Amid increasing anxiety across the world over race, religion, economic dislocation, and the costs of ‘openness’, David Fettling travelled south-eastern Asia to observe how people from disparate cultures, both locals and visitors, were meeting each other, seeing each other, and engaging each other. He also wanted to observe himself: his instinctive-reactions, how he tried to connect with people, and whether his preconceived notions changed with his experience.
For centuries, south-eastern Asia has been an international meeting-point, with trade, work, education, religion and leisure bringing people into the region: today this is more true than ever. South-eastern Asia’s popularity as a tourist destination has brought large numbers of visitors from Europe, the Americas, China, Japan, India, the Middle-East and Russia. For many of them, travel in the region will be their first (for some, their only) contact with other cultures. For locals, this influx offers both opportunities and challenges.Here, as in many other parts of the world, what happens along ‘tourist trails’ plays a major role in shaping how people perceive and interact with the wider world.
Travelling through seven countries in the region, Fettling meets a succession of tourists and locals who sit, comfortably and uncomfortably, at various points on an ‘open-closed’, ‘globalist-nationalist’ spectrum – people who will challenge your thought-patterns, prompt your admiration, irritate you, and make you laugh, often out loud.
Transit: Travels in south-eastern Asiawill appeal to visitors to the region who want a perceptive and entertaining account by a fellow-traveller, and to those who want to reflect on how people are meeting each other in our connected yet fractious contemporary world.