Image of a Thai Coke can, taken from here.
Acclaimed travel writer Pico Iyer has a short piece called 10 Things Every Traveler Should Do in the latest issue of Real Simple magazine. They're useful tips for getting the most out of every travel experience, whether you're visiting the next town over or the other side of the planet. With this baby's arrival imminent, we're not planning on going anywhere, not even the beach, any time soon. But a woman can dream. I was particularly struck by this tip, for when you are visiting someplace far from home:
Ten years ago, when we were living in Singapore, for a little while we lived around the corner from a McDonald's tucked into a corner of the outdoor food court situated underneath a block of government flats (almost every block of HDB flats had these communal eating places). The restaurant used to give me a weird frisson every time I went in -- it was so familiar, of course, and yet, in its Singaporean incarnation, so strange. I thought at the time that someone should write a travel piece about visiting the various McDonald's restaurants around the world. It wouldn't have to be McDonald's, of course -- you could choose any Western restaurant or chain store that seems bound and determined to take over the world. They started opening up Starbucks in Singapore right around the time I arrived (I arrived the day after Princess Diana was killed) and a giant Ikea followed shortly. Both of those businesses tended to create the same surreal kind of tension.
In many ways, I find Nova Scotia, where we now live, much more remote from that world than Singapore was -- when we moved here in 2002, there were no Starbucks here yet and there are still only two or three in the entire province, I think. And there are no Ikeas.