Sunday, September 10, 2006

Gemma's South East Asia Summary

Things I won't miss about SE Asia: The humidity, the smelly drains (oh how I won't miss them) the bites and having to smother myself in “Off!”, the frustration of crossing the roads (Too much traffic) soggy leaves and boiled rice (Jacket Potatoes here I come).

Things I will miss: The Randomness,(You can't really predict a day in SE Asia) the laid back, friendly attitude (in most places) The wildlife, the cheapness (I can't help but feel good when two meals and drinks come to 1.50)

A lot of people rave about South East Asia so I was curious to see for myself what all the hype was about. For me, South East Asia got under my skin. (sometimes it literally felt like that especially when we'd been walking around all day in the heat and breathing in the drain smells.) I believe there is a certain way of life and charm to SE Asia which can't necessarily be seen on the surface. It took me a little while to get beyond "the things I won't miss" (see above) but when I got past those things I fell for the people who, generally have been very friendly, laid back and warm and the pace of life.

I feel like this part of the trip has been an introduction to Asia and I would like to do another trip, taking in other countries. Singapore was a gentle intro to SE Asia, being quite westernised, although looking back I thought that Singapore was exotic when we first arrived. However, when we returned to Singapore I couldn't believe that I felt like that! It seems very normal although I did have a new found appreciation for the cleanliness, especially of the toilets!

Like Tim, I had never really considered Malaysia as a destination other than to transit through to get to the rest of SE Asia. However, it turned out that it is a lovely place and we spent longer here instead of venturing to other countries like Laos (maybe next time). The people are lovely the scenery is lovely. Generally, a nice place. I have heard people comment that Malaysia as a SE Asia destination is tame and too nice. I suspect this comes down to the fact that the Malaysian people generally, are very trustworthy and warm. Myself, I value being able to trust people and not being ripped off and as far as I can tell this seems to be the thing that seems to separate it from the other countries. ( Heard a lot of dodgy reports about Vietnam) O.k most Malaysians speak English so therefore it makes it easier to travel and I guess people want the challenge. I have to admit that the language thing was a bit frustrating when I tried to ask for my dinner in Malaysian and they only understood me when I asked in English!

The beaches I had expected to find in Thailand we found in Malaysia; the East Coast providing text book tropical islands which haven't yet (and I hope this remains) been scarred by distasteful developments. The development that has happened seemed to be in keeping with the environment, unlike Thailand where we found unrestrained development and it could have been 18-30 resorts! To be fair though, we didn't go everywhere so those paradise places may exist. We ended up going to resort places (combination of weather in other parts, meeting people and laziness).

As soon as we entered Thailand I decided I really liked it. I think it was because it felt so new and exciting. I couldn't understand any of the language, signs etc. However, as time went on I began to change my mind. I felt jaded after only being there for a week or two, I think again, because of the places we went. Don't get me wrong I enjoyed myself it's just "The land of smiles" which Thailand was hyped to be was not evident and I wondered what everyone had been raving about. However, after going to Patrick and Noi's wedding and meeting genuine Thai people, I fell for Thailand. I think we got to see the real Thailand and I would love to go back. I also felt chuffed that I learned a few words of Thai!

Borneo (Sabah) was strange and I had mixed feelings. I knew about the Palm oil plantations, but seeing it in reality was a bit of a shock. We did a lot of bus journeys and so got to see miles and miles of seemingly endless, monotonous palm trees (whenever there was a river, I would excitedly nudge Tim, much to his amusement, as it was a welcome relief from the plantations!) The wildlife and jungle is obviously what tourists go for and I was no exception. The protected parts were the places we wanted to visit, but the visitor numbers to these are limited, which is good, but because we generally just turn up we did not get to see certain things. What we did see though was beautiful. The elephant encounter was amazing; a goose bump moment and Proboscis monkeys and Orangutans are ace!

Whilst in Borneo we were approached a few times to have our photo taken. Once was in the capital city of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu by a family who had been staring and nudging each other before approaching us to ask for our pictures! We found it really funny and strange as we assumed that western people were quite common place. Obviously not as much as other places. We had our photo taken by several members of the Malaysian army who were based on a small island we went snorkelling off. It is a strange feeling and made me feel famous!

So, all in all I enjoyed SE Asia. It was a strange experience at times and I would love to go back to visit other countries and the parts we missed.

No comments: