As I wind down my three-week, three-country tour of Southeast Asia I am reminded of a few things. First, here’s a birds-eye view of the road less traveled.
Thailand is a beautifully rich country filled with content and confident people. They seem quite satisfied with what they’ve achieved and equally ok with what they haven’t. It’s a remarkable thing to witness a people so enriched by their day-to-day that they exude a sense of pure oneness and feel everything is as it should be. These are always traits of a stress-free and calm existence and I really resonate with that. A lot.
Cambodia really struck a chord with me. Cambodians are a weathered yet innocent people, kind, generous and accommodating and still wholly and respectfully guarded. You can see generations of stories in their eyes while the infancy of acceptance right on the surface. Never, and I mean never have I seen a more profoundly kept souls-secret in a people to date. The impact even in the short time I spent there will last a lifetime. Powerful place.
Vietnam is one of the most curious places I’ve ever been with a complex social makeup right on the surface. This is 21st-century metropolis directly on top of sidewalk economy and both seemingly living in harmony. Their rush hour rivals anywhere I’ve been on the globe and by 7 pm, the day crew takes refuge leaving room for the night shift. I’m speaking to full-contact traffic in every direction in a surreal dance of bees at the nest and then as if choreographed the night owls come out to play. Complete chaotic synergy, it’s amazing. Even more noteworthy are the people I came across. Both close interactions and acquaintances were very outgoing. These lovely, funny and sociable folks would outright make fun of our style, brotherly bond and poke fun at our accents all the while keeping it light and never crossing the line of disrespect. I’ve never seen such truly charming and witty people at the onset of meeting. It was such a delightful and unexpected surprise.
From riding a scooter the entire length of an island to celebrate a full moon on Koh Phangan- an event that exists everywhere on the globe and usually without hubbub, to climbing the largest religious complex in the world seated in a lush and majestic 500-acre panorama in Angkor Wat, to drinking banana wine in the marshlands of Mekong, I am reminded of a few things:
- Walking through the streets of Bangkok I finally know what it feels like to be a woman. I couldn’t walk more than 50 steps without getting cawed at like a construction site damsel in distress. It’s good to know Stella still has her groove even if it’s for money.
- More people equal more stress; fewer people equal less stress. Never forget that when you’re trying to recalibrate.
- The car horn in Asia is used a lot. More than I prefer.
- I’m pretty sure now that when I see Asian travelers in the States wearing masks they’re not sick, they’re just protecting themselves against air pollution.
- Religion is an idea which means vastly different things to different people. Practicing it is a state of mind. Projecting it is a state of weakness. No one anywhere cares what you like or don’t like about his or her deity until you try to explain why you think they’re wrong. Unless asked, don’t answer and even then think long and hard about how much you really care about someone else’s privately held personal beliefs. Then, and only then decide whether or not it’s worth your breath to engage. Chances are you’ll find people are way more beautiful in mystery.
- Electric razors for men are harder to find in Southeast Asia than gold and I didn’t even look for gold.
- Staring at the ocean can cure most things gone awry in your life. Most.
- A kind smile and gentle disposition are all you need to communicate across the globe. Well that, and the Google Translate app.
In closing, be kind, it’s the only form of currency accepted worldwide.