Lost in Chiang Mai

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’.

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With a Karen family. The families in the village sold pretty much the same things. I could not help but wonder ‘what’s genuine?’.

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I wish I could say ‘ah the elephant ride was wonderful’. I would/could say that if a big part of me was not consumed by guilt conscience for the animal.

 

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Let’s boil some eggs! Do it like the locals do!

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Last day…but first let me take a selfie, with a little girl 😀

Old School Charms

I got the postcard I sent to myself from my most recent trip today.  It is no longer as clean and straight as when I bought it…its sides are a bit curled now…little stains are visible…I am not surprised at all as it was
exposed to elements on its way to its master. I placed it in a box with all the other postcards I sent to myself from most of the places I have been to…I read the messages I wrote to myself at the back of these postcards. A smile naturally came to my face, warm, beautiful feelings rushed through me, my heart was touched as good memories of those trips flooded back in. These postcards are just not any postcards. They are the most precious little souvenirs I gave myself after the trips were long
over…img_09793Old-school arts seem to have drowned in the waves of technological advancement…the graceful art of handwriting is being replaced by computer-typed writing…postcards with personal messages written at the back or pictures taken with a film camera are giving way to digital pictures instantly shared over social media…as time ticks away, colors of those ‘traditional’ arts fade, their sides wrinkle, spots appear…but these are telling signs of the age of the memories attached to the arts…they have the warmth that is absent in digital arts…it is exactly the imperfection that they have become that makes them ever so beautiful.img_0981