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Beyond Our Conestoga

FAQ. Got any?

WORLDWIDE | Sunday, 16 May 2010 | Views [569]

Some questions have been common. So I post a few here.

Feel free to ask more.

What was your most favorite dish to eat and where was it?
Favorite dish. Well, while there were many good dishes, our probably most 
favorite most well rounded dish was in Southern Cambodia along the coast 
in a small town called Kep. Green Peppercorn Crab. Peppercorns grown in the 
region. Salt as well. Not grown, but farmed. Crab from the gulf of Thailand 
water right at the coast. Couldn't get much better! Green Peppercorns fried 
oh so nicely. Not spicy like the dried ones we are used to. Perfect. Crab 
shells not a pain. Tender, easy to break. We licked every last morsel off our 
fingers. Incredible!
Did you ever had a good nights sleep or did you find that difficult 
in all those strange places, strange noises, so on.
Short answer. Yes. I did have good nights sleep.
Long answer. Traveling that long you just get used to every night a new
place with new sounds, sights, and smells. Becomes part of the routine
to accept. You would drive yourself crazy if you didn't. Sometimes we
would stay in the same place for a couple days though. We would always
look at a room before committing to it. This helped a lot! There were
some places we said 'no thanks' to after looking. We would haggle prices
of the rooms as well. A/C? No, don't need it. So the room will be cheaper
right? But as long as we get a fan. Oh, how far the fan helped. Is there
hot water? Most of the time we didn't care to pay extra for the hot water,
cold water showers became a looked forward to thing in this climate.
Some with private baths, some not so. Some just a toilet. Sometimes
the toilet wasn't a flush one. Just a hole in the ground you poured
water down. No shower, just a chinese bath style (tub of water and a
We traveled with our own lightweight sleeping liners. So we never slept
on the beds directly. Sheets weren't always available and most of the
time I wasn't completely solidified in their cleanliness. We only slept
directly on the beds in the very few times we were at a very modern
Western style hotel. Well, modern for what became our norm. We
always checked for bed bugs. Saw if a room had a window and if so,
how sealed it was. Will mosquitos be getting in? Is there a mosquito
net? Where will the ants come? Inevitably, they came. We tended to always
have snacks with us so at night we would hang them in different areas
to avoid the ants. How quiet? How musty was the room?
Lesson learned: if there is a mosquito net, it 's there for a
reason...use it! Just because there's not mosquitos at night,
doesn't mean they won't be there at dawn.
It was kind of like camping indoors. You just learn to accept certain
things and steer away from the things that you can't accept. The times
we would find a place that just was more comfortable (on any level),
it was hard to leave. The hardest uneasy part for me was just how
secure the door was. Many had no deadbolt and no chain. Just a
simple door push lock. We brought door stops and plugged these doors
at night. Sometimes as I laid there, trying to sleep, thoughts of rats
or ants or break-ins would go through my head. But nothing ever drastic
happened. I learned what was most important to really concern myself
with. And that extends well beyond just the scope of sleeping at night!
Did you ever get sick? Food or virus?
A very popular question.
Yes. We got sick. But considering the risks taken, we did very well.
Traveling for that long, eating EVERY meal out, in the countries we
were in, you are bound to get sick. Our doctors prescribed us for
about 3 bouts each of traveler's diarrhea (typically caused by not
so sanitized food). We each only got sick once with traveler's diarehea
though. I then got food poisoning one night. Eric also had flu like
symptoms for a few days but cleared up without becoming
full blown. So all in all we did really well considering.
We ate everything we wanted to. We were more cautious in the 
beginning and less so in the end. Eric's philosophy in Vietnam was 
to eat any and everything. We enjoyed all the food and never got sick
there. All the fresh greens and fruits. The normal 'watch out for
eating those' foods because they get washed with local water and
not cooked before served.
We found water to not be too bad of an issue. We didn't drink
it. But foods in relation to it didn't seem to bother our systems.
Oh, we did drink it if it had been boiled, ei coffee and tea. Bottled
water became our daily purchase. Exceptions were Singapore and Hong
Kong, big cities, modern city purification. Crappy thing about buying
bottled water was the usage of soo much plastic in 4 months
time. I guess some travels go with purification systems. I might
consider this in the future.
Funny thing about the bottled water though. In the beginning we 
surveyed our bottle water brand options. Some we knew, some we didn't. 
Some looked professional, some didn't. We stuck with the brands we knew. 
This quickly turned to brands we didn't know, to the not so looking 
professional bottled brands. These you looked at and weren't even sure 
wasn't just someone bottling river water at home and selling it. Labels 
said they had been "Sterilized. Ultra Violet Light Treated. Cleaned. 
