West meets East

I went to Chatuchak weekend market today. It was probably my fourth or fifth visit.

Chatuchak is a very famous tourists destination in Bangkok. A visit to Chatuchak is like an exotic cultural experience for tourists, especially for westerners from developed countries. Everything from Thai silk to modern fake Levi jeans can be found at the clothing stall booths as far as the eyes can see. The shops sell almost everything under the sun --- antique handicrafts and modern furniture, books and
collectable items, plants and pets, and you name it.

The visits to Chatuchak made me think about the cultural differences between people from developing and developed countries. Western tourists would look for antique ethnic handicrafts whereas the locals would not even care about those sections of the market.

In my observations, people from industrialized countries tend to appreciate this kind of picture.

Sunset in Bagan (Photo source is unknown and may have copyrights
held by the photographer)



Life in Burma





On the contrary, people from developing countries tend to be impressed by this kind of picture.

Shanghai Skyscrapers at night (Picture taken from http://www.cepolina.com)



Developing countries want to develop faster and faster at the cost of natural and cultural beauty. China, for example, is growing very fast at the cost of social stability, the income gap between the rich and poor becoming wider and wider [WSJ] They even want to build more dams in Burma [Irrawaddy].

Big international businesses are moving to less developed countries not only for cheap labor, but also for less strict environmental rules and regulations.

Developed countries, on the other hand, want to go back to history and preserve natural beauty. To tell you the truth, the air quality in Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA (where I went to college) is better than the air quality in my home town, Mudon, Mon State in Burma. Thanks to cheap Thailand and Chinese made motorbikes and no rules regarding air pollution, the air quality in my hometown in Burma is getting worse these days. The fact that every factory in Fort Wayne, Indiana, has to follow strict environmental rules and regulations has made the environment very nice for the citizens of the
town.

I, for one, am looking forward to the days when leaders in developing countries, Asean in particular, will start to talk about putting the interest and basic human rights of their own people ahead of the economic development. I hope that our region will grow without sacrificing our natural and cultural beauty.


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