Same, same, but different

Same, same, but different

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Well, it’s been five years and three countries since I decided to move to Southeast Asia, a move that I haven’t regretted for a minute. The frustrations are frustrating, as one would expect. Sometimes things do drive me to distraction, but somehow, it’s all kind of laughable rather, than being really bloody rage inducing. When I used to walk up Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok and marvel at the physiques of the Thai beauties that were just everywhere, my admiration for the female form was always kind of lessened by one thing. Thai girls might have the smallest bottoms on the planet, but you try getting past one, when you are in a hurry to get somewhere. They walk slower than a really slow thing moving through Slowville on a Sunday. They amble along like a snail at a funeral and, if you are stuck behind them, so do you. Try to get past and they just kind of, glide sideways until you have nowhere to go. Then as you tack to the other side, they slide sideways again. Annoying, but not as annoying as it would be on Market Street in Manchester with someone sporting a shell suit and a backside as big as Belgium.

Asian logic operates in a different way to ours in the West. That is to say in most cases it doesn’t operate at all. Yet again I have to stress this kind of amuses me rather than annoys me. Logically, I have to admit that I am being somewhat arbitrary in my annoyance. I don’t know if it is genuinely that things are less annoying here or if, after 5 years, I have just chilled out, so the little things don’t get on my nerves like they used to. In Asia, if someone is going to operate a street-side stall of any kind, be it food or anything else, they will look for the narrowest part of the pavement to set up. The pavement narrows on a bad bend and there is a concrete lamp post at the very same point, perfect! I’ll stick my little stall, with boiling oil on the go, in that very spot. Five yards further on there is a wide bit, but no! That’s no good, people will be able to walk past without squeezing, therefore they might not see me.

On public transport, seats are at a premium. Everyone crushes in at certain times of the day. Someone gets on with a small child and an adult stands up to let the child sit down. Now I might be losing my marbles a wee bit, but I am absolutely certain that my legs worked a damned sight better 50 years ago than they do today. I don’t remember my knees creaking back then and I have absolutely no memory of my uttering the involuntary, EEEAAAUARGH! every time I stood up. But, here we are in Asia, and a little chap gets to sit down whilst people who really shouldn’t stand, do!

I am always totally baffled by shop assistants in Asia. I went to the Family Mart the other day as I do every day, and drinking water was on my list. I placed four large bottles on the counter and I just knew what the girl would do. Four heavy bottles in one bag and then double bag it. It is mind blowingly daft. I pointed out that I would rather carry two bottles in each hand, using the same number of bags and she just looked puzzled. Obviously aching arms and numbed, bloodless fingers are all the rage here. The worst example of this, and I kid you not, was in Bangkok. I bought six, one litre bottles of orange juice and a copy of the Bangkok Post….you know what’s coming don’t you? Absolutely!

When I first arrived, where I lived, they had a great poolside bar. The beers were cold, or if not served with ice, and the food is very good. They had a great little waitress called Bei and a waiter called many things, mostly not polite. Bless him, he was hopeless. One night I ordered a beer and sat reading my book. Five minutes later, he arrived at my table and placed the tray down. He had forgotten the beer…and the ice… and actually, the glass as well. Honest, an empty tray. He stood there doing goldfish impressions for twenty seconds then went back to the bar for my order. Now here’s my point, back home I would have been thinking, “Dickhead!” Here I just felt sort of, “Ah, bless”. The other odd thing about this was that I went in there most nights with a mate, and we had about three cans of Tiger each, every time. Every single night without fail, we would order the beer, then have to wait for a full ten minutes, whilst poor little Bei was sent to the Family Mart to buy it. It was EVERY night! But we just laughed it off, as you do.

It’s Asia, they are all mad, it’s all crazy, it drives me bonkers. I love it!

Following a highly successful 25-year career as a singer/songwriter and musician, Keith pulled out of the rat race and moved to Southeast Asia in 2008. First living in Thailand, he moved to Cambodia and then relocated to Ho Chi Minh City in early 2013. He started the Saigon Districts website, turning it into the fastest growing site in Vietnam. After careful consideration, he decided to cover not just Vietnam but the whole region that he loves so dearly. Keith has had work published in magazines and websites in the UK, Europe, USA, Australia and Asia. He has written for the BBC and has appeared on TV and radio in many different countries. His great loves are music and travel, but he writes on a whole range of subjects. is a labour of love as Keith travels round the region garnering subject matter. Read more about the website here.


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