I know this entry is long overdue. It's just that I find my experiences and travels to be a bit overwhelming at times. There is just so much to do and see that its overwhelming to document it all. Also most days I hardly do anything besides wandering around cities purposefully getting lost or finding a bench to read a book. Nonetheless, I’d thought I’d share some general observations with everyone that I’ve come to notice while traveling. This entry will be quite sporadic talking about unrelated things, but things that might be interesting nonetheless.
In my opinion there is a difference between a traveler and someone on a holiday/tourist. In my eyes a traveler would be someone on an extended period of travel and often on a budget. They come and go as they please, not entirely interested in seeing every sight there is to see in whatever place they happen to be; but more interested in just being in that place in that moment. A tourist on the other hand is someone that is burning through money hitting every museum, temple, pagoda, on and off the bus tour they can book.
Well I’ve ran into quite a few characters in my travels lately and here is what I’ve concluded thus far. While on the road you tend to be classified by your nationality/ethnicity. In fact that is probably third question you get asked if its not already obvious by your accent. (The first two questions asked being: Where have you been? and Where are you going? In fact names rarely get exchanged within the first few hours of conversation.) My observations do not in anyway speak for the entire group however its what I’ve seen and people I’ve met thus far.
The Japanese Tourist…quite a specimen. Cannot begin to tell you the violations I’ve witnessed from some of them. For starters, underwater they take no concern for the marine environment. One of the fundamental rules of diving is to leave the environment the way you found it; everyone knows that corals are living species and that touching them can kill them. Supposedly Japanese divers missed this in diving 101. Above ground they are the epitome of a tourist, swarming sights as they hop on and off their plush tour buses. I don’t know what it is, but they show up in hoards and are louder than hell! Ok ladies…wearing wedges and heels is just not practical for scaling ancient ruins. I have to admit though, they are some of my favorite people for people watching. Sometimes I’d like to ask them who told them they looked good when they left the house that morning, because whoever it was flat out lied. They are always the brightest mismatched colors as well as wearing some of the funniest hats you can imagine. From large brimmed visor hats that your grandma probably wouldn’t wear anymore, even sombreros on some; their hats run the gamut!
Aussies: They are everywhere in Southeast Asia! With close proximity to Australia, SEA is naturally their most accessible destination. No chance walking a block without running into one.
Americans: The majority of Americans I’ve met thus far have got on my last good one! For the most part, I’ve seemed to encountered two types…The privileged that seem to know everything no matter what you tell them, or the Hippie nomads that seem to think that the world is ending and that America is on the verge of total collapse.
Well that’s just a few I’d like to comment on.
Another interesting fact, a bit of toilet humor. Some places, especially in the countryside, only have squat toilets. Basically just a porcelain hole in the ground with grooves on the side to place your feet. A tricky thing to get the hang of if your not flexible or have bad knees. Also most of SEA does not use toilet paper. They have a water hose with a squirt gun a ‘bum gun’ or even worse just a dipper which is nothing more than a bucket filled with water. This obviously doesn’t fly for most westerners so carrying toilet paper is a must. However the plumbing over here is not equipped to handle all the tp. Therefore whatever you use must go into the waste basket next to you and not flushed down the toilet. Something as second nature as dropping after wiping is a very hard habit to break.
Not a secret, but America’s pharmaceutical companies are exploiting us!!! When I can buy a packet of 10 valium from the pharmacy for no more than a single US $1.00, why do I need to shell out so much for a prescription in The States! Why do I need to be buying valium you might ask?? No I’m not turning into some drug smuggler. Valium can actually be a travelers best friend. In fact most travelers don’t leave their guesthouses without it. When you have a 12 hour cramped bus ride from Hue to Hanoi a couple of Valium is your best option.
The best plan out here is to have no plan! I must admit I’m a total planner, in fact when going on a trip anywhere I find planning it to be half the enjoyment. That’s how this trip started, I planned out the first 4 weeks of my journey. Oh how quickly that changed. Within 3 days of arriving here my plan quickly changed. I found myself in places I didn’t originally plan to go. I also found the freedom of staying in one place however long I’d like great! There’s actually no need for a guide book or pre booking accommodation or transportation. Besides my flight here and my eventual flight back to the states, I have not pre booked a single thing. Finding accommodation is as easy as wandering down the street. Booking transportation is as easy as taking a trip to the train or bus station, or even walking into a travel agency to have it done for you. There are at least 5 different travel agencies on any street block. And as far as knowing where to go, word of mouth by other travelers can be your best guidebook.
Food is phenomenal out here. Some of the best food you can get is from the street corners. Little Asian ladies set up their portable stoves and pots of whatever they cook up. Grabbing a child stool and pointing to whatever the local is eating is all you have to do. The next thing you know you have a steaming bowl of Pho or noodles sitting in front of you. However, turning a blind eye to the unhygienic treatment of the food is a must otherwise you’ll just plain starve. I often find myself wondering about my friends and my own previous habits. Vegetarianism would be very hard, because although you ask for no meat whatever they make would be made with some sort of animal product. Asking for only white meat from the chicken and no dark meat would cause utter confusion. Refusing to eat meat that’s on the bone would leave you starving. Also an interesting habit that I’ve picked up is slurping. It is common practice and even respectful to slurp your noodles/pho/ramen/etc here so I don't mind it at all, in fact I rather enjoy it. However, I had to check myself the other day when I started to slurp my spaghetti. I caught myself doing it out of sheer habit. I'm not sure if slurping your pasta the way you slurp your pho is kosher.
I’ve had sooooo many unexplainable bug bites on my skin since I’ve been here. Little red spots here, white spots there. From bed bugs to mozzie bites to spider bites to whatever the hell else is out here, I’ve had it. Sometimes I constantly feel like something is crawling on me, but have seemed overcome it. Fearing small bugs has seemed to be a thing of the past for me.
Well that’s all for now. I’ll return with some entries about Cambodia and Vietnam later.