A Diverse Reminder
Southeast Asia continues to splatter Awesome and Weird onto its diverse, fantastic canvas.
Recently in Chiang Mai, Thailand JD and I marveled at ancient temples whilst sidestepping lady boy lookers. We ate delicious pad Thai with a dessert of tarantula from a street stall next to McDonald’s. We went whitewater kayaking through proper rapids, and quickly paddled out of the way of elephants bathing in the river. They waved goodbye to us with their trunks when we moved on. In the wake of the beloved king’s death, there was no alcohol served, except sangria and margaritas at Mexican restaurants. In Bangkok, the millions of mourners who flooded in from across the country were met with stands of free food, free drinks and free tea to anyone who wanted it in the spirit of the king’s generosity. As we learned, we were also welcome to partake. We bypassed the magnificent paintings of aspiring Thai artists and, instead, bought beetle wing earrings as souvenirs. We tuk-tuked through alleyways of the Sweet, the Strange and the Sublime.
In the most populous corner of the world there is enough of everyone to warrant the contradictions in culture and priorities. People like different things, so when there’s a lot of people, there’s a lot of variety. Seems simple enough in theory. However our holiday amid the eclectic mix of Ancient Old, cutting-edge modern, quietly conservative and outrageously outlandish reiterated to me what diversity is. The contrast of people, buildings, foods and wares works. The difference emphasizes the coolness of each.
Here in Southeast Asia people use the expression same, same, but different to describe things that are similar in some ways, unique in others. Our trip to Thailand reminded me how important that but different is. It keeps things interesting; pushes us out of our comfort zones; continually keeps us on our toes and looking to improve.
Brexit and Trump might have us believe that different is scary or threatening. Southeast Asia begs to differ. Here people understand that without the different, all we’re left with is same, same.