I guess I hit a brick wall in Bali. After years, it was hard to see it going anywhere. And I needed some urban. So, we packed the bags and moved to Bangkok, where, insanely, we know almost nobody. But, we reassure ourselves, it’s rather close to a lot of people I do know, and rather more, for want of a better phrase, in the world.
For the reasons I touched on in my last post, and for the ongoing and increasing frustrations of doing business and the creeping pollution (garbage everywhere and ongoing raw sewage into the swimming beaches) and traffic gridlock, I’d really had enough. And I increasingly felt that driving on the roads of the island was an ongoing lottery with only one unhappy end result likely..through no fault of mine I was likely to end up in an accident which would kill or maim someone sooner or later. Every day I got behind the wheel of my car it weighed on me, that the insanity and mayhem on the jalans would likely one day mean that I was held responsible for an injury caused by the irrational, deathwish driving of almost everyone on the island.
Or it was the batshit crazy expats – you’d start talking to reasonably rational people and then they’d wander off into some treatise about their recent journey through their past lives, or you’d meet some wonderful soul who, it turns out, has made a small fortune by paying far-flung villages a pittance for their ancient artifacts, often ancestral gravestones or the like, which they’ve either shipped off to abroad for an obscenely inflated markup. Or there are the shysters and developers who are selling hugely overpriced property on dodgy land titles or with fake guarantees of freehold (Indonesian law, regardless of whatever trick of the eye (or proxy) you may pull, is very clear: unless you are Indonesian you can not and likely never will be able to own land). Many of these are celebrated in the grimace-inducing paean to insubstantiality, The Yak.
Yes, it’s gruesome.
But oh so fabulous…
So we left.
For that, the one thing that the years in Bali, and the many other excursions in recent years into other parts of Indonesia, and across Asia have given me is an increased sense of understanding. Or I hope so.
I understand now that I was never really a foreigner in the UK, or Europe, nor in most of the US. I thought I was but simply put, we were just variations on the same rules. In Asia however, the rules are completely different. Confidence shakingly so. Nothing I’d learned, been told, or understood worked anymore as it was supposed to. You take nothing for granted, especially when living day to day outside the comfortable tourist routines. You want to set up a utilities’ account? Start learning… You want to pay that bill? Start learning…. and so on, and on.
I go back to New Zealand and the things I now, without a blink, regard as normal, may as well be from another galaxy. And I realise how much I’ve changed and, maybe, learned.
And Thailand is a slightly (make that substantially) more developed and sophisticated nation than Indonesia, thus the culture shock is radically less than that encountered by the naive New Zealanders arriving in paradise a few years back.
We thought about jumping back to New Zealand, but to be honest, after some years in Asia, we decided the culture shock for us would likely be worse on that return than when we arrived in Asia, plus the sense of isolation we sometimes feel there on our trips back would perhaps be suffocating for us right now, although it doesn’t stop me missing the place. I may retire, if and when, to some beach in NZ, but then, likely too, I may end my years in some part of China or South East Asia, but right now the ease of travel and the crush of millions of other souls pushes the right buttons. Did I mention the food…..
I guess irrational impulsiveness is both a personal strength and weakness, but without it, I’d never have made a record or done large parts of what I’ve done and got such joy from doing over the past decades. The journey continues…