June 08, 2004

Out of Asia, Into Africa

In keeping with tradition, we thought we would expand our endearing/disturbing lists to all of SE Asia, as there’s invariably a bit of overlap b/t countries.

Stuff we found endearing about SE Asia:

The people. While it’s tough to say across countries (and even cities for that matter) we generally really dug the temperament of the SE Asia peeps. Granted, the more developed an area (e.g. Thailand) the less this seemed true but even Bangkok had friendly folk.
Beaches. Some of the most pristine we’ve encountered.
Simplicity & Pace. Even the populace of the larger cities had better live/work balance than in the states. Priorities were first on either religion (usually Buddhism, another bonus) or family, enjoying oneself and then career.
Affordability. Where else can you find (modest) accommodations for US$1?
Meeting likeminded Westerners. Even the Americans we ran into were open-minded and friendly :-)
The food.. Generally speaking of course, we dug the cuisine, especially the stuff that had a kick. And the fruit was cheap, plentiful, exotic and fresh.
Being a novelty. I think the likelihood of our autographs being in demand back home is pretty slim and declining by the minute ;-)

Stuff the Westerners found amusing > annoying > disturbing about SE Asia:

The affect of climate. (Or lack thereof?). Even when the thermometer hit 32 degrees Celsius Asian men always, ALWAYS wore pants. When it dipped down below 80 Fahrenheit out came the jackets.
The smells. Open sewers will do that I suppose. Durian, a native fruit, didn’t help matters!
Lack of napkins. OK this is admittedly a bit weird but generally speaking food purveyors had no napkins or had T.P.
The Bathrooms. Public toilets are rarely clean (much worse than your average gas station WC), never have soap and rarely have toilet paper (I guess that’s restricted to the dinner table). Also, we won’t miss the Turkish “squat toilet.”
Tuk Tuks. Their novelty quickly gives way to their noise, pollution, and aggressive, risk-taking drivers.
Bootlegs. There is no such thing as legitimate music/movie distribution in SE Asia.
Development. I’m all for redistribution of wealth / “progress” but even in the two years that had elapsed since our last Thailand visit the amount of resorts and reduction of authenticity is disturbing and depressing.
Lack of environmental responsibility. Granted, developing nations are understandably a bit behind on this one but the pollution, use of explosives and poisons to fish, and scarcity of wildlife reserves is a big bummer.

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