When I travel my favorite thing is to learn about the history and observe other cultures. I generally spend the months leading up to an international trip studying about the area and the history. Then I go visit the historical sites I found fascinating. And I talk to people, I observe people in their everyday lives. I am so curious to see our similarities, our differences and our uniqueness. I do love humanity.
My recent trip to Singapore and Bangkok was different. I observed as usual, but in reality, in Bangkok the language barrier was so significant that I did not get to talk to anyone who lived there to get a sense of them, or life. The two countries could not be more different.
I started in Singapore where my husband was working. I was a tourist while he worked. I went on a fascinating tour to East Changai. The guide, a native Singaporean, was delightful- filled with knowledge and quite funny! Singapore is incredibly clean and well-maintained with good reason. She said they refer to it as a ‘fine’ country- because they fine you for everything! No chewing gum allowed – as someone might foul the streets by spitting it out. No standing water allowed and if the government inspectors find it on your balcony- you will be fined. Thus, very little mosquitoes! When you come in the country and get your visitors visa, they warn you, “Drug dealing is punishable by death.” They hang people on Fridays our guide shared with us. She also shared some wonderful ways the government supports people financially and keeps the country incredibly safe.
What I loved most was the fact that the government controls the diversity of housing that is supplemented by ensuring that the mix of people mirror that of the population, reportedly to encourage diversity and tolerance by all. Imagine what would be possible if we had that sort of attitude in our country, and throughout the world.
In Bangkok, since I could not talk to locals, I had to simply go with what I observed. As I said, it was so different. Where Singapore is clean, well maintained with a great public transit system and a government that works to ensure equity, Bangkok is dirty, sidewalks are so poorly maintained that it was dicey to not break an ankle, there were shanty towns, beggars, hustlers and food carts everywhere. The roads are the scariest thing I have ever been on – as we did not take public transport due to the language barrier – and very very crowded.
Women and men are treated unequally – which, of course, bothers me. An example: in historic sites of temples, I was made to put a wrap over my shorts so my knees would not show, but my husband could walk in with his shorts with his knees showing. Then, in certain religious areas, we observed women in traditional dress, covered up, while their husbands walked next to them in shorts and T-shirts. And this was the hottest, most humid place I have ever been which made it even more annoying!
Given the fact that women have only 75% of the rights of men globally, how can we change the world and make equality among women and men equal? Think about it and drop me a line with your thoughts.