I’m sitting outside on the deck at Tim and Oi’s, my brother and sister in law’s home just outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand. I’ve been thinking of what to write about in this latest blog post, my last one from SE Asia, and as soon as I stepped outside, the topic hit me. Sound!
Over the past three months, all of our senses have been woken up and challenged differently. We have seen places so beautiful that it makes you want to cry and seen things that are so sad, that you want to cry. We have tasted food that has turned our mouths on fire, and eaten food that makes us want for more. We have touched fern and palm leaves that are so enormous due to their happy growing conditions and had fish nibble on our fingers and toes. We have walked past the most fragrant “leelawadee” trees and verdant forests filling our noses with the most amazing scents, and walked past piles of rotting garbage that you have to hold your breath.
Interestingly however, I think the one sense that has been challenged and stimulated more is the sense of hearing. Each country, each city, each small village we have visited has had its own characteristic sound…making the soundtrack of our past 3 months.
As I sit here and type, I hear crickets chirping, I hear birds who whooing, I hear dogs barking. Every so often, I can hear the distant sound of voices. Early this morning, I was awakened by a loud gecko noise (Tim and Oi have a large resident gecko they have named Arnie). The sound is hard to describe, but it sounds as though someone has stepped on a dog’s chew toy. Just a little later, I could hear the monks at the nearby Buddhist temple calling out their morning prayers on the megaphone. Was that a cow mooing I heard just now?
One of the most interesting things about returning again to Thailand after spending 2 months in Cambodia and Vietnam is how quiet Thailand is compared to those 2 countries. I would have never said Thailand is quiet, had I not visited Cambodia or Vietnam.
In Cambodia, you are usually awoken to the sounds of the monks chanting and soon after, the honking of people traveling on their motorbikes and cars. Roosters would be crowing and chickens clucking. You hear conversations between people very clearly as nobody talks quietly, whether they are on the cell phones or having a conversation with a friend they are sitting right next to. The evenings are filled with the sounds of karaoke singing from bars that open early and stay open late into the night. To drown out the sound, we would fall asleep to the humming of our room AC or fan. Ear plugs were essential at times.
Vietnam was the noisiest country we visited. It was hilarious to be in a shopping mall, and hear music blaring from one shop almost competing with the music blaring from the shop right next door. When in the market, you have the frequent chatter of vendors calling out to you to buy their items, “Madame, you come look my shop, looking is free, you want to buy for your babies?” (referring to Jamey and Becca-this never amused them). When traveling by bus or train, we were always treated (not sure it was a treat) to cheesy Vietnamese music and music videos (for the duration of most trips). If anyone received a call on their cell, even if they were in the front of the bus and we were in the back, well it was like we were sitting right beside them. Trying to find a quiet coffee shop to do schoolwork was always a challenge due to overhead music, again cheesy vietnamese love songs. I think the funniest sound memory I have was when we stayed at Mina La Villa in Hoi An. Jamey and Becca and I were sitting outside doing school work and catching up with emails. It suddenly struck me that I was singing along to the song that we were hearing (in my best vietnamese!) simply because the owner had the song on repeat and we probably listened to it 10 or 15 times in a row (apparently it is a very popular song amongst the Vietnamese youth). And finally, the honking…oh the honking. Buses, cars, motorbikes, they all love to use their horns…
So now we are back in quiet Thailand, so to speak. With only 3 more days in SE Asia before we fly on to New Zealand, I realize I will miss this soundtrack, much like I will miss SE Asia. It was our first stop on this year long adventure and we have learned and grown and experienced so much. Our senses have been awakened by the beauty of this place and the people we have been fortunate to have met along the way.
Next stop, New Zealand!
Much love and singing and honking to you,