Reflections on SE Asia

In a few short hours we will be on a plane to Africa, leaving Southeast Asia to our memories. We had such a fantastic time here. It’s about as far away as you can get from home for us. There are many different religions, languages and customs. All this makes for exciting travels, and was for the most part (excluding Sumatra) relaxing and easy. Before leaving, there are just a few random things we wanted to reflect on. For those of you lucky enough to have visited this part of the world, I’m sure you will be able to relate.

When a restaurant has an English menu they are always lengthy 20+ page menus. Why so long? They serve everything under the sun, from local dishes to wiener schnitzel and spaghetti bolognese. They also serve about 8 variations on each dish. E.g. Stir fried rice with chicken. Stir fried rice with beef. Stir fried rice with mutton. Stir fried rice with squid. Stir fried rice with prawn. Stir fried rice with pork. Stir fried rice with vegetable. Stir fried rice with tofu. Stir fried rice with curry…

Funny English interpretations. E.g. As seen on a menu in Raileh, “Food and Dinks: Coke, Diet Cock…”

Roman letters and English words are fashionable. I’m pretty sure that often the wearer isn’t aware of their meaning. E.g. As seen on a girl’s t-shirt in Sungai Gerringing, “Peace, love, give head”.

People love their P.J.s. Doesn’t matter if it’s bed time or not. Boy and girls, women and men wear classic 2-piece pajamas. Pink for girls, blue for boys.

Cats have no tails. At first I thought they were some kind of Manx breed. Wrong. We were told that their tails are chopped off when they’re kittens because they’re believed to be possessed by evil spirits. This is mostly in Muslim countries, like Malaysia and Indonesia, although we’ve seen it all over.

Sights of song birds in cages are common. On Koh Tao, they play some sort of betting game with them where 2 teams of men put numbers on the cages covered with blankets. The blankets are removed in some order and the men cheer. I’m not sure how this works.

Animals are free to roam. Stray dogs are found everywhere. Local cattle either roams freely or are tethered to a rope attached through their nostrils, no fences.

Free-range cows are often eating garbage in roadside ditches. Free-range chickens are often eating cow poop.

Western men with Asian girlfriends is a common sight. The men are usually mature. You rarely see Western women with Asian men.

There are a bazillion different varieties of rice. Sold in markets by weight and stored in giant bags.

The smell of burning garbage is horrible. It’s ever-present and in every country we visited. We even burned it when we volunteered at HODR. What else is there? The smell will haunt my nostrils for life.

Bamboo bungalows are better for beating the heat than concrete.

Never assume that you will have electricity or freshwater in your bungalow.

Cold showers are an excellent way, and often the only way, to beat the heat.

When presented with a squat toilet or a western toilet, we will now choose a squat.

No t.p.? Use the hose. Ew? Well, if you had excrement under your armpit, would you use a piece of t.p. or would you use water? Exactly.

Many ornate, gold gilded temples are often a let down on the inside with dozens of idols scattered haphazardly and cheap plastic floors.

Mosques can be any colour under the rainbow. They preferred cotton candy pink and mint green in Indonesia.

Sights of rickety, half fallen down shacks equipped with satellite dishes are common.

Helmets on motorbikes are optional but should be mandatory. Obvious. When helmets are available, they’re usually just softball bucket helmets.

You can do practically anything with bamboo and coconut trees.

Geckos in building are good luck and should not be swept off the ceiling as we did on our first encounter. Haha.

It’s hard to find a good cup of coffee. Nescafé is everywhere. Sumatran coffee is so strong and so thick you can chew it. Same goes for Lao coffee.

You have to learn go with the flow. Eventually you will arrive at your destination. It may not be on time, or in the vehicle you thought it would, but you’ll get there.

I get much more attention on my own than when with Mark.

You need to know how to say a firm yet polite “no thank you”. “No way!” works well for the kids at Angkor Wat.

Your inner hippy will come out in SE Asia. E.g. As demonstrated by Mark.

Flip flops are mandatory. They’re easiest to take off when you enter a building, which you must do. Or go barefoot.

Napkins are weak. In Indonesia, they use rolls of toilet paper (t.p. on the dining table only, not in the washrooms). In Thailand, Laos and Cambodia they use flimsy pink tissues.

It’s nearly impossible to find shirts or shoes that fit Mark.

In Indonesia, I am a ‘mister’. There is no differentiation between sexes in Bahasa, and so they will say “Hello Mister!” to me and Mark.

Also nearly impossible for him to find comfort and adequate leg room on public transportation.

We come to this part of the world to sunbathe and darken our skin. Meanwhile the locals use whitening creams to lighten theirs.

Mattresses and pillows are made firm, and often lumpy.

People always want to know “where are you going?”

Every building lining a street has a small store out front, selling the same things as their neighbours.

Advertising and design is all the same. Maybe it appeals to the population? I don’t get it. There is usually always a generic looking model, smiling with bright shiny white teeth holding the product. Sometimes they use two models. Phones, candy, shampoo: it’s all the same.

Mosquitoes are stealthier than they are back home.

Karsts are spectacular. How do they exist? What forces of nature form them? They boggle.

The people in Siem Reap were delightfully friendly.

Hard to escape the feeling that you’re being had. Either you’re being ripped off or you’re ripping them off. In the heavily touristed areas, you are not a person, you are a dollar sign.

Costs were higher than expected. In the last year or two, many places have kept their prices the same, but switched from US dollars to the Euro. Prices were frequently more than twice the price of our 2008 Lonely Planet guidebook.

Yes, costs were higher than we expected but they are still insanely low relative to what we’re used to in Canada and Europe. In Southeast Asia, not only did we see amazing sites but we also got to stay in private rooms, eat proper meals and enjoy a few drinks. This is why we felt so relaxed here. We were living and experiencing, not just existing, as we sometimes felt in Europe. We’ve spent nearly 4 months here and have barely scratched the surface. We look forward to coming back and visiting more of Cambodia, Vietnam and returning to places we loved like Koh Tarutao, in Thailand, and northern Laos.


    nice recap guys… I personally feel that the hose thing should replace Tp across the globe. Once you get used to it, its a better solution.

    A beard,long hair,smelly armpits,bare feet,a relaxed demeanor,an interest in the surreal,a love for nature. Is that what makes Mark a “Hippy” is SE Asia? :)
    Sounds familiar.

    Super summary Misters!

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