I miss writing my blog. It’s been eight months and in all that time I could have written many more pieces. But I lost interest in my host country, Thailand.
I wrote 290 posts in exactly three years. It was good for me because it kept up the writing urge, helped me keep my skills polished and gave me a sharper eye for what’s going on in Thailand and in several nearby countries. But I quit posting on Behind the Noodle Curtain in July 2011.
Even in the one or two months previous, I knew my days in Bangkok were numbered despite only arriving to live full-time in the autumn of 2010. I’d started travelling even more, to other parts of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. I found satisfaction in Phnom Penh. But it took four or five visits over a very short period of a few months to consider living here, where I’m writing my last post for Behind the Noodle Curtain.
At the end of August 2011, a second trip of the year to the Cambodian capital opened my eyes. I liked the serene pace of the low-profile city, the wide boulevards, no doubt remnants of the French colonial period, and the trees and the colourful buildings, the boulevard medians ornamented by trees, bushes and flowers. Then there’s the easy-going people and the genuine smiles.
I also enjoyed the western restaurants and bars, with cheap, plentiful food and drinks. You could get good bread and croissants, too! Rent and electricity were about on par with Thailand. And, to be honest, it’s not too far from Bangkok if I wanted to hook up with my great friends there.
The tipping points last fall -- the two were almost simultaneous -- were the fast dwindling water and food supplies in flood-threatened Bangkok where nothing seemed to be done about it and the lure of the best girl I’ve ever met in eight years of travelling and living in Southeast Asia.
Yes, there’s a lot more to my disaffection with Thailand but I really can’t write it here, mostly because Behind the Noodle Curtain stays away from politics, which most farang writers of any kind and level are well advised to do due to oversensitive authorities.
This post also marks my last few days in Cambodia. I am moving to the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. From Toronto to Bangkok, to Phnom Penh. Now to a tiny village in the rice basket of Vietnam. Big change is in the air. I am seriously considering marriage for the first time in my life. And I’m also starting a business career. Two biggies!
More important though is that I will be able to finally pursue my fascination with Vietnam, its people, its culture and its language by living in their midst. Somehow, some way, years ago I thought I’d always end up in Vietnam. I have visited several times, Hanoi and Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), plus several visits to my girlfriend’s Mekong Delta village, near Chau Doc, An Giang province.
But years before, I developed this unnatural interest in Vietnam. In my home city in Canada, I hung out in Vietnamese (Chinatown) enclaves, enjoyed Vietnamese food, bought videos in Viet stores, had haircuts there, watched many Viet movies or Hollywood movies set in Vietnam, dabbled in Vietnamese language studies, read books on the history, researched online sites both independent and government approved. Somehow, based partly on the people’s history of throwing off aggressors, I grew to respect their culture.
The Vietnamese are also very industrious, hard working, smart, numerous -- about 90 million now on Viet soil with 150,000 (2001 census) to 200,000 (just my guess) in my home country of Canada. And it’s one of the last “communist” nations on earth.
Who knows where these strange notions come from. Maybe it’s a sympathetic side of me, trying to symbolically apologize for our allies nearly destroying their country. Maybe it’s because I noticed Vietnam-made clothing and shoes are well made. Or maybe it was the mind-stopping beauty of Vietnamese girls in their traditional multi-layered pant/dress outfits (ao dai).
In the end, I will keep this Thailand blog open for some time because it does seem to attract 100 to 200 readers a day. Also, I will begin a new blog on my Vietnam experiences, Nine Dragons Village [Link de-activated]. And, the business aspect comes about via opening the one and only western bar in Chau Doc, a crossroads town for travelling foreigners between the Phnom Penh and Saigon. [Welcome Bar closed permanently]
Good luck to all travellers in Southeast Asia. It’s bound to unlock the mind.
Update Sept. 8, 2013: The links to Nine Dragons Village and Welcome Bar have been de-activated since the blogs and restaurant business were discontinued in early 2012. My apologies.