Eric B. Mahinay is our Tripper of the Week. Originally from the Philippines, he has been moving around for awhile, backpacking and teaching in various places such as Thailand and Poland. He shares his experiences living with different cultures, both the best parts and some of the hard realities of culture shock. He has an inspiring love for people and respect for those he encounters, so read his story to get a dose of travel truth and wandering wisdom.
1) After a year and three months teaching in Thailand, you say that it’s your favorite place in Southeast Asia. What do you think made you fall in love with Thailand? What are some of the things that make it so special?
Thailand is quietly similar to my country (The Philippines), except for the temples and monks roaming around asking for alms. Yet, I have been easily drawn to the country because of the people. Thai people are very friendly and they will find ways to help you regardless of the language barrier. With that, the people made me feel welcomed and at home. Secondly, the food. Thai food is so delicious and always freshly made so it’s healthy and cheap. Third, is their culture. It’s so rich and amazing, and although you can see the constant penetration of the western culture, they are still nationalistic and strongly practicing what ought to be preserved.. and I love that.
2)While teaching in Thailand, you made side trips and backpacking excursions to the Philippines, Hongkong, Macau, Laos, Singpour, and Malaysia. Which one of these destinations would you want to return to most and why?
There’s so much to see and discover about Laos and Malaysia. These two Asian neighbors have a distinctive beauty that every backpacker in the world should see. Laos Si Phan Don is a beautiful set of islands set against the Mekong River and there’s a dramatic landscape surrounding the province of Vang Vieng. I didn’t know about them until I read a travel blog. In Malaysia, another city I would love to see again is Melaka which is rich in historical sites and stories during the Portuguese occupation, and nature adventure in Sabah Island which is pretty close to my country. I regret so much that I confined myself mostly in the capital cities like Kuala Lumpur and Vientiane. Probably it’s because I was still a neophyte backpacker. Hongkong would always startle me with those skyscrapers buildings and it’s cleanliness. The views of the buildings are often amazing especially in the evening; I feel like I’m in New York city.
3) Name the most unique thing you have ever come across in your travels.
The most unique thing I have ever come across in my travels are the local people themselves. Tourist spots will always put us in awe and a different culture culture will show how different we are from each other. The media might paint a bad picture of a certain country without knowing the locals around. And I will always say, no matter how dangerous and strange this planet is, still, there are kind individuals around the globe willing to help you regardless of your differences, and that is enough for me to prove that we still have the same purpose in life. The world is a huge place and there’s so much to see, but the citizens of every nation that I’ve been to will always remind me of the realization that there’s a lot I still don’t know about the world.
4) From living in Thailand to Poland to the Phillippines to Cambodia, what are some of the difficulties in transitioning into such different cultures?
It wasn’t hard for me to adjust living in the Asian countries because of our similarities in culture. However, living in Poland was a bit challenging because of the weather and the European culture. I had a culture shock when I lived in Poland and the feeling of homesickness was intense because of language, food and weather. The hardest part for me was when I felt depression in my first month in Poland in the midst of winter. I felt like I was about to lose my mind from the difficult experience of being stared at everyday because I’m brown and Asian. Now, I know what it feels like to be considered different. That gave me the notion of sympathy, especially to the white tourists who would come to Asia and feel irritated when Asians would always stare and ask to take their picture. Well, that’s us Asians.
5) Right now, you’re in Siam Reap, Cambodia. What are the sites you plan to see, or already have seen? Do you think you will stay for long?
The Angkor Wat is always captivating. Though, I have visited the other spectacular temples nearby, Angkor Wat offers a different beauty that will bring you to the time of ancient Cambodia. But Cambodia is a big country and there are still places that I haven’t visited, like another ruin temple in the middle of the forest in the western part of Siem Reap which isn’t visited by most travelers. I am still enjoying the different Asian atmosphere in Cambodia but the itch of traveling will always be there. That is why I can’t say if I’m staying here for long. Like I said, the world is a huge place – I want to visit the neighbor of Cambodia – Vietnam, Myanmar on the other side, and Nepal on the northern part.
Thanks for your honest insight Eric. You’ve had some amazing experiences and are bound to have many more! Good luck!
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