Asia: a newly travelled couples' perspective


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Oceania » Australia » Victoria » Yarra Valley
August 9th 2012
Published: August 6th 2012
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We have written a short blog to reflect on our last few weeks in Asia. Throughout our time we looked forward to the next destination, never looking back at where we had been and even propelling ourselves to leave the continent early. Was this justified? On reflection no, we think the reason for this haste was a combination of factors. Each country indeed had very strong merits to make it a contender for "the next country I will go back on holiday and visit" but mixed up, visiting these countries after one another; that is what has taken its toll of our weary bodies and minds. Particularly our minds, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia are still stricken with war poverty, each isolated is a beautiful country but a demonising past but as you travel and move through all three you leave craving the simple Western pleasures of gourmet food, fixed prices and a bath. Perhaps on a better budget we could have been afforded these but nevertheless you get to your next destination and it is Thailand who laughs at you for wanting normality in its crazed obsession of everything backwards! Time becomes an out dated fashion and trawling you through six different tour companies when you have already paid for the tour is standard and to be expected and enjoyed rather than becoming red faced and potentially losing "face". What do we mean when we say we are glad to be Down Under then? Generally each country in itself was wonderful, a great experience was had everywhere with memorable moments that we will try very hard to never forget but mish mash them all together and the overall outlook was beginning to look fairly bleak for us, but that is two Westerners being too picky and snobby for our own good! Now we are in Australia we have appreciated just what we have seen and done and already started the obligatory what should we do again and what is next for us! A few weeks ago Lauren was saying she would never visit Asia again, now we have several holiday ideas in the pipeline and the idea of even moving here ... at some point in our lives!!

We have made several observations of our time that is probably too general so forgive us but it is what we encountered on a nearly daily basis in the majority of places (of course exceptions can and should be made)

There is always traffic that moves to its own rhythms usually at the death threat to pedestrians. The exception being remote islands but bicycles do a pretty good job in the place of the missing roaring engines of bikes and cars! Also all vehicles have a very close relationship with the horn but usually to let you know that they are there!

City and beach locations are always more expensive, for a real budget try local villages or slightly less known towns, Chiang Mai in Thailand is a great example still lots to do but not with the Bangkok or beach price tag.

People do not have a concept of queuing or generally any manners, again in places this can be taken with a pinch of salt but in most places you will not get a smile unless by a service person or they are trying to sell you something. Expect to be bumped on the street without a second thought and don't even attempt to get on a public bus by queuing (Hong Kong big exception here)

People do not know how to fly. At all. They think it is OK to not wear a seat belt at any time, stand during turbulence, take off and landing and sit wherever they want irregardless of being issued a seat number and slip.

Rice, soup and noodles. Learn to love them. They are with you at every meal. It is very easy to get "Western food" though, just don't expect it to be cooked like Westerners cook or taste like it, example, grey chicken.

Fruit is a lot more accessible with many stalls selling it readily to be blitzed with ice, it is a lot tangier and you can taste when it is very fresh, likewise when it should have been thrown two days earlier!

Stray cats and dogs are in abundance especially at temples. The exception, Vietnam, that is why went vegetarian!!!

Many people walk bare foot, most likely as shoes get wrecked due to the uneven gravelly floors and shoes become too expensive and a needless commodity. Even so, fake Havainas are sold everywhere.

Religion is the core to every community, mostly Buddhist but also Chinese Taoism and Muslim.

One is expected to bargain at markets etc but when you ask a price they pull a face when you try to bargain! If something has a fixed price they generally say it's non negotiable, try walking away, they shout prices at you!

Unless you are in a capital city there is no sense of urgency or even time. Things stop and start when they feel like it, not depending on customer demand. Even in cities things can take an age!

When in a restaurant plates are rarely cleared and dessert is never offered, neither is the bill, all of which must be asked for, and generally still doesn't arrive unless you stand to leave

English is generally understood everywhere and all drivers, of whatever vehicle have key phrases to attract you to them. Come to complain - no one understands any English.

Traveling between cities is inexpensive, from long bus journeys to small journeys, boats however are expensive and flying doesn't have offer prices like Ryanair etc it is a fixed expensive price on a small tired jet.

Men dominate these countries. Women are second class, men would sooner work for themselves earning no guaranteed income than take a job as a service person.

Kids here are like they used to be in Western worlds, playing in the mud and fighting playfully, until you get to modern developed cities then children are no longer seen on the streets unless attached to a phone.

All people shout on the phone wherever they are but in particular on public transport, there is also a universal "Hello", when the phone rings in any country this is the greeting not there own.

Street food looks unhygienic and can be but in general is gorgeous, cheap and a great way to save some money but get a decent fill!

You are never far from the usual suspects: KFC, McDonald's, 7Eleven and Boots but locals do not shop in there or eat - it is solely for tourists, as prices are inflated. Ask for a menu in the local language and prices are cheaper, good luck understanding it though!

Men have long fingernails, it is gross but apparently a sign that they aren't lowly workers as they have the ability to grow their nails.

Fake everything is available everywhere. Perhaps Laos out of the capital being the exception, and the same of everything, each market stall has the same products and a price they all start at just try and see past the scowls to barter a lower price.

Stamps are inflated- know the price before you go in the shop where you buy your postcards, they overcharge despite the price being printed on the stamp and they will not give refunds- a foreign concept similar to complaining!

Every city has a china town. Including Hong Kong!

Kids have a major angry bird obsession, from pencil cases to phone covers, pillows, chocolate bars even the cable car in Singapore!

People walk slow and act slow at everything with one exception- eating. The concept to shove everything in your mouth in one big mouthful, again this coincides with lack of manners- eating with mouth full and over facing. We worried spending too long here we would forget our eating table manners!

People openly stare at you. Not like on the tube in London where you peer while pretending to read or tie your shoelace- nope just stare right at you. Lauren took to staring back and then they actually looked her up and down, one even tutted!!!

Kids are used as bribery to sell things, particularly in under developed countries they get them to stalk you and ask your name and hold your hand to then drag you to their parents stall. They do not seem to attend school despite seeing many schools on our travels.

When traveling on scooters, only the male driver wears a helmet or sometimes just the adults, it was not uncommon to see four or five people on a bike and the children without helmets. They also sit sideways to avoid the exhaust even as they whipped around corners, and holding a baby in a l sling.




In spite of this negativity upon reflection we have had a ball and seen some unforgettable sites, had one or two unforgettable moments that we wish we hadn't (food poisoning at the top of that list!) Met some great people we have kept in touch with and had some once in a lifetime "ahhh" moments.

Highlights:

Riding an elephant in Chiang Mai

Free fishy feet at the waterfalls

Overlooking the bright lights of the Central Business Districts in KL, Singapore and Hong Kong

The best beach was Riley beach in Thailand, the best city was Singapore and single best day was the trek, elephant ride and rafting in Thailand.


We can only hope we continue to have such great moments and continue to write about them. We have both been touched once or twice with homesickness, but have put it down to the lack of routine and the need to do something remarkable everyday. This is physically impossible as your body needs to recover but also too much on the purse. You have to pace yourselves with things to savior them, and although we love moving at 100MPH and don't think we could ever do a 7 day beach holiday in future it is nice to stop and think for a while. That was probably the beauty with Hong Kong having five days but we could have done the activities in two days. We do miss the work lifestyle we hadn't appreciated how easy it is to earn money, get up dress and work, home gym and dinner and bang:- more money in than is going out of your account! But for now we shall endeavor to enjoy every day until we have to go back to work! We also found some things more expensive than we would have thought...then we came to Australia...Now which bank advertised the best loan rates!!!


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