Things that I have tried in Asia

1. Durian:  I now know the distinct smell.  But this smelly fruit is supposed to taste very sweet.  I tried it, but I think that durian tastes like it smells.  I didn’t like it.

2.  Fried Worms:  I was first introduced to fried crickets in 2004 and I had to have a camera lens between me and them- I wasn’t getting any closer.  This time in South East Asia, I was brave and attempted to eat a fried worm after much much encouragement from strangers in the street.  The fried worm was the best delicacy to introduce me to fried creatures as there are no squishy guts inside.  So I bit into it quickly and swallowed without really taking in the taste.  Yuck!  I still can’t believe I did it!

3. Betel:  This is a green leaf where in parts of south east Asia, they wrap inside of it areca nut, lime paste and sometime tobacco.  They stick it into the corner of their mouth and chew on it.  After chewing on it for awhile, it produces this red juice which is spat unceremoniously onto the streets.  The streets are stained with red globs from the betel and so are the users teeth!  I did try it once, thankfully, the teeth remained white.  I put the pouch into the side pocket of my mouth and I didn’t really know what to do with it.  I have to say, that I felt quite liberated everytime I spat into the street, but it wasn’t that red colour that everyone else’s was.  I think that you’d have to chew one right after the other to get the colour and the stimulant out of the leaf.

4. Avocado juice:  Never would have imagined drinking pureed avocado.  But this is the most heavenly drink on earth.  Yum Yum Yum.

5. Potentially Intestines: I was in a night food market and bought what I thought was barbequed chicken, but am not all too certain it was.  Actually, I’m certain it wasn’t, but am not too sure what it was.  When I started eating it, it was very greasy and there was no meat to it.  It tasted like bbq’d  fat.  So I started pulling it off the skewer and took note of the shape of it and then had the awful thought that I was eating intestines.  I think I did.

6.  Walking a plank: I took a slow ferry boat in Burma and when it arrived at my destination, the most precarious jetty that one could ever imagine was used.  A plank of wood about 7-8 inches wide.  I had tuk tuk driver approach me on the boat and start to harass me about a ride.  I was not focused on him, but on this plank in front of me.  Normally, I would have been fine, but I had 16 kilos in my backpack on the back of me, and 4 kilos in my day pack in the front of me.  I was feeling off balance and couldn’t see my feet.  I just stared at the plank and said, “I can’t do this.  I’m going to fall in.”  There were actually two planks- not close enough so that you could have one for each foot, but close enough so that the tuk tuk driver could hold onto me and support me while I walked down the plank.  The whole time that we were creeping down this plank, all the Burmese people watching were having a good laugh at the foreigner.

7. Standing on the  back of a pick up:  I love taking local transport.  You can’t get anymore local than a pick up.  But this time, the pick up was full when it came, so I had to stand up on the ledge and hold onto the top.  The best part of the ride was going over potholes in the road.  Keep your knees bent to absorb some of the shock and get ready to be airlifted a bit!

8. Asian food for 3 months:  I love Asian food, so I gave myself a challenge to see if I could go 3 months without getting sick of Asian food.  I did it!  With the exception of breakfast which at most times was eggs and bread, I never swayed and ordered off a western menu.  There was no need to, the food was always delicious…with a few exceptions.

Now I’m out of Asia and back in the western world.  I have set up a photo blog with pictures from my trip.  Enjoy 🙂

Made in China

With China being my last destination on my four month trip, it finally meant that I could shop.  I had been practicing great restraint throughout the rest of my travels.  It was rather easy to pass on buying things that I saw, especially in South East Asia, because I knew that I would most likely come across these items again because everything is made in China.

First shopping in China was in Shanghai.  The plan was to buy a couple of tailor made dresses there.  After finding the fabric market, I found a vendor to haggle the price of dresses and then started to pick the material.  One pattern was easy to pick, but I found the rest of the silk patterns too elaborate and therefore too formal for what I wanted.  Then she showed me the silk blends and I found something there.  So I said to her, this is a silk blend, this material is less.  She said, this is imported from Korea, it’s actually more.  I scoffed at her, what are you talking about?  Everything is made in China!

In the province of Yunnan, I was rather good and only picked up a few items that fit into my backpack with ease and did not add too much weight to the pack.  However, in Xian, I made the mistake of jumping the gun and buying a mahjong set there instead of waiting for Beijing.  That set added about 4 kilos to my bag and took up all of my compressible space!  Everytime I put that back pack on, I cursed that mahjong set!

Finally, in Beijing, this was the last stop and it was time to start buying.  With Beijing being a big city, you didn’t really find a network of streets loaded with souvenir shops like you did in smaller towns.  Maybe, I was going to regret having passed items on the way because I thought I’d find them in China or in Beijing.  (Actually, the cracked egg shell tea pot set that I saw in Vietnam is not made in China).  We decided to visit a couple of markets.  The weekend market was full of antiques and I didn’t part with my money there.  Then the next day we headed to the Pearl Market which is good for jewelry and bingo it was also souvenir heaven.   Word of advice, if you go to China, fly out of Beijing and do all of your shopping at the Pearl Market.  Not only did it have everything there that you could possibly imagine (clothes, electronics etc) but you could get these items for next to nothing!  It’s every bargainers dream!!!

I noticed immediately that the prices here were marked up much more significantly than anywhere else.  If you are not good at bargaining, then you will be paying more for these items.  It definitely helped that my friend was a cut throat bargainer.  She started buying first.  When she’d ask the prices, she’d counter at 1/4 of asking.  What was great was that the vendor drastically dropped the price.  She ended up buying a couple of things for dirt cheap.  Then he turned to me and said what are you buying.  So I pointed to a screen which had a price of 900CNY on it (~115USD).  He typed into his calculator 320 and handed me the calculator.  Instead of countering an offer, I handed the calculator to my friend and he grimaced with pain, not her not her, she’s too tough!  She got him down to 110 (~16USD).  Then I bought a smaller screen for 50.  The vendor wanted us to buy more, but we said that we had to  feed other people in China.  He said no just feed me.

I wanted to pick up some stress balls and only wanted to pay 10 CNY for them.  So we met our next victim.  I whispered in my friend’s ear, get it for me for 10.  He started at 35.  She countered with 10 and he exclaimed that she was stingy!  I sat back silently as they haggled back and forth until he she was offering 12 and he was asking 15.  Then I said, what if I buy 3?  How much for 3?  Oh he loved this idea!  He said, you are very clever, you are a clever girl.  Let me guess if you buy 100 then you get them for free?  What? I said, you’ll give me 100 for free, then I want 100!  My friend decided she wanted one as well and we got 4 for 53.

I haven’t had this much fun bargaining since Egypt.  In Vietnam, they hardly budged on the prices and in Thailand they were only bargaining about 20% off the price and then they wouldn’t budge.  Some didn’t even want to bargain.  The Chinese were all smiling and laughing as we engaged in the combat of bargaining.  They dropped the significant mark up rather quickly.  I would go back to Beijing just to go bargain there.

Now the trip has sadly come to an end. I’m currently visiting my parents.  I was showing off my portable loose leaf tea bottle that I bought in China.  My mom said I have one of those.  I countered with , but yours isn’t made in China.  She said I bet you it is.  She looked at the bottom of hers and said haha it is.  Everything is made in China. 🙂