So as a blogger, I’ll be the first to say, I really haven’t been “good.” It’s been over a week or two since my last post. As a traveler, however, I can only hope I’ve been “better.” It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. Especially so since receiving a few unmistakable signs from vendors that I’m not welcome. First of all, I must say that this feeling of not being welcome couldn’t be farther from the case in almost every interaction I’d had before coming to Hat Yai. This city, for some reason, seems to bring out the worst in a lot of people. As I wrote that last sentence, I paused, looked up and received a beaming smile from the cashier in the cafe I’m sitting in who just a few minutes ago taught me the proper way to order a black coffee in Thai, so keep in mind that it’s all relative and I am still in Thailand, land of smiles. It’s odd though because in the 3 days that I’ve been in Hat Yai I’ve been shooed off by 3 different vendors. One, I listened to, the other two I didn’t, one of which later warmed up to me, and the other at least sold me a delicious product without trying to overcharge me (as far as I know, which isn’t very far).
I can only assume that the curt response I get from some vendors here is due to the city’s role as a hub for big shot business travelers from Southeast Asia and some international corporations who don’t make it a big concern to try to get to know the locals. It’s also apparently a pretty big hub for Malaysian males crossing the border (80km south) to look for cheap prostitutes. Not the most glamorous reputation for a city to have.
For all that, I must say that the vast majority of interactions that I’ve had in Hat Yai have been overwhelmingly positive ones. Free banana muffins from a bakery, Thai lessons from numerous different sources, a fruit vendor mobilizing the entire street corner to find out the location of a restaurant I’d heard about (totally worth the search). These are the kinds of things that I really don’t see too often in the states. I also really don’t take too many risks with people in the states. Maybe because I have so many safety nets built up around me back in the states that there aren’t as many times when it’s necessary to go out on a limb and risk rejection from a total stranger. Just now, when I was writing in my journal though, I decided the payoff or even the possibility of a payoff is worth it. Sometimes it gets damn difficult and I start to wonder why I find it so important to try so hard with people. But really that’s the main reason I’m here. Yeah, I’m here to figure stuff out about myself, how I function completely on my own in challenging situations, the immense joy and excitement I get from being completely in control of where I go, what I do, who I interact with. But those interactions are basically the bread and butter of my time here. Sometimes it’s nice to be alone, doing my own thing, dependent on no one, but then something happens that makes me realize that I need someone’s help. Sobering–always. Meaningful–usually. Educational–depends on my state of mind.
What I’m seeing so far is that it’s awesome to be able to function on my own, to get things done, to plan something and make it happen, to drift aimlessly and find something spectacular. I’m also seeing that it’s extremely important to be able to scrap this state of mind in a moment’s notice as soon as it starts getting in the way of me enjoying life.
Alright, I guess that’ll wrap it up for this long overdue post. In case you didn’t divine from the title of this post, tomorrow morning I leave for Malaysia since the day after tomorrow my Thai visa expires. I’m headed to a city called Georgetown, on Penang island. The entire city has been declared a world heritage site by Unesco due to its awesome architecture and harmonious blend of multiple cultures. Check it out here. Needless to say, I’m excited. While there, I’ll be getting a 60 day tourist visa to Thailand so that if I choose to stay for a while–volunteering or working or what-have-you–I won’t need to worry about another visa run.
Also I’ve decided to just start a flickr photofeed and upload all of my photos there instead of picking and choosing only a few to display on my blog. I have too many! So here’s the link for that. http://www.flickr.com/photos/68675438@N08/
If you scroll down to the very bottom of the page, you can choose to subscribe to it and get notified when I upload new stuff, which has been pretty regularly.