Purified." Sounds trusting, right? But in Laos, those became our only 
option. And turns out, it was fine. The seals not so great, so they 
leaked a lot, bummer, but never got sick from them. So cheap to.
Probably the biggest issue with prevention is more monitoring
the food stall itself before ordering. We mostly ate out on the 
from local hawkers. We rarely ate in restaurants. A way to keep
costs down, but also a way to eat with the locals and the way the
do. Does it have a line of people? If yes, then they are going 
through product faster, let alone must be good. Do you see any
red flags in their sanitation while watching? These were normally 
obvious within just a few minutes. Something we had been warned
about and yet didn't seem to be able to avoid was eating where the
money is handled seperately from the person cooking your food.
We rarely saw this. These were family run operations with sometimes
only one person working. They all cooked and they all took money.
Imagine this. You find a stand you want to eat at. You watch the 
cooking. You place your order. He/She continues cooking, maybe 
starting on your order. You agree on a price. As you get your money 
ready, the cook starts to handle raw meat. Then grabs your plate/bowl.
He/she takes your money, finishes up your finished dish, topping off
the meal with some raw products (basil, mint, etc.) This whole time,
never wiping and/or washing his/her hands. Yummmm. Want your change?
This scenario made even worse in the markets. Now here they might not
be preparing cooked meals, but instead just selling the produce and
meats. One woman quit literally hacks up beef, chicken, fish, pork, etc.
adjacent to the stall selling fresh greens. Wonder where all the splatters
going? They aren't called wet markets for nothing. And those buying
the meat. Well, let's just say money is transacted and placed in pockets
with some bloody hands. Cross contamination galore.
Once, I didn't drink my fresh squeezed juice because of the ants 
floating in it. The extra protein wouldn't of hurt me really. I just
couldn't do it. I didn't ever want to offend anyone though by sending
something back. We smiled and paid. Oh, I take that back. Once we sent
a fish dish back, but only because it was too raw. We just wanted it
cooked more. Dodged a bullet that time I think. Although it was quit
difficult communicating what is was we were needing done.
Which culture, village or townspeople seemed to be the most joyous,
most content and happy with life?
In general, the more happy people were those in the less modernized 
areas. Living the old school way if you will. Less modern conveniences
stress and worry about and less need to desire those items. No TV. No
barrage of images telling you what you 'should' look like to keep up
with the Jones's. They kept their family fed and a roof over their heads.
That's all they needed.This is all by observations of course.
Who knows what was really going through their minds? What desires and
needs they really had versus what got protrayed. I know as travelers,
they viewed us as having lots of money. The fact that anyone had not
only enough money, but enough time to travel was unphathonmable to them.
In most of the countries we traveled through, time off just didn't exist.
Work was 7 days a week. Who can afford a day off? Maybe 2 days off a month.
And a day? 12 hours work probably. Not to mention if it was a family business.
Maybe they seemed most happy because they were most needing the money and
therefore most happy to have us spending our money with them. Many of
this may have been driven by Communism political structure. This trip opened
my eyes to how parts of Communism in action really works. I am not so turned
off by it now. What would you prefer? A class system that exists here, or a
system where the money gets spread more evenly, even though that might mean
you are poorer? When everyone is in a 'low tier,' you are all equal and there
is less keeping up to be had.Now this doesn't mean that there wasn't goal
making and strides to move forward in civilization. Whole communities moved
forward, not just individuals. It is the community that is most important. 
Slaughter a buffalo? Everyone gets a piece. Plus, without refrigeration,
this system works doublely as well.
So I think I derailed a bit from the original question. But anyways. 
We found this most common in Laos. Really, everyone their seemed content
and happy. Tired and wore out, but they seemed happy to me. Or,
well, at least, we were most happy there. Vietnam, also very Communist,
not so much of the happiness though. Somehow, people here were living
under Communism with the modern struggle to be better than thy neighbor.
I don't understand it. I hope I can hold onto some of the values I learned
on our trip and carry them forward in my own life and not get caught
back up in the go-go-go of life here. Why are we this way? We are missing
all the real GOOD stuff. For me, the door has just been cracked and now I 
begin my push to really open the door and learn to really listen to my instincts.
I should put in a clause: These statements are my own observations
of communities in general. Just like stereotyping, this doesn't mean 
that there aren't exceptions.
Philosophical enough?

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