One of these days you’ll go back to your home / You won’t even notice that you are alone

goodbye bali

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.

The Klong bus

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…

1 Comment

Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

johnor­ford
November 16, 2009 at 03:11 AM

good luck in thai­land!

i’ll be inter­est­ed in hear­ing about how it com­pares to the r of i.

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