Friday, April 1, 2011
Mae Sot/Too Cool Falangs
I arrived in the border town Mae Sot this afternoon, and I might as well have migrated to another country entirely. A Swiss couple I talked to at length told me without the Burmese refugees there really would be no Mae Sot. And there really is a notable difference in the facial features, the food, and the general vibe. Much more intense and even less Western influence than other cities I have been in. And far fewer smiles. Funny but when your smile is not reciprocated- and there is no way I will ever be able to smile as cheerfully as a native Thai- it is soul crushing. Well, that is overly dramatic I know. Probably because I have been watching Thai television the last few nights in the guesthouses. By far the most scenery chewing acting ever. It makes our soaps look like a Bergman retrospective by comparison.Perhaps matched in dramatic ridiculousness by the latin telenuevas ( I know I spelled that wrong). Anyway the smile thing not working definitely stinks since it is basically the only tool I have in my toolbox and it has been extremely reliable up til now. The one person one must never smile at is the other white people one encounters. I have no idea why but there seems to be an unwritten law that when you pass another white person you both act as if you are on a highly important mission, perhaps even a secret misson ordained by the king himself, because that is just how amazingly entrenched you are in this local scene, way too self important and hip to acknowlege that the white person passing there might just have something in common with you, might just know your neighbor, or be your little sister's ex boyfriend. Each place seems to have their own set of white tourists. In Khao Lak it was the over tanned, over-ginned beachy types. In Sukhothai it was the nerdy backpacking history buffs. Here in Mae Sot it is the bearded and the pert birkenstock world saver types working with refugees. They are here to save the world with peace and love, but can they spare an old white fellow traveler with a Bundesleague Soccer Jersey a simple "Hello"? No way. This changes when you find yourselves booked into the same guesthouse- "Oh, Hello! Where are you from? Oh? That is the village in France where I am going to be in July?" Oh White People. Why are we so insecure?