I hit the road about 7 months ago and spent 4 of them travelling through south-east-Asia. Within the last 210 days I haven´t slept longer than 6 nights in a row in the same bed. And as you can already figure: I am proud of it! I spent an uncountable amount of time in busses, taxis, tuk tuks, on boats or airplanes. I made new plans, forgot about them, went from place to place and enjoyed life. Right now I am sitting in a little guest house in Bangkok, being eaten by mosquitos having a nice view to the in-house temple with its red/orange lights and fragrance sticks from the couch where I am sitting.
Tonight I am heading to my home for the next 2 months: Sweden!!
As much as I love Asia, I can´t wait to be able to walk on the streets without being hit by people passing by or being greasy from high temperatures combined with extreme humidity. It will be such a treat to stroll around looking at the landscape and the architecture without being an obstruction or fall in one of the deep potholes. I will be able to walk without breaking/bruising my toes on randomly loose cobblestones and hopping around between honking cars, motorbikes, bicycles and grumbling people. I am going to discover a completely new art of shopping where I will actually pay the price that says on the price tag. It will be hard for me to not show my well trained bargaining behavior back in Europe.
Shopping in Asia usually looks like this: 1. I observe a product with an interested but frowning face. 2. The sales clerk explains to me all the amazing features of the product and tells me the price on a calculator. 3. I look very unhappy now: „Noo, that´s too much. I can not buy.“ 4. The vendor pretends to look thoughtful and says: „Okay, you good customer. I can give discount only for you.” And adds new numbers into the calculator. 5. Now I look disappointed (but still smiling and friendly – and THIS my friends is not as easy as you might think) and answer: „nooooooooh, nit noy for me. Please make good price for me!“ I will go on adding new numbers into the calculator showing it back to the vendor who will then say 6. „Oh no, madame. Me loose money!“ ….
I think you can imagine the rest of the negotiations. And I assure you, you do not only have to bargain for actual shopping. Negotiations already start with transportation in Taxis/ Tuk tuks or in Hotels, Food stalls, Tour bookings…. In 2 days from now culture shock is waiting for me: I see something, look at the price tag and take the product if I think the price is agreeable. Can life really be that simple?
What I am longing for in the European world is giving my mind some rest. Here in Asia every day is an adventurous try-day. Monday to Sunday: Tryday! No holidays, break only for sleeping (and sometimes not even then considering the beds/”hotels” I´ve slept in) Even after 4 months in Asia I have not been able to get fully used to all the smells, tastes and people surrounding me 24/7. As I am a curious nature I have to try anything I´ve never seen before. This is how it became my daily routine to eat and try new food and beverages or new kinds of travelling or anything else you can think of. I am constantly exploring and this is how each night I am falling into bed completely exhausted.
What I will miss in Asia is the 24/7 street-food and the massive variety in exotic fruits waiting for me on every street corner. It is so convenient walking around town without having to plan the next meal ahead. My daily ration of food consists: freshly cut mango, pineapple, watermelon and papaya pieces, fresh coconut, barbequed veggie-sticks, grilled squid and sticky rice with durian in coconut sauce. A portion costs something between 10 and 50 bath which is something between 5cents and 2 dollars. I can easily live a healthy and tasty diet on 8 $ a day. I am going to miss every tasty bite of this.
And guys, is there anything more to say than: One hour of oil massage for 8$? Is it getting any better than this?
In four months travelling through Asia I could not manage to define the typical Asian person for me. Every conversation with Asian people destroyed my built up stereotypes and created a completely new view enriched with new aspects of daily life. People in Asia differ so much that you really can´t lump them together. Even the appearance is now (by far) not the same anymore. Therefore it seems to me similarities only reach as far as black hair and dark eyes are concerned.
There is people living in their shops. These shops are opened 24/7 and behind the front desk they have a little room with a bed and a fan. The family lives, works and raises their kids there. Most of those people have never left their city, sometimes not even their district. Their kids are dreaming about universities but are often taken off school in early age to help the family business. Households like this do not have holidays and no travels. Often the three days celebration of Chinese New Year’s is the only holiday each year. For some time I thought families like that is average in Asia.
Within the last months I started talking a lot to people to get a better picture of what average in Asia means. I met a professional biker who has seen each and every province in Vietnam and is dreaming of going one day to Bangkok. I jammed with a drummer and seasonal harvester who spends his summers in Finland picking blueberries earning as much money as not having to work for the rest of the year. I strolled Phnom Penh´s riverside with a young Cambodia man who´d decided in the early age of 11 to become a Buddhist monk and live a life in celibacy. And I hung out with a young gentleman who lived in France with his big love and even learned French, although he dropped out of school at the age of 13. I have been rocking at a indie party of very well educated Indonesians in Jakarta and talked to the teens there who seemed to know more about German music history than me. These are only a few of many examples I could recall here. I could spend days and weeks interviewing people on the streets to get a better picture of Asia´s residents.
Let´s remain like this: Asia, I´ll be back!