Many of you know my fascination and appreciation for Northeast Asia cultures, in particular Korean. My first visit to Asia was 20 years ago, visiting Korean Airlines in Seoul, for a business-related trip. I found the South Koreans a marvel to work with and I ended up finalizing a NOTAMs product for them.
Twenty years earlier every stereotype I held about Europe and Italy in particular, was dashed on the bus ride across Milan from one airport to another. How could the New York Times have been so wrong? Thus, I was a bit better prepared for my first trip to Korea. I’d even read a book, “Culture Shock Korea”, which turned out to be very good for that trip and started a long-term relationship with the people and the country for me.
I’m embarrassed to admit now, that before that, I had lumped the cultures of Northeast Asian: China, Korea and Japan, pretty much together. Hard to imagine that, when 10 years later, I even had a Korean language program in my 100% Black and Hispanic school in the Bronx.
Fast forward to the present. For my first foray into Southeast Asia, I knew to leave everything I thought I knew at the door. I read a number of books this time. I was helped with my correspondence with Trinh. It was obvious even then that it was a whole new world.
Vietnam seems like I guess Korea was back in the 1980’s, maybe how Italy was in the 50’s. Countries pulling themselves up by their bootstraps with a population that was dedicated to hard work and sacrifice. I have also learned that in spite of the convenient geographical reference of Southeast Asia, Vietnam is really culturally and linguistically closer to Northeast Asia: China, Korea and Japan.
In my first weeks here, as I became more accustomed to the heat, humidity and motorbikes, I started to see far more similarities to Korea than I would have guessed before. Initially, all I saw were differences, but within weeks, I realized it more like 90% similar, 10% different.
One of the big differences is the culture of the motorbike. They are popular here because of cost and they work because the climate is warm enough year around.
It took me a while to get my head around the system. At first it seems like no system, but anyone who has driven a motorcycle knows, mistakes hurt. You don’t have two tons of steel around you to protect yourself from your own stupidity.
At the simplest level, the rule is don’t hit anything you can see. Doesn’t get much simpler than that. What amazes me is the total lack of any road rage or even emotion. It’s just a very cooperative system. I’ve been on a road that is already narrow, with motorbikes reduced to one line to get around some obstruction and someone is that line will get a cell call and just stop. Now everyone must also get around them, but there are no words, not even any looks.
I’ve always thought that NYC is a cooperative place to drive. Drivers int eh middle lane, will move left and make room for the car in the right lane, if they see the right lane is blocked. Most other places that doesn’t happen.
So, I’ve have finally gotten my GoPro going and will upload the videos I make to my smug mug site sooner rather than later. The other good news is that I have many Videos made on Dauntless also that never saw the light of day because they were inverted. I finally was able to fix that.
I would appreciate any suggestions (please email me) on the best way going forward to post my action videos. You Tube Channel??
This is a static video showing the intersection by my cafe.
Here is the link to my motorbike adventures
Anyway, enjoy and let me know.