The Effect of Asia on a Westerner

27 Mar
Probably not all Asians are like this

Probably not all Asians are like this

So are you ready for gross generalizations? This post gives a little insight of what could happen to a Western traveler when hanging around (South East) Asia too long (or maybe for a short time as well ;-) Asia does strange things with your body and soul – and maybe those things are not so bad after all – they just help you put things in perspective and appreciate the ‘differentness’… (see also ‘the only white guy’ post)

It messes around with your mind

No, I’m not going crazy – I could survive here in South East Asia for a long time easily, but nevertheless being far away from home makes you think… (that’s also part of the reason to come here).

  • I started seriously doubting though about why on earth I am traveling alone? A fish needs to be out of the water in order to know how important the water is for him. So I definitely will be roaming around the world with friends next time.
  • Looking for my new love - every evening

    Looking for my new love - every evening

  • When being uprooted, you definitely get to feel your roots – I do have some and they are in Belgium – so I probably should continue growing there… (unless of course there’s someone special – VIPs see also ‘Rice or Potatoes’)
  • I am more and more convinced that there’s no point in having fun when having fun that doesn’t lead anywhere. Life needs more than having fun – love needs more than just a pretty face… (for VIPs)
  • I noticed that love is somehow like traveling: you visit new places, many of them very exciting, but there’s probably not many where you would go to live permanently – and yet that’s what we’re looking for
  • But I did fall in love… with the sunset. So the orientation of a guesthouse, island, beach, etc has become part of the considerations for traveling…

Weather woes…

Hiding from the heat

Hiding from the heat

Running around in 36 degrees Celsius definitely has an effect on your body. You get a good feeling of what a turkey must go through when being baked in a hot air oven… because being in a non-air-con room with the sun blasting its heat through the windows and walls! and the fans moving around the hot air – that must feel about the same!

  • It makes you slow down big time. Running around becomes dragging around.
  • Even blood doesn’t seem to reach some vital body parts anymore when you need it.
  • Not sure if it is the heat, the numerous showers or the lack of trimmers, but I have never been so hairy before in my life (help! soon people think I’ll be a bear!)
Poor feet getting used to traveling

Poor feet getting used to traveling

Being on the same pair of feet in the same pair of sandals in the same hot sun all the time also asks its toll.

  • My feet started growing hard skin – no problem – but from the moment little cloves and craters started forming in the thick skin, I got worried…
  • And how to explain in Khmer, Lao or Viet that you would want a pedicure to remove the hard skin.
  • The sun also nicely created a pattern on my feet (see pics) from wearing the god-forsaken same sandals day in day out – but now I got my new fancy flaming flip flops made out of recycled car tyre to enhance the pattern– sooooo cool!
Brown and white feet - hairy legs

Brown and white feet - hairy legs

But the weather also does crazy things to your head and habits

  • I started planning my trip and the accommodation according to how close, easy and cheap swimmable water is in the vicinities…
  • I always used to say “water is for fish” but the water bottle has become standard in my backpack
  • Needing about 2 to 3 T-shirts a day, moving on to the next destination is conditioned by when the laundry is ready. (or alternatively my sweaty clothes take the same shower as me – to save on time- because the 1$/kg is not worth doing it yourself).

Food and what becomes of it

sm c n y b

Some ice in your beer sir?

It is funny how your palate undergoes quite some shocks when traveling. But often influence goes further than only the mouth – it does reach the stomach eventually…

  • I swank between spells of going cheap and local (eating the street food etc) and moments of craving for exorbantly expensive Western food (often to neutralise the effect of the Asian food) and indulge in some pizza or burger (I eat Asian food at home too, so why not eat Asian food every once so often in Asia – PS the Asians do as well)
  • Ck l

    Coke local style

  • After 3 months I developed a good sense for knowing when it is time to switch to Coke and Cookies, even before turista arrives.
  • I have grown quite accustomed to chilies in my food – I either add them or avoid them, according to the state of my stomach…
  • This will be outrageous to Belgians or Germans reading this, but I started to ask for ice in my beer… Since many places don’t have fridges they just provide you a bucket with ice (which they buy in big lumps from street vendors) for the warm beer – and now it became good service to give ice with beer…
  • And I must admit – I did started paying the incredible sum or 2,60$ for a liter of fresh milk or drinking yoghurt – and once I even took a picture of the cheeses they had in a western supermarket – wow, missing them sooooo much.
  • chs

    Wow, cheeeeeeese...

And when being some place long enough you get a hang for knowing the real prices, instead of the tourist prices

  • So now I start to be offended when motorbike drivers ask me for a dollar for a ride, because I can get away with 2000 real (half price) even though I happily paid the dollar the first week in Cambodia
  • I also frown upon (tourist) places that have food that costs more than 4US$ for a plate, 6$ for a meal with a beer
  • Accommodation should come for about 10-12 US$ per night (including ensuite bathroom with hot water, air-con, international TV and some internet access) – you can go down to 5 or 6$ if you don’t want any of the above – but I have grown tooooo old for that ;-)
  • Basically what I do when arriving in a new city, I just walk around somewhere central and go into different hotels to see rooms till I’m happy.

No Troubles with Traffic


Try to cross this sea of motos

Traffic here (provided there are cars – because Muang Ngoi didn’t have any) is quite hectic, but somehow in my head I made the click – and haven’t been run over since…

  • The way to cross a street here is definitely not to wait till the pedestrian crossing light turns green, you basically just start walking and aim for the back of the oncoming vehicles. They will just (try to) avoid you – and across you are…
  • I also stopped my automatism to reach behind my shoulder for a seat belt. I would even get annoyed to put on seat belts or helmets… that’s so ‘un-asian’ ;-)
  • Some Youtube films with crazy traffic here

Travelers Skills

Lovely recycled car tyre flaming flip flops

Lovely recycled car tyre flaming flip flops

  • having dramatically lost the life of my netbook, I had to revert to internet cafes, which of course have keyboards in all kinds of compositions: with or without Cambodian or Thai squiggles, or Chiinese for that matter. But switching betzeen Azerty (in my Belgian guesthouse), German Quertz (thanx to my ex from berlin) and the english Querty has become a second nature to me
  • Travels are also planned according to the number of books or number of pages still left before reaching the next guesthouse or town where theyùd have bookswapping

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