Same same, but different

Trip Start Aug 19, 2012
1
13
50
Trip End Ongoing


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Where I stayed
The Coral Grand
What I did
Sairee Beach

Flag of Thailand  ,
Tuesday, September 11, 2012

So there's a saying here:  "Same same, but different".  Well at least that's what the t-shirts say.  

Funny thing is, I'm reading a book about cultural sensitivity, particularly as Westerners going into other countries to "help".  In this book, it talks about how we often find similarities in foreign countries partly as a coping method to deal with the culture shock or overall change we go through when we travel.  In reality however, even if surroundings or people are the "same", they are often very different beneath the surface, especially if we start digging.

I noticed myself finding "similarities" as we travelled through Laos and Thailand.  From skinny jeans (albeit way skinnier on the guys here than back home since they're smaller than me) to the brands carried in stores, to the scenery we passed (reminiscent of North America ironically if you take out the palm trees), to the highways that seemed identical to the ones back home.  Sometimes, if I ignored minor aspects of what was passing me on the highway, it felt like I was being driven across Canada or the United States.

Then I would watch the people.  Their expressions, body language, way of speaking, way of caring for one another.  And I'd watch as East met West.  I don't know if it's because I'm Asian and have grown up in a Chinese Canadian home (Chinese 50%:Canadian 50%), but I noticed subtleties that others may not have.  Sometimes the mingling was pleasant, and sometimes it wasn't as pleasant as I would hope.  Tourism certainly brings money into a country, but it can also consume the original culture.  So what's more important?  Prosperity, or cultural preservation?

So yes, we are "same same", but we are also "different".

On a lighter note:

We enjoyed our few days in Bangkok going to the Flroating Market and Wat Pho (not to be confused with Wat Phou - "what poe" vs. "what poo") and The Grand Palace.  A couple of instances, we even had some very helpful and friendly Thai (they do exist!) that noticed we were speaking English and were OBVIOUSLY confused and interested about, what else, FOOD.  The first time, we were wandering the streets in Bangkok and came across a street vendor, surrounded by Thai people as he frantically grilled what looked like squid and other unidentifiable meats.  Some Thai were even taking photos of him.  So of course, we had to stop too.  And boy were we glad we did.

After a few minutes, a couple of ladies asked us in English if we needed help.  They explained to us that he was famous, and 1 stick of grilled squid was 60 baht ($2).  VERY steep by local standards given that a bowl of pho runs about $1.25, but we knew we had to try it.  The sweet and spicy sauce with cilantro mixed in with the tender squid was perfect.

The next day, a friendly Thai guy who is studying Law at the university, helped us order crispy skin pork (same is "siew ju" for chinese) with rice and tom yum noodle soup at a local hole in the wall.  We joined him for lunch and chatted, and then we paid for his lunch.  Funny to think we will likely never see him again.

And now we come to Koh Tao.
 
After a rather uncomfortable 7 hr overnight bus ride to the catamaran pier, and a 2 hr ride on the catamaran, we finally arrived on the beautiful island of Koh Tao.  It's lovely here.  No, it's more than lovely.  Take a look at the pics I'll post later (sorry, my current internet connection is too slow).  They are NOT postcards.

I'm SO glad we didn't go to Koh Samui and Phuket instead for a beach experience.  We heard Koh Tao was less touristy, and it's already borderline too touristy for us.  But it's small, developed, walkable, and has a to die for view from our beach chairs.  The last two days, we've been laying on the chairs and running into the shallow, bathwater warm ocean water for several hours each afternoon.  This is the first time we haven't been up to go somewhere and see something or to move to the next location since we left Canada.  And yes, we are over 3 weeks into our travelling.

One last thing:

HUGE shout out to my sister and brother-in-law for breaking us into SE Asian street food when we visited them in Malaysia.  TOTALLY trained us for this trip.  

And shout out too to our friends who lent us our backpacks, and gave us advice about what to do and what to bring.  The backpacks, packing cubes, compressing water bottles, hanging toiletry bags, clothesline, universal sink plug, etc. have been invaluable.
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