L and I were at the famous Maeklong Railway Market in Thailand and after waiting almost 2 hours for the train to pass through the market, we went to have our lunch at the station. We wanted to visit the floating market after the railway market but we did not know how to get there. Sitting right next to us was a tour guide from China who ate on his own. Once in a while, a few tourists from his tour group came over and asked him questions in Chinese, e.g. when would their tour bus arrive. L and I thought maybe we could borrow his expertise and find out from him how to go to the floating market from here.
I smiled and asked him politely in Chinese, “Hi, sorry to disturb your lunch. Do you know how do we go to the Amphawa Floating Market from here?”
He replied, “Amphawa? It is already closed at this hour.”
“Oh is it? Thank you very much.”
Disappointed, I told L what he had just said and we agreed that we had a really great day venturing out to this railway market and maybe since it was already raining, we should find our way back to Bangkok. We got to Maeklong Railway Market via a mini-bus and the mini-bus stopped us by the road side so we did not know where the bus station was. Yet again, we had to turn to the Chinese tour guide for help.
I asked him in Chinese, “Hi, sorry to disturb you again. Do you know where is the bus station?”
He said in Chinese, “Give me a moment.” He spoke in Thai to the food stall-owner for a little while before he told me, “It’s quite complicated to describe where the bus station is. When you’re about to leave, just tell me. I’ll ask the lady at the food stall to arrange transportation for you.”
“Thank you very much!” I exclaimed with a wide grin.
So when we were done with lunch, the Chinese tour guide and the food stall-owner walked us to the road-side and there were two motorcyclists waiting for us. The food stall-owner said something in Thai to the motorcyclists before we got onto the motorcycles. The motorcyclists took us to the bus station (10 baht for ~ 5 – 10 min ride) and we took the mini-bus from there back to downtown Bangkok.
Tourists and tour guides from China have a rather bad reputation globally because some of their mannerisms can be perceived as loud, rude or even offensive. Some people even find places with many Chinese tourists less desirable. But I feel that cultures are relative – what do we use as our yardstick to judge whether a culture is inferior or superior? The American culture? Or the British culture? The Chinese guy may be yelling in the restaurant in Bangkok because in some parts of China, e.g. Beijing, he will not get the attention of the waiters/ waitresses if he does not shout. It is the way it is. He did not choose to behave this way; he was conditioned to behave this way in the culture that he grew up in. It is not fair to judge other cultures in this heterogeneous world. But we most certainly can judge whether a person is kind/ unkind. And I am sure that Chinese tour guide in Maeklong is a kind man.