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Food for thought When Stepping Abroad

Posted on 20 January 2019

Food for thought When Stepping Abroad

Presentation matters, especially when far from home.

There’s a suburb in central Bangkok known for three things: coffee, bars and food. Ari, a leafy green area, just a few stops from Bangkok’s busiest interchange station Siam, has been a hotspot for years among locals and in the last five or so years expats and backpackers alike.

While developers continue to expand up, apartments and condominiums are built, hostels and Airbnbs are made out of old shophouses and buildings, and of course restaurants and bars continue to pop up, there’s a hint of change in the air as it undergoes massive growth. For the better? Of course. For the worse? That depends who you ask.

A small Taco stand in Soi Ari 1.

In the short period of three years since I last lived here, there’s been a few noticeable changes. On my first day back, one of the first things I saw was a barefoot man wearing a Singha beer singlet and a elephant pattern skirt. He’s the kind of guy local media tends to mock, someone you’d expect to see eating a grilled scorpion at 2am on a Tuesday at Khao San Road, Bangkok’s notorious tourist street.

A few minutes after spotting my barefoot counterpart, I noticed a sign has been put up outside one of the fairly new apartment blocks. It read something along the lines of, ‘This condominium is not a hotel and does not welcome short-term stay. Please respect our long-term residents who live here’. Another sign outside a café reads, ‘no shoes, no enter’.

If you’re wondering what the first sign means, I think it’s safe to say it was put up to counter people wandering in to enquire about staying there. This is completely reasonable–you wouldn’t want someone barging into your home to ask if they can rent a room either. The second is obviously to keep the barefoot man mentioned earlier afar.

A streetside salad bar in Soi Ari 1

In the era of begpackers, international buskers and volunteer tourism, it seems old fashion manners have gone astray. As excited as we may get, as eye-opening as some experiences may be, it’s always best to try and keep some composure. Bangkok is a city of 12 million people, that’s three times the population of Melbourne so why would we want to present ourselves in any other way then we would back home?

When we set off to explore new countries, experience new cultures and travel in general, why do we feel so inclined to dress a certain way? We should be mindful of where we’re visiting and keep certain things for the city, others for going off the grid . The idea of stripping down to a pair of budgie smugglers with the emblem of the local flag might seem like a fun idea until you’re escorted away in handcuffs.

Anyone would agree Ari is an incredible suburb, and it’s somewhere to be enjoyed by everyone. There’s no set rule on how we should dress or ways to conduct ourselves abroad, but if you ask me, the new sign outside that apartment building and the one in the café, sure are a sign that it matters.