I’ve always appreciated the old and natural over the new and plastic. I like old buildings, old cars, old clothes. I majored in history and have often felt like I should be living in a different decade. I prefer making things with my hands than working online. I don’t have a smartphone.
When I first moved to Thailand several things stood out to me as being ‘old fashioned’ or done in a more natural way than at home. More clothes are made or fitted by hand. Tailor shops and single seamstresses working out of their front room are everywhere to make custom clothing and resize school uniforms. In a time when less people are even wearing watches, here you can get your broken timepiece fixed by a man with a little stand on the side of the street. Along with getting your shoes resoled.
Some more examples – above are old-style bicycle taxis known as samlors. Naturally, before the onslaught of cars and motorbikes, they used to be used much more frequently, and today are mainly reduced to a tourist attraction of sorts. The only people that seem to use them seriously are old Thai ladies going to and from the fresh markets.
When I was taking my TEFL course I walked past this print shop everyday where they have not one, but TWO classic Heidelberg letterpresses that they use for printing…fliers. Fliers! And invitations, but still. Here you see one of the press and racks of type that the man who owns the shop and his son have to set by hand for each design.
Traditional Thai houses were made of teak and raised on stilts to avoid flooding damage and, well, tigers. Though there are still several of these types of houses around, many are worn down and no new ones are being built. You can see in the image below an older house by newer buildings and hotels.
Southeast Asia is the world’s winner for using the most plastic bags possible. It’s not just that there’s no awareness about trying to use reusable bags instead of plastic when going to the market or grocery store; it’s like there’s an unspoken competition to use as many bags for your purchases as physically possible. I’ve literally bought three small things before and had them placed into three separate bags. I don’t get it. My favorite is when I see someone buy a bottle of tea or can of soda, have it put in a bag to carry out, then open it up and start drinking still hold on to the bag.
Anyway, on the other end of the spectrum, gigantic banana leaves are abundant and often used to wrap, package and cook in. Above are Thai sweets made from coconut milk that are cooked and then sold in their banana leaf wrappers – so simple, green and sustainable. Sometimes you can get fried noodle dishes off the street served on a banana leaf instead of in a styrofoam box. Perfect.