages me a lot.
He’s a party animal
I found the full moon party an absolute nightmare. Jack was enjoying it so much, I tried to join in to be nice to him but it was certainly not for the faint-hearted. The noise was so overwhelming I ended up having to wear ear muffs and communicating with everybody by writing stuff down in a notepad. Jack promised we’d leave before midnight – “I promise, Daddy!” – but we left at about four in the morning. I drank gin and tonics. Through straws. Out of a bucket.
As told to Kasia Delgado
Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father is on Netflix from Friday