After the attacks on Asian Americans, traveling to Asia allowed me to be myself

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At the age of eight, I traveled with my parents to Asia for the first time. When we returned to our house in New Jersey, I had a schtick that probably bothered my parents indefinitely.

“Tsing Mat Kau Gaun Tsae Mun.” Please step away from the door. Doot Doot Doot Doot Doot! “

For weeks, I repeated the automatic announcement of the Hong Kong subway door closing, which I broadcast in both Cantonese and English.

I was spoiled the record, sound effects and such. At least I could say that I practiced my broken Cantonese.

The trip was one of my first memories of traveling abroad. And it was a formative experience for someone who still loves walking on the same trains, planes and traveling.

Between this first trip and now I have visited Asia about ten times. At the end of March, I decided to return to my favorite region of the world, this time with stops in Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore.

Where can you go in Asia right now

With many countries finally reopening borders after a protracted pandemic, it is now much easier for me (and any other vaccinated tourist) to enter. From the beginning of this month, you will have to take a coronavirus test before departure and arrival in order to enter Thailand, while both Vietnam and Singapore only require a pre-departure test.

When I arrived, I had a unique experience of traveling to areas that were mostly untouched by tourists for two years – especially to Vietnam. But there was also something much more important on my solo journey.

Over the past two years, Asian and American attention has come to the attention of the Americans. I was filled with courage when I saw how many Asians noticed and rewarded for what they were. But I’m still troubled as anti-Asian attacks continue in my hometown of New York and elsewhere, from the Atlanta shootings last year to Michelle Go’s death in the subway.

Words can also hurt. As a reporter, I was warned not to abuse my Asian American identity for personal gain or to “arm my minority status.”

Now more than ever at home, I feel this duality that I want to be seen and at the same time I want to hide.

The beauty of traveling in Asia, however, was that I did not have to struggle with being either too loud or too hidden; I could just be myself. And it came with a sense of relief that I didn’t expect otherwise.

Although I am a Chinese American, I generally look like an East Asian. My parents emigrated to the United States when they were teenagers, but when we were growing up, we didn’t talk much about their origins or upbringing. It is this disconnection from my own family history that evokes in me a desire to unite with the larger Chinese and East Asian communities.

At the beginning of my two-week trip, I was kneeling late on the Yaowarat Road in Bangkok’s Chinatown late in the evening. I was in the largest Chinese diaspora in the world and crowds of locals bought durian at the stall next to me. Although I am not Thai and do not speak this language, I felt connected to my surroundings.

How to plan a trip to Thailand

The moment was small but significant. I have been feeling part of the physical and mental stress of the last two years.

During my stay in Southeast Asia, I connected with friends, experienced the cities as the locals would do, and most importantly, I revived my sense of self in a place where I didn’t have to worry about what I looked like.

After all, I was in Asia as a tourist. I had a privileged position to ignore any local tensions between minority groups and to forget for a moment the micro-aggression or discrimination that continued at home.

Ironically, it is not clear to me that what makes life in the United States so wonderful is what makes me feel sad and afraid – and a strong desire to return to Asia.

The power to get my Asian name back

I love the diversity of America, but there seems to be a constant need to divide people who differ into separate categories, thus separating us from each other.

During my last night in Singapore, my friend Kai mentioned his concern about visiting the United States right now. As he explained, his country is protected from open racism, which is faced by so many minorities in the United States and elsewhere.

In Singapore, diversity is essentially enforced by law, with the Malaysian, Indian and Chinese populations living side by side. Perhaps 80 percent Singapore residents in public apartments, each building enforces quotas on how many residents of one racial group can live there. While it may seem authoritarian and foster, Kai said, he believes it works to create a semblance of social harmony.

Of course, racism exists everywhere and Singapore is no exception. But as Kai stood on the MRT platform in Singapore, he didn’t have to roll his eyes as the train approached, something that had now become second nature to me as I took my home in the New York subway. At the back of our minds is the question: “Will another Asian be on the tracks?

The two weeks I spent in Southeast Asia gave me a new perspective on what it means to travel. asian american. Although I have always been on a continuous path to accept my Asianness, the last few years in the United States have forced me to deal with it completely. Recent anti-Asian violence appears to be a cascading effect of phrases such as “Chinese virus” or “kung flu”, words used at the height of the pandemic.

But this recent spotlight means that so many of my Asian-American peers, friends, and colleagues are talking about injustice or just sharing their subtle experiences with others for the first time. And I know, along with so many others, that we cannot return to a state of invisibility or silence. There is no going back.

I remember those moments abroad when I was eight years old, and now I see how it has helped to strengthen my sense of wonder. With this latest journey, this miracle has turned into a form of empowerment for adults.

I can thank my trips to Asia for all this. And I can’t wait to come back and hear the train door close again.

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