Most westerners think every country in South East Asia is the same, but after traveling and living in this part of the world I can tell you that each country has it’s own magnificence about it. Makassar is so wonderful because there is no tourism here, Thailand has spectacular beaches and Cambodia has fascinating history. But one factor that has stood out for me the most in these countries is the atmosphere the people provide. For example, I didn’t like Vietnam because the people were rude and unfriendly, I loved Thailand but the people there just wanted money from you and then there is Indonesia.
I love that tourism hasn’t hit Indonesia as much as it has done the rest of South East Asia. It makes Makassar easier and enjoyable for westerners to live in. One of my friends from England, who is also living in Makassar, told me she felt more relaxed here, as she doesn’t feel like she is getting scammed everywhere she goes. When Indonesians talk to us they are genuinely interested and want to help. They care from the heart and not just because they want our money. People in Thailand are constantly pestering you and trying to get money from you. Their kindness doesn’t seem real.
I lived in Thailand for one year, working as an English teacher too. I worked in a city called Nakhon Si Thammarat. This city is very similar to Makassar, as there are no tourist attractions but it still has an expat community. The expat community in Nakhon mainly consists of English teachers. Thailand is very popular for westerners, as there are so many jobs for native English speakers. Every school has at least two natives working for them. However, here in Makassar there are hardly any. Most of the expats come for business or they are pilots. It is very hard for me to find a job as an English teacher here. Why is that?
It seems to me like Thai’s have become addicted to how much money tourism can bring to their country and as a result they have lost their culture. Indonesia is so special because the people haven’t forgotten about their traditions. I can see their culture glowing from each one of them. They are always so happy to share their beliefs with us. Thai’s seem too busy in their own life’s to sit down and share their history with tourists.
Both Makassar and Nakhon have gorgeous landscapes around it. To be honest, you can’t go wrong in South East Asia if you want to see spectacular views. There are always some waterfalls, mountains or white-sanded beaches near by and this is what I can’t get enough off. However, some of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand are ruined because they have been exploited to tourists. These tourists are polluting the pristine beaches and gushing waterfalls. Sadly, this has started to happen in Indonesia too. My Indonesian friend was so upset when he went to Bira at Christmas, after he had not been there for ten years, and saw so many shops and cafes on the beach. The atmosphere had changed and there was litter everywhere.
On a lighter note, I am having so much fun learning Bahasa Indonesian, though it is hard for me to roll my ‘r’. If I don’t roll my ‘r’ Indonesian’s are confused about what I’m saying. It’s fascinating to see how they don’t understand me if I don’t pronounce one letter clearly. It is even harder to be understood in Thailand because there are five different tones. For example,my friend, for one year, had been going into ‘7eleven’ and telling them in Thai ‘No plastic bag.’ But it turns out she was pronouncing plastic bag as ‘tong’ when actually the correct tone is said as ‘teung’. So because she was pronouncing the word incorrectly she was actually telling them ‘No pregnant!’ We laughed about this for ages. It is all part of the adventure and makes travel experiences all the more exciting. What language should I learn in Makassar? Should I learn Bahasa Indonesian? This is great if I want to be understood, but surely I need to learn Bahasa Makassar, as well, so I can understand and join in on other conversations. But then what happens if I move to another region? My Bahasa Makassar that I learned would be useless.
Then there is a person’s religion that has a big effect on how the country is run and how the people live their lives. In Indonesia the main religion is Islam and in Thailand the main religion is Buddhism. How has this affected each country? Here, in Makassar, people don’t seem to have the ability to be themselves. If they try to do something that isn’t “the norm” they are looked down on. Thai’s can express themselves a lot more, in all shapes and forms, and everyone will accept them. On the other hand, Indonesians have a broader perspective of the world and are educated on what goes on outside their boarders. Thai’s are only concerned with the events that happen within their own country. They don’t even learn about other religions or celebrate Muslim holidays, even though they have a small Islamic community living their.
However, every country in South East Asia has one thing in common and that’s the fact they find ‘bule’s’ fascinating. My Indonesian friend said ‘we think its great to have you here because you come from a better world.’ That’s not true! Why are so many westerners going to live in South East Asia? I would love to tell South East Asian countries to stop trying to be like the western world. They should stay as they are and keep their culture. Happiness comes from within, not from money.