Farewell $1 Pad Thai. You will be missed…
by Sharon -- February 15, 2010
As I write this post I am crammed in a sardine can of a sleeper train on our way to Beijing. Each open compartment has six beds- three on each side of the walls, with the highest bed nearly touching the ceiling. The size of the beds are smaller than a twin mattress and are about as soft as a stainless steel fridge. The comforters, however, are surprisingly comfortable, and just the fact that we are back in an area where a comforter is needed plays in my mind like music from the heavens. My favorite pajmina and knitted hat will finally come out of my backpack for use!
Two days ago we flew out of Southeast Asia only to find ourselves back in China, the land of staring. Jason and I both found that we were sad to leave SE Asia, even more so than I would have thought. We will never forget our first trip to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand (yes, we plan on visiting these countries again due to the fact that there were many places that we never got to visit due to timing issues). The cost of living in SE Asia is plenty of reason alone to make us want to come back, but discovering the other qualities that we were not anticipating were equally as amazing. For the most part, these three countries could have been fairly interchangeable when it came down to it. There wasn’t much of a middle class anywhere; there wasn’t much in between the major cities which were very developed to the families living in wooden shacks on farmland. However, we were able to spend enough time in each country to notice that each country did have their own distinct flavor.
Out of the three SE Asian countries that we visited, Vietnam was our favorite. Maybe it had to do with the fact that it was our first experience with a heavy tourist population, therefore there was English everywhere (which, coming from China, was a huge breath of fresh Vietnamese air). Maybe it had to do with the fact that not only was there English everywhere, but the people were so used to tourists that the staring was almost non-existent. The Vietnamese people seemed more open to helping us when we needed help, whereas some of the Chinese people took some time to warm up to us after we established the initial ‘smile and hello’ (they don’t encounter as many tourists, so it is completely understandable why they would be more curious and inquisitive). Maybe it had to do with the fact that the food was completely amazing. Or the fact that we attended two weddings and even stayed at the parents’ home of our new hotel manager friend. I think it was all of the above.
Speaking of nice people, if I had to create an award for the nicest people on earth, so nice to the point that it was ridiculous, the Cambodian people would win hands down. No contest. I had heard from one of my friends’ boyfriends that the Cambodian people were the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and this became apparent immediately. The Khmer (the Cambodian word for… Cambodian) people are genuinely nice and the children are the most smiley kids you will find anywhere. Every smile you give will be met with an even bigger Khmer smile, and this goes for grown men as well, something that I found extremely rare in other countries. If you are sitting outside of your hotel, the owners will light a mosquito coil at your feet just to make sure you don’t get bites. They will serve you food from their own family’s dinner table and are extremely happy when you eat it. They will take the day off of work to drive you around the city and buy you dinner just because you’re their guest.
Unfortunately we were only in Thailand for 13 days due to stomach and Visa issues (clearly those two problems are meant to be experienced together) but it was clear from the second we got off our minibus to Koh Chang that this would be the most populated country of tourism we may ever visit. I mean it wasn’t a big newsflash for us- everyone wants to visit or has visited Thailand, it’s the ultimate exotic beach getaway equipped with western food at every restaurant and “lady bars” to suit every hairy Caucasian male above the age of 50. It seemed like there were more tourists than locals and there was virtually no need to learn any of the Thai language. It was like being in a country that was built for tourists. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against this unlike many other tourists. I’m not one of those “get away from all the tourists” types and I enjoy being around other people who are doing the same thing. The people of Thailand were also extremely friendly and welcoming, although I didn’t see as many kids as I did in Cambodia which made me sad, but if I had I’m sure they would have been just as smiley.
Random Quote of the Day: In Bangkok we met up with a friend (Jason, the cyclist traveling throughout Asia- What’s up, Jason?!) for 7-Eleven beers on the side of the road (classy) when a Thai prostitute who must have won the “Most Desperate Hooker” award grabbed every man in her sight in attempts to make some cash. She then came up to Jason (my Jason) and attempted to seduce him. After about thirty seconds of obvious rejection, Jason (the cyclist) saved the day by telling the woman, “Sweetie, we’ve only been together for 6 months, I don’t think I can handle the competition.”
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