Details of Life on the Road: Street eats, cheap sleeps, budget travel experiences

You’re Going To Miss Asia

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I’m going to miss Asia and so are you – typed during the wee morning hours in the Dubai airport, jet-lagged and in a state of near-shambles. Of course, there’s much missing from this little write-up; things I skipped, things that can’t be described, and endless things I simply forgot to mention. Sorry in advance about the mess of words.


I’m going to miss Asia. A lot. I better write this now while the memories are fresh in my mind. Either way, I’ll never forget such experiences. How could I? We age so quickly, yesterday may still seem like yesterday even years from now. But I’m experiencing a bit of denial, I’m sure – even if we are fond of the past, and even if it feels like ‘just the other day’, memories will fade, and that clear, glass-like reflection in the water will eventually become muddled as if someone threw in a small pebble making your eyes and memory strain to see what was once, so recently, vividly clear. I’m going to miss Asia. A lot. I’m not just going to miss the obvious things like food… The food.

P1020836       Photo: Spicy chili peppers, Laos

Often spicy, richly spiced, slow cooked with love, ingredients used seemingly perfectly. Pho noodle soup in Vietnam flavored with Basil, lime, mint, bean sprouts, chili, garlic. Fresh spring rolls. Vegetable hot pots. Tofu cooked in every mouthwatering manner. Bahn mi, the delicious street-side sandwich filled with cilantro, chili sauce, vegetables and more. Addictive iced coffee, strong enough for three but has you going back for more. Chili condiments at every table – chili sauce, chili chutneys, pickled chili, fresh chili. Spicy papaya salad in Laos, drizzled with a citrus sauce and dangerously garnished with fresh chili. Rice soup, add some chili paste, chili sauce, lime, coriander and let the sweating commence. Vegetable and tofu amok in Cambodia, spicy, coconuty awesomeness. Fresh coconut shakes to sooth the palate on a warm day. The orchestrated sound of kottu being cooked in Sri Lanka. The best dhal in the world accompanied by unique, bowl-shaped hoppers. The ubiquitous Sri Lankan rice and curry. Sambol, chili sambol, pol sambol. Jackfruit curry. Exotic fruit. Short eats! Endless varieties of Indian curries. Masala Dosas. India sweets. Idly and Sambar. STREET FOOD. Pani puri. Puri masala. Chola bhatura. Pav Bhaji. Nepal’s dal bhat. Momos. Vegetable chowmien. Peanut sandiko. Tibetan food.

P1070037       Photo: South-Indian thali, India

How about the cost of living? $3.00 accommodation, $0.25 (or less!) street food, $0.75 meals large enough for two people, $1.00 per hour trains and buses, $4.00 moped rental, $0.50 650ml beer. Making someones day with a smile and even more so with $1.00. Living like a king is an understatement. The climate (in the best seasons) – endless days of soothing sun. Not just the food, the cost, the climate. The scenery. Karst formations off of Vietnam’s coast, almost endless stretches of pristine beaches, Laos’ green terrain like something out of a dream, Cambodia’s secluded islands, Sri Lanka’s rolling hill county, untainted beaches, Savannah-like national parks, tea plantations, India’s jungles, river systems, palm fringed coasts, deserts, Nepal’s low-land jungles, prehistoric valleys, staggering Himalayan mountain ranges, pine forests. India ocean sunsets. So much more.

P1050804       Photo: Early morning from atop of Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka

The architecture. Archaic. Unique. Unesco-recognized. Ultra modern and globalized. Authentically traditional. Chinese influenced, French influenced, Portuguese influenced, British influenced. Traditional, wooden, bamboo, straw, thatched. A feast for the eyes. Temples, pagodas, stupas, dagobas, gompas, monasteries, churches, mosques. Hindu temples, Buddhist temples, Jain temples, Sheikh temples, and on and on. The religious diversities (and similarly, similarities) are fascinating. Traditional music, unique instruments, trance-inducing dances. An orgasm for the ears. A plethora of smells. Fresh food frying. Salt-water-scented air. Incense burning. Spices being bargained over. The amazing local people. Curiosity. Innocence. Friendless, in its truest form. Compassionate. Generous. Genuine. Loving. Caring. At times completely selfless, a selflessness unbeknown to some of us. Greedy? No (comparatively). The most amazing markets in the world – flower vendors, fresh produce vendors, tools and mechanical supplies, food vendors, meat vendors, spice vendors, every-kind of everything.

P1020780        Photo: Rolling hills of rice paddies, Vietnam

How about the festivals? Some of the most amazing get-togethers in the world, celebrated by millions and millions, and chances are you’ll get to experience at least one. An astounding array of wildlife, animals, plants, ethnic peoples, foods, landscapes, architecture, cultural and traditional practices, an array of attires, a range of desires, endless diversity. I’m not just going to miss all of that, but so much more. While I sit in the Dubai airport, tears developing in my eyes, I’m going to miss the unmissable (for many) and the once unfamiliar. The lack of rules and regulations, or more often the lack of enforcing the rules and regulations. Driving on either side of the road, endless honking, passing on the inside, on the curb, however you want. Riding on top of a bus, train. Filling a vehicle many times past its capacity. The inability for South Indians to form a queue. You want on that train? You want a ticket for that food? You have to go get it. The complete lack of personal space, touching, shoving, holding, helping. Be close, it doesn’t matter. Sharing a table with strangers. All tables taken? No problem, sit with someone else, or they will sit with you, always, every time, no doubt. Slurping, burping, mastering the chop sticks, eating with your hands and palming that rice and curry to the best of your ability. Sharing food. Sharing everything. Practicing new customs and not being shy to unfamiliarity. Being asked the same questions over an over about your country. Everyone and everything sharing the roads – Cars, bicycles buses, tractors, cows, cats, dogs, donkeys, yaks, goats, children, manual rickshaws, bicycle rickshaws, tuk-tuks, pedestrians.

P1050195       Photo: Ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, Cambodia

The chaos, I’m going to miss the chaos. Learning to survive, I’ll miss that too. Humiliation, something one must learn in Asia, little by little, over and over again. You must put yourself out there. Make mistakes, eat something the wrong way, offend people, get lost, ask for help. Disorder, confusion. Lack of judgment from fellow travelers, acceptance. What else can I say? Learning that I’m so fucking rich. Of course, in sense that I’m from Canada, I have opportunities. But in a monetary sense, too. I was able afford a plane ticket to the other side of the world. A camera. A lap top. An extra meal. One single meal… of course, I’ll be far from well-off when I return back to Canada. But I’ll know what having money is like, something that so many people will never experience. I’m going to miss Asia. A lot. For everything it has taught me. Humility. Patience. Gratefulness. Sadness. Confidence. Happiness. Sharing. Hope. Goodness. The teachings and experiences won’t end here, though. Traveling will enrich your life where you go. And, of course, I’ll one day return to see some more counties on the vast continent which is Asia.

P1080812        Photo: Thorong La, the highest pass in the world, Annapurna Himalayas, Nepal

 

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