Thoughts On Thailand

Some thoughts from Azar Kazimir following his first trip to Thailand, originally published in the Autumn 2023 edition of the Michelberger Quarterly. Azar is a designer and illustrator and has been working with the Fountain of Youth for over 10 years.
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I’ve always been drawn East. Truth be told, I feel more comfortable there than here. I sometimes joke to my wife that I came from there in my last life. Not that I'm into past lives, but when you feel so utterly comfortable in places and cultures you’ve never been to before, you do ponder how that could be. 

The first time I went to Japan, I hitchhiked through the island, sleeping rough on quiet quays or off mountain paths. I pointed, I smiled. I couldn’t speak a word or understand a word. Yet I felt so at home and deep in conversation with the world around me. 

When East, I tend to gravitate to the quiet, sacred spaces, the shrines and temples. I’m not a religious person. I wouldn't call myself a spiritual one. I’m not searching for anything, so I often wonder why. I think it’s the aesthetics that draw me to those places. I buzz off the artwork. I dig the architecture. The stories fascinate me. I don’t look twice at the equivalent places here. 

I travelled to Thailand late last year. I was to begin work on a new website for the Fountain of Youth and I wanted to show the how and where and who behind the drink, so I went to see that for myself. It was my first time there and again, I felt totally at home. Excited and alive as I walked through Bangkok, the deeper contentment began when I left the city and began to explore the rural region of Ratchaburi where the coconut water is produced. I went a bit wider. I got on slow trains, hired scooters and just went where it took me. I’m not a people person and my strategy is always to look at a map and choose the area with the least towns and cities and just head there. I climbed hills, peeked in caves, followed rivers and wandered coves. And of course I found the temples.

I found a lot of magical things in that country, too many to list. But maybe this was the thing that was the most wonderful for me: the synthesis and syncretism. It’s everywhere. In a temple, with bits of south-Asian Theravada Buddhism, native animism, Indian Brahmanism and Chinese Taoism and Confucianism all harmoniously hanging out together. In a comic culture with its influences from India, Japan, America all combining to make something new, raucous and totally local. In the food, a harmony of the dietary preferences of many cultures into one that blends sweet, sour, spicy, and bitter flavours to create something original and recognised as exceptional the world over.

The point is this. It's not that there's no difference. Rather, it's the acceptance of difference followed by the assimilation of difference as an act of creativity! There, it's difference that leads to connection! I found that beautiful and important.

A confession: I want to be a man and a woman. I want to be an adult and a child. I want to be a human and a bird. I want to be an atheist and a Hindu and an Aborigine and an artist and an accountant. I want to be an anarchist and a democrat and even an authoritarian! There, I learnt that I can be all of these things, that I can live a life full of different lives! I had the insight that being different things means being my unique self.