I had the good fortune to see Chiang Mai, Thailand, with my friend recently. Prior to the trip, I joked with my friend ‘so, have you mastered the Thai language?’. I certainly did not think we would encounter a huge language barrier. But I imagined our communication with the locals would be met with roadblocks here and there. A part of me did anticipate some cultural shock so I could feel an authentic experience in a country that did share some similarities with Malaysia. That was taken away from me on our first day. The taxi driver, who drove us from the airport to the hotel, greeted us in Mandarin. We happened to know some Mandarin so we replied in the same language. He then started marketing some of the must-sees in Chiang Mai, and he did all that in Mandarin. I turned to my friend and said ‘do we look like Chinese tourists?’. He did mention that he used to work in Malaysia for a number of years. So I thought it was nothing extraordinary that he knew Mandarin and used the language to communicate with us. Later that day, we went to a night market. Once again, the sellers spoke to us in Mandarin. The entire experience was starting to overwhelm me. At one point, I jokingly asked my friend ‘are we in China or Thailand?’ A part of me was quite disappointed as I felt I was not getting the authentic experience I was hoping for. Another part of my was grateful as we got pretty good deals from all the bargaining done in Mandarin! When we visited a village of the Karen tribe, the same thing happened to us. I started to wonder ‘what’s going on?’. Later in our trip, I learned that there was a massive influx of Chinese tourists when the movie, Lost in Thailand, was released. The locals learned (for some, mastered) Chinese languages, especially Mandarin, in an effort to keep up with the growth. While the trend had benefited me in the form of good deals, I had wished I was greeted with ‘sawasdee’ instead of ‘ni hao’.