My husband and I just spent three weeks in Southeast Asia where the people have nothing and nothing they say makes sense. I can’t tell you how many times we looked at each other and mouthed, “What did he say?”, only to have the other look back, wide-eyed, and shake their head in equal confusion. It’s not that they don’t speak English, it’s that phrases like “same same but different” have no rational translation. I’ll use my husband’s example as he sums it up gloriously…
Alas, you find the perfect souvenir t-shirt with a picture of a bright red tuk-tuk on a busy, motorcycle ridden street, lined with rubber trees and a stray dog in the corner. It’s exactly what you need to prove you went to a faraway land. Side note, you buy random crap that seems totally cool at the moment, disregarding the fact that once it hits the wash cycle, it will disintegrate faster than that Trader Joe’s receipt you left in your pocket. But it’s a $3 t-shirt with a tuk-tuk on it so there is only one obvious choice; bargain for it.
If you’ve ever been to Southeast Asia, you know nothing is that simple. Especially anything involving money. First you stand there slapping mosquitoes off yourself (and your husband) in 110% humidity, as you crinkle your nose trying to keep the $4 Ray-Bans you bought yesterday from slipping off your face. All while remaining very aware of the location of a shady (and adorable) six year old lingering closely to the side of your body where your purse is, relentlessly asking if, “You want scarf lady? Lady… scarf lady? Pretty scarf lady for temple visit. Are you from France?” You might be wondering why the heck someone would withstand all of this nonsense over what converts to a savings of about 45 cents. Your famous last words? It’s the principle! At home, you drop 45 cents on the ground after a hard spin class, you leave it. But in Southeast Asia, if you don’t bargain you’re a stupid tourist who got totally taken advantage of so, in the end, principle trumps all.
Back to our story… After three minutes, you’ve sweat out most of the calories from the pad-thai you ate at that sketchy street cart and come to the conclusion that sales-lady Linda can keep your 45 cents because you have about 45 seconds before you need a “toilet.” I know, principle-concept out the hypothetical tuk-tuk window but fortunately you still feel good about the price of your t-shirt and Linda can feed that kid who’s been sleeping under the table on which her livelihood is so gingerly piled on top of.
With the price settled, you victoriously try on your 13-thread count t-shirt and realize there must be a misprint since the “L” feels more like an “XXS”. Linda has “tuk-tuk no XL” but she has another shirt “just like it” over here…. Linda proceeds to bring forth a t-shirt that is not only another color, it has a photograph of a gorilla eating a banana on top of a VW Bus. Despite the language barrier, Linda can’t help but notice the American-confusion on display in front of her. “Yes, t-shirt see, same same but different.” Um, I’m sorry Linda, what? “Same same see?” As she proudly points to the “XL” she found on another t-shirt in stock. There is no need for me to explain the difference of opinion that Linda and said Americans are having at this point. No matter how badly we feel for Linda and the boy under the table, we don’t want a t-shirt with a gorilla eating a banana on top of a VW Bus. That said, we circle back to the all too frequent emotion in Southeast Asia; frustration… by no fault of Linda’s of course. She was just trying to help and we just met so how would she know we don’t like potassium-conscious gorillas on our clothing? Sorry Linda, no tuk-tuk, no sale.
Exhausting t-shirt fiasco behind us (and no t-shirt), we decide to use our $3 for an hour-long foot massage. Complete with 60-minutes of two Thai’s gossiping openly about the size of our feet and bringing their coworker over to feel how dry our skin is. My husband and I look at each other and can’t help but feel self-conscious but for $3, we’ll take the constructive criticism. After-all, I’m sure they’ve got some calluses under those mismatched, same same but different, totally authentic, Nikke’s.
Possibly a much needed disclaimer: Quite a few people were wondering why in the world we chose a third world country for our honeymoon but if you can’t tell, we had a blast! Some of the best memories we’ve made together and truly a test of the ability to not strangle each other in miserable conditions. Mostly because you’re just too hot to move. All frustrations, confusions, and stomach issues aside, Southeast Asia is by far one of my favorite places on the planet! It’s not for everyone so do your research if you go. It’s not “easy”, not always relaxing and the affordability of everything is a trade off for many niceties you will go without; like toilet paper in some cases. But trust me when I say, it’s worth every lizard you trap in the bathroom tile of your hotel room!
That’s all for now! If you like my blog you should definitely subscribe so you can giggle next time I post something! And obviously tell your friends! P.S., only eleven days left to find someone to give that dusty Christmas candle to!
Xoxo – 28 and Holding