The temple across the street

The blog post for August 12 that I named “Trench feet” never happened. I was rather blank in Saigon. In fact, I was going through many moments of doubt, and I’m sure L. did too.

I can make people’s fun life hard sometimes, especially by not enjoying myself as they do. Knowing this, I tend to stay out of it completely to keep a low profile on what I’m really like. But I guess this is not possible when travelling with your boyfriend with whom you spend 24 hours together. He’s addicted to beer and socializing on top of that. I’m sociable but not really in combination with alcohol. There’s nothing I can do if you hold it against me.

I came to realise how different he and I are from each other. I’ve never been the best in compromising either, and being in a new continent that conjures up one culture shock after the other doesn’t help. It makes me realise how un-Asian I am on the inside. I always thought I understood the mentality, and I do know Cantonese people. Even they drive me nuts sometimes.

Looking Asian is another story. Here, I’ve been told that I look either Japanese or Korean, sometimes Chinese. So far, neither the Vietnamese nor the Thai think I’m from their country. It might be the way I dress or the way I look, or who I’m with.

On a night in Saigon, we returned to the hostel at 2 a.m., and the nightshift staff was dubious about L. coming home with an Asian girl. He wouldn’t naturally think that we were a couple, so his cultural instinct had him think that I could be a prostitute. We still went up to our room without a problem.

Knowing that Thailand is more popular for “sex tourism,” we decided to be more careful. When we checked in to our first hostel/hotel, we booked it under my name and made sure they knew who I was and where I was from.

Party central for backpackers on Khao San Rd proved to be too much for me to handle. That’s how L. and I are different from each other. I might not be the same party-goer as I was when I first got to Canada, but the truth is I never really was. However, there are periods (sometimes surprisingly long ones) where I’m good at blending in.

I’ve always been good at socializing over tea or coffee. I could give you epiphanic moments if it’s just the two of us talking. I don’t socialize well over beers, though. I’m sure many of my friends agree, especially not in big groups.

Having given up on intoxicants doesn’t make it any easier to be sociable on night outs. I don’t want to go on a night out, which leaves L. on his own. Nonetheless, I’ve still been going out uncomfortably.

It’s the pressure to socialize, talk to people in loud, crowded areas where (half-)drunken people reign. Those people have reached a higher level of unison that I won’t ever reach, and I don’t want to. I used to be on a similar level when I was still drinking, and everyone loved me, except that I felt disgusted by myself. I never liked drinking, and I think I’ve said that a million times. It wasn’t until after the Vipassana course that I decided to give up on alcohol entirely, all intoxicants, including weed, cocaine, mushroom and what not. (Alcohol for sure.)

I can see why L. got a little concerned about it because he drinks…a lot. He got even more worried when I said that I’d give up on meat one day. He believed that might affect our lifestyle together, to which I disagree. I think it’s all about respect.

As a sensitive and prone to tears person when my personal space is invaded, I figured that I have to back off whenever I’m in an uncomfortable situation. L. has been trying to get me out of my comfort zone a few times, but mostly in vain. Not that I haven’t tried. I try to keep an open mind for new things; otherwise, I wouldn’t be in Asia.

I’ve had interesting Thai massages that gave me a brief introduction to chiropractic. They helped me open up tight areas in my spine. I’ve never felt anything like that before, not even during yoga. I’ve had four massages so far, and each one got better. The depth can be very intense. I almost feel guilty because I wish my parents or sister could experience it as well. It’s so cheap. Professional masseuses know the acupuncture points all over the body.

Southeast Asia has also made me give up on good green tea and succumb to fucking pesticide-infested Lipton tea. I thought Vietnam was bad with teas. I can’t believe that western countries provide better quality organic Chinese and Japanese teas.

I’m currently sat at Wawee coffee shop in Chiang Mai, sipping at my second green tea of the day. It tastes unnaturally aromatic – like soap, but it’s better than nothing. The previous one that I had for breakfast was too weak; I had to squeeze everything I could out of that teabag.

I finally got over my cold 14 days later. It shows how weak my immune system is. The next thing I got was stomach cramps, diarrhea and nausea. Is this the true meaning of the travel bug? It could be the fruits from the street vendors or the not well-cooked food — I have no idea.

I look forward to going to Pai tomorrow and enrol in the Muay Thai kickboxing course. I’d like us to cut down on massages to save cash, not necessarily on food, though, but I do want to eat healthier. I’m not sure how strong I’ll be for the Muay Thai classes. It’ll be a challenge. Yet, my body is crying for a good workout. I hate waking up knackered. The heat exhaustion and my current weak mind and body are the culprits. My period is close too; I feel how my abdomen nudges me now and then as though saying, “So? Are you going to delay me again? Do you want to flush away your filth? Don’t mess with me, OK?!”

My stomach feels a little better. I may have PMS symptoms, which is uncommon for me. Yesterday it felt like my abdomen and bowel were tying a knot. It felt horrendous; I threw up half the banana that I ate an hour before.

It’s a sweet sight watching Cantonese families in the coffee shop. I don’t remember the last time my family and I went on a trip together. Since the 2008 recession, being low on cash remained an ongoing excuse to stay home. We even stopped buying birthday and Christmas presents.

“Waste of money” is something you’d hear a lot in my family. However, my parents are very generous to my sister and me rather than to themselves. It makes you feel both grateful and guilty.
I feel bad for self-indulging while they worry about money every day. I hope watching them worry about money won’t have an influence on me. I don’t want to worry like they do. But apparently, it’s inevitable.

For the first time on this trip, I’m worried about our budget, too.

The temperature in Chiang Mai is more pleasant–almost 10*C less than in Bangkok. The North usually gets more rain. I like the vibe here more because it’s laidback.

There is a temple across the street. The saddle roofs are equipped with golden rims and ornaments. You would think it’s a nice home or a nice hideaway place. I can’t wait to visit.

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