Westerner often compare Asia to the west and tally up all the things in Asia that are different. Mostly concentrating on the things that we don’t like. For instance the type of food some Asia culture eat, dog, monkey, insect etc. Certainly I saw food that turned my stomach and I’m certainly not looking for any meals in the foreseeable future which contain large qualities of fish sauce. The smell of dried fish and fish sauce permeated many markets and road side stalls and I’m afraid it hasn’t endeared itself to me.
But food is one of most memorable features of Asia for myself, But not just the food I eat. I still have a vivid image of a temple in Siem Reap where I met a public WC attendant having lunch with his daughter. They were tucking into a large bowl of insects that strongly reminded me of the cockroaches we found scuttling across the floor in Sydney. A quite surreal seen where this man sat blot upright on a white wooden chair along side a concrete wall, with his young daughter leaning against his legs. Both elbows pressed into the top of his thigh. She was observing me as they alternatively reaching into the bowl picking up one of the insects and crunched the small brown bodies with delicate bites as if eating crisps or delicious after dinner mints. Until that point, it hadn’t occurred to me that these creatures could be delicious and a real treat to eat. But it still didn’t alter my stomach resolve that no insects were digestible and I declined their graciously offer as they held the bowl out to me.
So I though I’d tally up a few of the things about Asia I’m going to miss. Things that I believed before our journey that I wouldn’t enjoy in Asia because I listened to the prejudice of others before we left.
I really enjoyed being warm all the time, not having to wear more than a shirt, shorts and a pair of sandals every day.
Sleeping in the warm was also very enjoyable. No worries about covers or even bed cloths. Just a sheet and a fan could provided a very pleasant nights sleep. I found some thing very soothing and relaxing about sleeping under a blanket of warm flowing air.
Bun Bo Nam
I’ll miss this dish until I return to Vietnam. A beef noodle soup served on the street in a little back ally in the old quarter of Hanoi. We enjoyed in on many occasions seated on preschool children’s plastic chair as mopeds and motorbikes squeezed past us in the small lane way at our backs. Thats something I didn’t think would be enjoyable, but eating on the street is a lot of fun and even eating in a squat position isn’t as unpleasant as I expected. But I’m sure better flexibility and more mobile ankle joints would make the experience much more pleasurable.
Street side food
The street food I’ll miss most are things like pork on a stick, fried chicken, chicken on a stick, mangos cut and bagged ready to eat. Pineapple piece on bamboo splinters cut with a spiral to remove all the pineapple eyes. Sliced in just the right placed to make it easy to tear a chunk of the delicious fruit off in bit sized chunks.
Roads you can actually cross
In the west we believe our system of road transport and insanely strict traffic rules makes our roads safe to navigate but we are wrong. I’ll miss roads that are so busy you can’t see anyway to cross, but which you can confidently step into without any fear of being run over. Where you can stroll into the traffic and navigate a path to the other side with out anyone commenting, abusing or cajoling you about being on the road and where they will slow down, change directions and even stop to make sure you can safely cross the road.
This leads me to the next point I will miss. Asia drivers are more courteous drivers. They watch out for everyone abiding by the only road rule that really matters. “DON’T HIT ANYTHING”. So while it may seem chaotic and counter intuitive to westerners to have very few road rule (or rule that driver actually abide by) the system works because everyone is considerate of the other road users. It does mean that traffic flows slower but as we know speed is the real killer so going slower is a bonus of the Asian system.
Happy taxi drivers
I think this follows on because drivers in asia are courteous. There appears to be less road rage and aggressive driving so the professional drivers have less stress and appear happier. Almost every taxi the five of use climbed into was occupied with a congenial and happy driver. The language barrier was significant on occasion but they always seem happy to try and talk with us. Even the scammers amongst them seemed to be happy even if I wasn’t.
People sleeping anywhere
Finally I’ll miss the pleasure I found in seeing people asleep almost anywhere. We saw them sleeping on the back off moving motorcycle, under a table, on a bench, on the side walk, under trees or resting on a chair by their stall. Snoozing on a parked motorcycle or amongst the clothing in a market.
It seemed people could sleep anywhere no matter the noise, light or people passing by. If they were tired they could just lay down or prop them selves up some where and sleep. The type of antics we see from homeless and vagabond people in the west but in asia anyone it seemed could sleep anywhere.
It amazed me to see a man asleep on the same bench each night in Bangkok with his leg thrown over the near by table. A table I’d see him reading the paper at each evening. The table was his bed and he used it each day sleeping in front of his shop along side the road. It looked amazingly uncomfortable, noise and potentially very unsafe but each of the three weeks we visited Bangkok I’d see him asleep in the same place.