Life In Colors
There’s a hue and tapestry to life. Sometime the colors astound. Other times you are subdued by their dark shadows that only hint at things. I’ve been watching the changes for almost 2 years living in Southeast Asia and now leaving for some months. I called living there the edge. It’s the edge of the “feel good, pho cheap, banh mi for less than $1” times. Plenty of backpackers will visit Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia looking for the cheapness. I heard one person haggle over the price of food in Saigon once. We are talking about a sandwich that costs about $1 at the most with a lot of meat, a fresh baguette, vegetables, and chili on it. I could not help but wondering what in hell you can find to haggle about? But there are colors to it all I have found. On the streets of Saigon, down the alleys of Hanoi. Here in Taipei with the rush of people, the evening coming alive with street food stalls and people going for a dinner. It’s a vivid burst of color of a life and lives in the evenings in Asia. Often the night markets splash with bargains, food, and lots of people. The night markets in Taipei are intense for the most part. I have one across the street from my airbnb. It’s a unique blend of colors. I can find socks, shoes, sandwiches, noodles, satay. Even more. There is nothing about it like a Farmer’s Market or flea market or other places. If you ever visit the Central Market in Phnom Penh, you will be assailed by the unique colors. A wet market thrives. You can find fresh vegetables and produce. Ropes and locks. Metal ware of a lot of different kinds. Then there is the clothing. This is where I buy my stuff. I don’t want to spend a lot of $$ for a t shirt or shorts. Underwear too should be cheap. I mean no one sees it so what’s the deal?
Now as the evening sets its pace on Taipei and I approach the halfway mark to my month in this city, I see a more sustaining color. It’s more of the day by day sunrise to sunset colors except I don’t see many sunrises. I try to sleep past that and tonight I will imbibe some cold beverages later to help it along. But these more sustaining colors and their different shapes show a world you will not see in 5 days with 3 tours or finding the instagram places. It’s this ebb and flow of the colors underneath it all. The little things you never see when you only have 3 days. I’ve blogged before about the Hems in Vietnam. The adorable sights and sounds and colors and expressions of small life with beauty salons, barber shops, stores and market fronts. People sit out in front and smile and wave. In Da Nang the shape is even more exotic and the color more striking. In my favorite town, all the hues of a life down a small street run together. Children playing, dogs barking, a woman singing. It’s a story in search of a person. And it enthralls me each time to see it and hear its drumroll of life. The colors here are more subdued and are not dynamite bursts of difference. It’s a sedate feel in this neighborhood in Da Nang I will one day live in longer. It’s the hum and feel of the bars and coffee shops, the friendly Vietnamese shop owner waving and those young men seeing me offering me some of their beer. The same in Cambodia holds true. So many places wandered where the Khmer people will call me over, smile, shake my hand and promote one of their colorful colleagues to try English. Better perhaps to find a student at a public or private school I always think. They are all gifted in English.
But you get the idea in Southeast Asia. It is the edge of life. It’s the bounce of the colors and the warmth of the hues of the people that smile, laugh, wave, and offer that beer or three. I have not seen its like anywhere else. Some would say Thailand is the “land of smiles”. I never saw that there. More like Bangkok is the land of the dollar sign and I did not like it from the very first day there.
But its like all the edges of Southeast Asia. There are the places that astound, that you marvel at. I always marveled at Kuala Lumpur. This is a city with the edge come alive. It’s a mix of colors of bright and subdued hues all contained in diversity and food and fun and shopping malls. Yes, shopping malls. A Grab driver told me there were over 70 malls in KL. I believe it. So all of it comes alive and its there for you to grasp or miss. You may miss it with only a week in KL. KL will be shocked you spent such little time at it. Hanoi will look astounded that you could not find more or less of value. Saigon will think you did not see 5% of it.
So grab all the colors and the life you can. Take the moments and experience over the dreadful tick tick tick of the clock. Slow down and the colors will astound you in their depth. Oh yeah, Try meeting some Khmer people. Try meeting some Vietnamese people. I am blessed particularly so in Vietnam. So many friends there now that all ask about me.
So Life is in colors and rich and royal hue. It may unfold before you in the dry dusty lands of the western Mojave Desert where you think there is nothing but wait until spring when the wild flowers run. Or maybe the sedate quiet of the Eldorado National Forest at 8000 feet up. Maybe at last, like for me, its the edge of Southeast Asia. The gritty place far from the romance of the magazine writer and round the world and gap year and digital nomads. The real world under the color.
Check it out if you can.