Thursday, August 12, 2010

Japan is the New Thailand

This post may enrage a number of die-hard "Go Thailand" fans.

And Singaporeans could be such fanatics when it comes to their annual, half yearly, or even quarterly mandatory trips to different parts of Thailand. I used to be one of them, although my Thai trips come only about once every 2 years with another pair of "happy" friends, usually for a 4 days-3 nights of mad shopping, frantic gorging and blissful ass cheap massages. The beauty of Thailand is such that it is only a two and a half hour plane ride away, a destination so cheap we can live like kings, enjoy wonderful food and shopping, and surrounded by the most friendly locals.

Unfortunately, to the utter distress of our citizens, Thailand has been undergoing major political upheavals that has resulted in the destruction of several of our fave shopping centres, and making it into a "no-go" zone. With the threat of sporadic riots, demonstrations, airport standoffs, tourists, not just Singaporeans, are giving Thailand the wide berth. The collective moan of Singaporeans could be heard audibly, "So where can we go now???"

Just as Thailand is sinking, the Land of the Rising Sun, is well, Rising. Perhaps it is a combination of world economic and social developments, H1N1 or whatever other reasons, but since my first trip to Tokyo in 2008, Japan suddenly seems to be on the radar of EVERYONE. It was like we suddenly rediscovered a gem in our (slightly further) backyard. Almost anyone and everyone I knew was suddenly going, planning to go, already gone, to various parts in Japan. The Visit Japan 2010 page on Facebook has an astounding 70,000+ fans (including moi, of course) and counting, all professing their undying love for the country. Fat Geisha is not the only obsessed one, ne?

So much for Japan being an expensive place, yadda yadda. The fact hit home this June as Samurai T and I landed at Narita from New York, and the moment we stepped onto the limousine bus, we were SURROUNDED by a gaggle of SINGAPOREAN voices. For a shocking moment, I thought I was either back home in Singapore, or I had mistakenly gone to Thailand. Previously, only when I was in Thailand could I throw a rock and have a one in two chance of hitting a Singaporean. But Japan?!? Yes I saw a few Singaporeans during my first two trips but they were not really obtrusive, but during the June trip to Tokyo I was literally bombarded by them everywhere I go (bus, hotel, metro, restaurants - YIKES)!! And Tokyo IS not small, mind you. I was gobsmacked.

Therein lies a dilemma. What is the point of running away from the country when the country runs after you? Yet, I could not fault fellow Singaporeans for loving Japan the way I do. I mean, although there is no argument that a trip to Japan is equivalent to 2 or even 3 trips to Thailand in terms of expenditure, the experiences offered there far outweigh that of our Southeast Asian neighbour.

I only have one wish though, which is that UGLY Singaporeans should just stay far far away. Preferably banned from travelling anywhere, period. Refusing to return trays in civic conscious Japan, speaking loudly and rudely to wait staff who are trying to cater to your EVERY demand, makes me want to dig a hole to bury THEM somewhere in national shame.

Back to the point of this post: Between Japan and Thailand for my mandatory future trips? It is a no brainer. Nihon, ichiban!

No comments: