Sunday, August 4, 2013

Lazy Laos Sunday

Sunset on the Mekong River
Nothing much to do on a lazy Sunday in Vientiane except walk along the Mekong...not that there's anything wrong with that!

Fishing the muddy Mekong

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Better Late Than Never?

Time for soup!
Things I wish I had been told a little bit earlier:

"I've heard some of the roti vendors have TB."
"The long boots [you forgot to wear] are helpful because there are cobras."
"If you eat too many of those and you're not used to them, you can get food poisoning."
"The woman next to us just found a [mollusk] shell in her soup so I don't trust the water in our soups."
"It's the rainy season." Oh wait, I knew that one already.

 Sabai Sabai!

On the Western Ostrich

Great Smiles: Sanook in Khon Kaen
I was watching a vendor make my banana and egg roti, when the white couple walked up. It was a long holiday weekend, when the historic Wooden Bridge and Sangklaburi town itself were full of tourists, but these were the only farang (westerners) I had seen all morning.

From their accents, it was clear they were from the States. They stood next to me, occasionally exchanging a few words with each other, but never acknowledging my presence, which just seems weird to me.

It's certainly not the first time I've encountered this sort of thing - another westerner, perhaps the only other one in a remote town, will studiously examine the ground as we pass by each other on a narrow sidewalk - but it still bothers me. It's especially perplexing in Thailand where residents almost always return my smile with a warm expression of their own.

Maybe it's just the tourists' determination not to let anything familiar intrude upon their immersion in a foreign experience. An insistence that what they are doing is unique, despite evidence to the contrary. But it seems a bit rude, if not plain delusional, to not at least give the "Hey, you're riding a motorcycle too" nod that recognizes shared experience, especially
if you're standing next to each other at the same food cart.

Heck, I would have said hello to anyone in that situation. Maybe I'm a sap, or just more inclined to talk to others because I'm traveling alone, but we're all waiting together so why not be friendly, especially in a place that values friendliness and the concept of "sanook" (roughly: life should be fun). I've had great conversations with Thais and tourists alike while waiting for buses, food, flights, and most everything else a person finds himself waiting for.

So after a minute or two, I looked over at the couple, smiled, and asked, "So where you from?" "Ratchaburi," came the unexpected response. "Really," I wanted to say, "I could have sworn from your accents that you were from Chiang Mai." Instead, I made polite conversation, learning they were teachers who had lived in Thailand for less than two years and eagerly awaited their imminent return to the States. We chatted a bit until I got my roti and left.

Nothing earth-shattering or particularly memorable, but still pleasantly sociable. Was that so difficult?
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Gotta Gettaway by Josh Lewis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.