As our three months in Asia nears a close, it seems it’s about time for another behind the scenes peek at life on the road. 49 blogs and 6 countries later, the second leg of our trip is about in the books, and it’s mindboggling to think we’ve been gone for over six months now! Let us now take a moment to celebrate our successes by sharing some of our [not so] finer moments:
Some of our lavish transportation in southeast Asia. I will say, even though they often consisted of hard, metal seats bolted to a wooden floor, had no air-conditioning, and sometimes even looked like something out of Boogie Nights with the silk curtains and red vinyl interior, they were certainly an inexpensive way to get from point A to point B. And when you’re treated to a Thai remix of Kansas… what more could you really ask for?
Speaking of transportation, here’s the toilet from one of our overnight trains in Thailand. Yes, it is a metal hole that goes straight to the ground. And yes, that is gravel you can see through the hole. Whatever business you do in that commode flows straight on out to the railroad tracks. Fecal-oral transmission of coliforms? Potential release of resistant bacteria into the environment? One of the few times I really cringed at the lack of sanitation standards.
One super fun chore that has to be done while living abroad – laundry. We packed enough clothes for a week, meaning we had to do the washing with at least some regularity (depending on the level of smell we were willing to endure). This was actually one of our more luxurious launderings, as it was the one time in SE Asia where we had a tub. Typically, we were confined to a shallow sink with a mere three-thong capacity.
A list of standard lodging regulations in Laos. Similar versions were posted at our accommodations throughout the country. We were particularly amused by numbers 5 and 6. Major bummer for us, though – we were totally hoping to “sex movies” in our room to make some extra dough and extend our travels… damn restrictions.
One evening at our outdoor eco-lodge in Cambodia, a beetle the size of a friggin’ sparrow flew down the back of my shirt at dinner. The result? Second-degree vaginal burn from my tasty, yet scalding, lemongrass & ginger tea.
Speaking of giant ass insects, check out these bites. This is what a few days in the jungles of Vietnam will do to you… ravenous bastards.
You may think that only the blood-thirsty insects should be feared in Asia… not so much. When Stephan and I decided to embark on a self-guided hike in Central Mongolia, we accidentally encountered some stinging nettle (khalgai) while scrambling up some boulders. It burns like a jellyfish sting, and swells up nicely within only about a minute of piercing the skin. We returned to our guide at the ger camp and showed him a photo of the pain-inducing shrubbery, to which he replied, ‘oops, I probably should have warned you guys about that.’
Throughout SE Asia, the bathrooms are set up as more of a ‘wet room.’ The shower head is typically wedged right near the toilet and sink, with no separate stall. Consequently, the toilet and floor get soaked whenever you bathe. Thus, not only do your feet get wet during every subsequent visit, but you get a wet ass when you sit down to pee. I’m sorry, but that’s not a sensation I particularly enjoy. Additionally, toilet paper is not used throughout the region. Instead, each bathroom is conveniently equipped with one of those side sprayers typically found on a kitchen sink. One place we stayed even affectionately referred to it as the ‘bum gun.’ Instead of squirting lettuce, though, the modified device is intended to wash your private parts after each bathroom use. While they claim it is not only cleansing but refreshing, I am left to wonder how the hell you ever dry your nether regions after a high-pressure hose down (and furthermore, how you manage to not embarrassingly drench your clothes)!
[Note: when traveling to SE Asia, always carry your own stash of toilet paper if you can’t handle the ‘bum gun.’]
Check out the last item on the desert [sic] menu… an unfortunate mistranslation of what should be ‘bananas & ice cream.’
Since this edition of ‘Behind the Blog’ seems to be headed in a completely tasteless direction, why not keep it going? When we were walking through Hang Sung Sot in Ha Long Bay, our guide, Duckie, jokingly claimed that women frequently have heart attacks in one particular chamber of the cave. Upon entering said chamber, we were greeted by a large and prominent cave phallus, aglow in the amber up-lighting.
Okay, okay… just one more. Giant phalluses have got to be a thing [no pun intended] in Asia. What would you expect to find in Karakorum, the former illustrious capital of Chinggis Khan’s Mongolian Empire? Did everyone guess a carefully-sculpted and venerated stone penis? Yeah, I thought so. Look out, pigeon… it’s comin’ to get you!
This little gem was on our nightstand at a hotel in Cat Ba… newly constructed in 2014, but apparently still lovin’ the glorious technology of the wooden switchbox. Cue theme music from VH1… ‘I love the 70s!’
You may remember this photograph from Hanoi, Vietnam. It’s a mosaic fountain in a park near West Lake. What you cannot see in the image, however, is the butt-ass-naked man with a bar of soap, bathing behind the giant water lotus… standing up. You’re welcome for sparing you that angle.
Apparently you aren’t supposed to set off dynamite at the bank in Beijing. Who ever would have guessed that activity was discouraged?!
Not only am I a magnet for all things biting and mildly-venomous, I am also a constant embarrassment to those around me (I’d say an embarrassment to myself, but I learned to be completely unashamed a long time ago). On a stormy night at Ogii Lake, Mongolia, I headed to the shared bathroom for a quick [and icy] shower. As I exited the building (right-hand side of photograph) wearing only a tiny towel, I noticed the most beautiful rainbow I’d ever seen just overhead. I began to sprint awkwardly towards our ger in slippery flip-flops to inform Stephan, towel falling off and bra and underpants billowing behind me. I quickly noticed that everyone in the camp was standing outside snapping photos of the colorful arch, and that all cameras were pointed at the crazy chick in a towel. I abruptly slowed my pace, trying to look nonchalant, as Stephan and Xas, our guide, stood chuckling on the footpath.
While it seems that I am the only one who has a hard time behaving in public, Stephan also has his moments (albeit far less frequently). We found an amazing Indian restaurant in Ulaanbaatar and, at the start of the meal, the waiter brought out a small, gold platter with a couple of white blobs that looked like marshmallows. I asked Stephan if it was food, and he hesitantly declared that it was. I was skeptical, but even if it was a marshmallow, I wouldn’t be consuming the gelatin-laden treat. Stephan proceeded to take a nibble, and his face turned as he realized it was actually a wet-nap. Hey, I may run half-naked through a campsite, but at least I don’t try to eat my towelettes… good grief, man!
Thanks for a great time, Asia! After initially arriving in Bangkok, I wasn’t sure this was going to be the place for me. I felt stunned and overwhelmed, to say the least. But once we escaped the crowded cities, we found our own piece of heaven in the incredible rural highlands, magnificent, lush jungles, and quaint, peaceful towns. To all of the lovely people and loving animals that touched our lives along the way – thank you from the bottom of our hearts… we’ll forever hold you dearly.