People I meet · Travel

Who are we when the world is shrinking?

mary

Mary looks over the window when it started to rain, claimed:

“This looks like a part of Philipines”
“Yeah, it looks like my hometown too, actually”, I replied.

We kept conversing in English about frequently discussed topics about Vietnam and Cambodia, when Sang, the Khmer tour guide on Mekong Express bus came closer and started talking in Vietnamese to me then in English to Mary.

sang in Mekong Delta
Sang holding water coconuts in a trip in Mekong Delta, Vietnam

 

After talking, each of us stares at our phone surfing FB with similar newsfeed probably filled with international news everyone reads.

Then images kept flashing back to my mind. On the trip to Phnom Penh, I saw backpackers on the bus holding classic history books about Cambodia, which is just like what my tourists did on the bus to Vietnam when they held books like Tunnels of Cu Chi

Most Vietnamese and Cambodians never read those books or having curiosity to. In other words, the images they have in mind about us and the image we have in mind about our countries are two worlds apart. People travel seeking difference, while locals just want to move forward, ending up following the path of globalization. In the case of South East Asia, our generation is becoming more similar than ever.

You come here to drink coffee on street, but we look for fancy cafes to stay in.

You come here to see National Museum, but most locals never set foot there.

A feeling of awkwardness surges inside me. Should I be happy about this? Should I be happy about the easy conversations we are having, or should I be disappointed that we are blending and turning to boring clones with no identity, including national identity? Even worse for people working in industries which depend on culture preservation because culture is diminishing faster than ever before. Soon enough, what is different about each country will just retain in museum or set-up tourism context.

Should we cling to nationalism or should we be grateful about the dynamic communication landscape we are granted thanks (due) to Internet that is clearing national borders with speed of light?

And as always, travel is overrated. Stay home people, we are all alike.

 

 

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