Memoirs of Asia

Shanghai, China; Singapore; Phuket, Thailand. [March 2017]

Asia should feel exotic. Distant. There should be a faint familiarity from the first decade of my life, to be overwhelmed each visit by the new and uncanny fragmented through centuries of splinter and change.

But, say, what are those concrete and glass monoliths surrounding me? Why (with jealousy) is Didi so much cheaper and faster than Uber in the US? Why (with even more jealousy) does Singapore’s hyper-efficient MRT make the NYC Subway system look unfit for rodents, let alone sapiens? Why does the Aleenta Phuket deliver hospitality beyond what most five-stars in the Western hemisphere can only print on their glossy brochures?

This, I suppose, is what progress looks like. The Asian Tigers are playing catch-up at a breakneck pace. That is something to applaud. Living conditions here for the rising middle class, by all appearances, are fast converging to that of the McMansions in the West.

But when you venture deeper into the heart of the beast, you can still find the Old – the Old you came expecting to find. It takes a bit more effort now: Jia Jia Tang Bao, purveyors of cocaine-quality soup dumplings, is tucked into a residential area of Shanghai, away from bustling Pudong and Waitan; a platter of $2.50 SGD Michelin-starred chicken rice and other sinful delicacies are nested away in Singapore’s labyrinthine hawker food centers; a bumpy 2-hour drive and 10x bumpier 2-hour speedboat ride brings us to the Similan Islands, where fauna and flora only mildly exhibit symptoms of human encroachment.

What, then, does one lose in the relentless pursuit to move forward?

I hope Shanghai knows to take a break from building the next mile-high skyscraper to savor each steaming, meticulously hand-crafted soup dumpling. I hope Singapore appreciates that tourists like me flock to the city not to shop at the next brand name-polluted mall but to explore the gastronomic cultural fusion on each street corner. I hope Phuket understands that whether you sleep in a straw hut or a poolside villa, the sun sets with the same colorful enchantment and without discrimination.

I hope we don’t devour too much of our past as we forge headfirst into the future.

UmbrellaBlackWhite
Rainy days and a taste of Old Shanghai at Millrun 1933
PudongWings
An LED light angel has landed at the Waitan Waterfront
MarinaBayNightLights
Marina Bay Sands’ lightship, as seen from the tallest al fresco bar in the world at Altitude-1
FlowerHand
Picking daisies at Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay
ChiliCrab
The food here is far from crabby, and cheap enough so you won’t become Singa-poor
CindyPool
Walk-in pool in a 2-bedroom suite at Aleenta Phuket Resort
PhuketKitty
“Cash meow-side how bow dat”
YingCindyPool
They are standing on a 3rd-floor ledge for this illuminati photo
SimilanCindyWill
Atop the Similan Islands, before getting yelled at by the guard for improper rock climbing
BeachPinkDress
Phuket, let’s go see the sun set on the other side of the world

“I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.” -James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

“Sometimes I think that the surest sign of intelligent life out there, is that it hasn’t tried to contact us.” -Bill Patterson, Calvin and Hobbes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s