RAMBLINGS OF A SOUTHEAST (SE) ASIA TRAVELER:
Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam
#2 ONCE THERE
1) Dos (Acceptable Behaviors of a USA Tourist in SE Asia)
BIG DO: You’ll want to spend some quality time in a hammock. If you happen to stay for an extended amount of time, and happen to have a deck on poles out over the water like say in Koh Lanta Old Town, Thailand, and you happen to have two hammocks strung between poles holding the roof of your deck up, you would be totally off your rocker to not curl up and read the paperback book serial killer thriller, “Tiger Lily of Bangkok” by Owen Jones or “Siam Storm: A Thailand Adventure” by Robert A. Webster. Neither are great literary works, but both are entertaining, thrilling, page-turners, and easy to read. Point is: you don’t want heavy reading here. Another hammock experience you must have, and I only saw this in Vietnam along major highways is to go to a coffee shop. The coffee shops are open-air tent roofs or massive shade trees with little stations consisting of 1 of 2 plastic chairs, a small plastic table and a hammock. I was told by several good sources (tour guides) that you could order 1 Vietnam coffee and stay in the hammock all day. I noticed a lot of business/office types sleeping in the hammocks during working hours – I guess it’s all very therapeutic and productive.
HUGE BIG DO: Take some time to learn how to operate the “Butt Sprayer.” You should be pretty familiar with it as it is the very same as the dish/sink sprayer on your kitchen sink. It just works better on the butt. WOW! What an invention. Forget all the cooking classes and language classes they offer. Butt Sprayers are in most all bathrooms in all 3 countries I visited. The most valuable thing you can learn is the physiology, the functioning, and operation of this essential appliance. Not only is it fun, but also it will make you very comfortable, tingly and a little hygienic. You might want to carry it a little further and spray your entire body from the head to foot and everything in between several times a day. Reason: well you are already wet with sweat, so a good cool soaking with water feels really good for a couple minutes. Do not dry off – the heat will do that for you. While on the bathroom subject, it’s to your advantage to learn from a local person how to take a Thai shower. Okay, I’ll share: get a big, clay jug (at least 50 gallons or more). Set it outside during the rainy season. When it’s full of fresh, clean rainwater put a small lightweight bowl in the jug. Just let the bowl bob around. When you need to get clean or to cool off, you just grasp the small bowl filled with rainwater and dump on your head several times. Again, don’t dry off – drip dry saves on towels.
MAJOR HUGE DO: Visit Angkor Wat ruins in Seim Reap, Cambodia. Any tour book will go on and on about Angkor Wat, and I obviously can also, but I won’t. Just a word or two. Here’s how awesome it is – the days I went there it was 103F. in the shade not to mention the drenching humidity, but I didn’t even notice it. Some say Angkor Wat is the 7th wonder of the world, but I will let you read or tour to determine that yourself. What I really want to warn you about (other than do not climb on the ruins) is DO NOT stay in the jungle too long. If you stay past closing time, a tree root might begin to grow around you. If that happens, you will not be able to escape, your loved ones will never hear from you again, and the Angkor Wat monkeys might eat something precious to you.
1) Don’ts (Dumb Ass Behaviors of a USA Tourist in SE Asia)
DO NOT mess with the water buffalo in Vietnam that includes climbing on them or telling them to get out of your way. Why Vietnam? Because, I really didn’t see any water buffalo in Thailand or Cambodia. Water buffalo are a major necessity in Vietnam, but mainly in the hill/mountain country of Sapa (northern most Vietnam and hugs the Chinese boarder).
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Most farming in the rice paddies are done with water buffalo, but I did see a few rotor tillers out there. I asked some local folks about this, and they told me water buffalo was much more reliable and better equipped to till the mud. A water buffalo costs as much as a new scooter in Vietnam, which is 2, 3, or even 4 years salary, so basically water buffalo are treated with respect. They go in and out of people’s huts, have total run of the town and countryside, and eat before anybody else does. To get my point across, I saw several junked rotor tillers in garbage piles, but I did not see one dead water buffalo anywhere.
DO NOT buy souvenirs made in China. You are not in China on this travel blog.
It’s important that you have a handle on where you are at all times. If you are in Thailand – you buy, eat, wear, and point (you can always communicate by pointing). For instance, in all 3 countries, every menu I saw was written in a couple languages plus each dish had a picture that you could point to and never have to utter a word. It made for very large menus, but hey, you are on vacation – relax. Getting back to the subject: I can’t tell you how many times I have come home from some exotic place, opened my stinky travel bag to find a bunch of heavy, bulky, broken souvenirs made in countries I’ve never been to nor would I ever go. Buy local, like from this lady selling Indigo Scarves made from indigo plant & hemp she grows with her water buffalo.
DO NOT get your eyebrows or lips tattooed in Vietnam. Eyeliner is a great permanent makeup thing to do there, however. Okay, here’s the deal. I don’t speak the language. I don’t look like an SE Asian person. I don’t have jet-black hair. I don’t have a nice oval face or SE Asian-type bod for that matter. I barely wear makeup, and I definitely, do not have the adventurous mindset to do something like tattoos. So Why? I don’t know, but I realized immediately (while on the table under the little tattoo pen), I had made a tremendous mistake. Once you’re on the table, there is no turning back. Scary, Scary, Scary. So fast-forward to having the procedure complete, it doesn’t hurt at all (they use a lot of topical numbing stuff), and eyebrows, eyeliner, and lips take a total of 1.5hr. Got out of there looking like a cheap call girl they made retire with the blackest, thickest, most swollen eyebrows which were taking up half my forehead, not to mention the most disgusting hot pink huge lips you have ever seen. Eyeliner looked great, however. It was just a small, thin line that was barely noticeable. The worst was I had to face people, locals as well as tourists. You might ask how it all came out? Well, I am not inserting any pictures am I?
DO NOT under any circumstance touch a Monk if you are a female of any species. We were warned about this every time we visited a Wat (Thai word for temple/place of Buddha worship). Also, don’t touch anybody’s head. Respect the culture. Buddha religion is the #1 religion in Thailand with 97% of the residents claiming they believe in Buddha. Not so much in either Cambodia or especially Vietnam. It is nice to bow your head when you walk by a spirit house (no it’s not a bird house), however that’s kind of hard since there is a spirit house in front of most houses, and after awhile of bowing your head your neck begins to ache. Every morning, the family puts drinks and food in the house for the spirits. It was also noted that brand new evening gowns were hung on some spirit houses if the worshiper’s prayer came true.
Thanks for coming back and reading my travel blog #2. Hopefully, you can do the same for #3 – but that will remain to be seen. #3 should be a blog entitled, “SE Asia Fruits and Nuts a Tourist Can Not Avoid.