Oli, this is for you.
Trip Start Jan 09, 2013
129Trip End Jan 22, 2013
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Hellooooo, I've been writing nearly everyday - what more do you want from me?
She said she wants to read about culture, people, accommodations, people I meet, etc.
Most of the time I'm writing my blog at the end of my day, or while I'm sitting on public transportation. So I guess I mostly cover highlights from the day, although I try to be comprehensive.
So this is an addendum entry in response to Oli's request :-)
So far the people I've encountered are very nice and approachable
But today I sat next to a grandpa on a mini-van who spoke no English but kept smiling at me and waved me goodbye when he got off.
I will remember that old man's face much longer than the angry woman's.
Some people in Thailand also bow when they say "thank you" - a culture very similar to Japan which shows respect. I like that.
In the Philippines, the people always referred to me as "ma'am" which was nice. But in their accent, it always sounded like "mom" which I found to be funny and cute. English was commonly spoken in the Philippines so I also didn't experience the language barrier that I am starting to experience here in northern Thailand. But so far the universal language of *smile* has worked out fine.
Oh another interesting thing is that I have not seen men catcall women in either countries
I have only been in Thailand for a little over a week so I may be speaking a bit too early - but I am finding Thai people to be more honest when it comes to billing. In the Philippines, I/we were constantly getting ripped off. One day a woman charged me 25 pesos for an orange even though I had paid 20 pesos the day before! It was my experience that they were always trying to take advantage of us. On the other hand, Thai charge us what they charge the locals - even in a tourist-filled city like Bangkok where they can easily rip us off (ok, aside from Khaosan Rd).
Again, this is just my experience so far.
Thailand is sooooo cheap. And street food can be bought for less than a dollar and they are far better than restaurant food. It will be hard going back to the western world after traveling in Thailand. Philippines was quite expensive when compared to Thailand. I would say I paid on average 3x for food and accommodations in Philippines.
I'm not sure that I fall into the category of a backpacker, because while I'm cheap, I'm selective about where I sleep. I don't mind hostels or dorms, but I read reviews carefully and make sure it's in a good location and have clean bathrooms. Those are deal breakers. I will pay an extra dollar or two for a place with a higher review rating.
In the Philippines, I stayed in a coed, 8-bed dorm in Puerto Princesa but it smelled musky, people were coming on/out of the room, and I didn't get good sleep. I didn't enjoy it but couldn't complain for $9. That was cheap for the Philippines!! In Bangkok, I stayed in a female only, 4-bed dorm for $13 including breakfast, free coffee, Internet, aircon, and shampoo/soap. Though there were other places for cheaper, this hostel was in a great location and had great amenities and I had a great stay there.
When cheap, I don't mind staying in a private room for some privacy every now and then. It's nice to be able to sleep naked in front of a fan especially since its SO hot out here!
As a dog owner, it was hard seeing so many neglected dogs in the Philippines. I don't necessarily favor the over-pampering of dogs in some western culture (like painting their nails), but generally dogs are nurtured, adored, and treated with friendship and companionship. In the Philippines, even the owned dogs were diseased, flea infested, malnourished and mostly neglected. I never saw a person interacting with their dogs.
In Thailand, people seem to care for their dogs better. Although the dogs are out in the streets like in the Philippines, they look healthier, have collars on, and I've even seen owners walking their dogs. That has been a relief.
Cock fighting was also a big deal in the Philippines. I could never understand the enjoyment of that, but who am I to judge. They put razor blades on the cocks so they kill faster. One day in El Nido there was a scheduled fight and Gerrit really wanted to go. He was outvoted by me and Gesa and we had a beach day instead :). I just cannot witness a bloody animal fight, purely for human entertainment. In some of the villages I saw locals getting their cocks to fight in the back yard. I didn't get it - isn't it their pet? They don't mind getting it killed? Clearly they don't have the same relationship to pets as we do.
I've come across a few Asian toilets in Thailand (the one where you squat over a hole), but find ATMs and Internet access just about everywhere I go. But in the Philippines, we often had brownouts (power goes out), intermittent and slooooooow Internet connection, no ATMs on some islands but western toilets everywhere. I didn't see ONE Asian toilet in the Philippines. Just an interesting observation.
In Thailand I've been seeing the royal couple's picture everywhere as posters along the streets. They must be highly respected and honored here. The Thai people also take their religion seriously - I see shrines inside buses, alongside a road, in front of people's houses, etc. And an offering (a wreath of flowers) are sold everywhere as well.
PESTS, INSECTS AND BUGS
Let me just say that I'm glad I came on this trip with all the vaccinations that were possibly available. There are SO MANY mosquitoes, I have countless scars and scabs...and they don't stop! I get new bites everyday :-( Ants out here are quick to bite too, and they itch like hell!! I'm afraid that I'm going to go home permanently scarred from all the bites.
I have seen some of the biggest cockroaches in both Philippines and Thailand. In the Philippines geckos were practically my roommates - they were everywhere. The other day I found a spider in my bed. At Erawan, when I was hiking in the jungle trying to get a good angle on a picture shot, I walked straight into a huge spider web and I shrieked! The spider scurried up to a tree but my face was covered in a web.
So I would say that SE Asia is not for the squeamish. And while I talk about how great my life is (and it actually is), there are not-so-glamorous side to traveling too.
(Oli, I hope this entry was to your satisfaction :))