Thursday, 4 April 2013

Oh no! Not another blog!

Well, as we sit here in Bangkok airport, trying to hang on desperately to our shorts, flip flops and the memories of our holiday before the tiredness of travel wipes it away, I thought a moment of reflection was called for.
First some stats:
10 flights, 12 buses, 7 boats, 4 ferries, 1 rickshaw and dozens of tuk tuks of varying kinds.
19 different places, 25 hotels and 24 beds (most of which were very comfy).
1 cheeky KFC, 4 McDonalds (don't tell anyone though, we were desperate), 324 large bottles of water, 58 games of backgammon and enough bottles of beer that we can't quite recall!
39 fantastic sunsets, 3 blazing rows and lots of love to make up for it!
Poverty = lack of obesity
We were shocked to see the people of Thailand had put on a few pounds since we last visited 5 years ago. Perhaps the influx of fast food and tourist money has had an inflating affect on the normally slight frames of the South East Asian races. We certainly noticed that the other wealthy cities of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur had a shockingly great number of fatties too. In contrast Indians and Cambodians had the bodies that supermodels starve themselves for, sadly, the poverty really has a direct link. Perhaps we should stop spending a fortune on gyms and health food and get a job that pays a lot less, it might have the same effect.
Love Shrek's smile!
A smile costs nothing!

I try really hard to smile at everyone I meet, and whilst Rob thinks I look slightly insane, I like to think it I am offering not only a friendly impression of the British tourist but also a little piece of myself to make someone else feel happier. Sadly, many smiles fell on blank/ stony faces on our travels. In India there is such hardship that smiles do not come as easily and more often than not, Rob and I were viewed only as a "walking wallet". In Thailand, the people are generally unimpressed with foreigners (farangs) and so a smile was harder to cajole. In Singapore you are "invisible" so your smile is a wasted effort. But in Cambodia, my faith was restored! A smiling nation of friendly people and my favourite place in all our travels for this reason. They are genuinely happy to see you in their country and will show you their pearly whites whether you are buying something, asking something or just passing by. I really hope that the growing number of tourists do not spoil this.

The Curse of Palm Oil
Okay, so most people back home have probably not heard of palm oil or know what it's used for so I will explain. First off, there are many different kinds of palms: palms that make palm sugar and palm juice (vital ingredient in Asian cooking), coconut palms, water palms (good for roof coverings) etc etc and finally, a palm that produces palm oil from the palm nut. This oil is used in producing plastics and lubricants (not the sexy kind) and proves very lucrative business! So much so that vast areas of South East Asia have been densely covered in palm oil plantations. We knew that Borneo has lost over 50% of it's rainforest and that the loss of habitat is endangering the lives of many species of wildlife, including the infamous orangutan. So we were confused to find Borneo lush and green with no obvious bald spots. Until we looked closer.... and realised that much of the green is in fact palm plantations rather than rainforest (50%) which does not provide a liveable place for any animal as there is no food and the constant threat of machinery. We could understand the loss of your country's unique spaces for financial gain, but more than likely the Big Boys are the ones making the money whilst the people further down the chain and just losing their countryside.

The Plastic Bag War
Litter, litter everywhere and not a bin in sight! It was horrifying to see the amount of plastic rubbish littering just about everywhere on our travels. Asia seems to be developing a love of plastic packaging that goes beyond what we have in the UK. Buy a fruit shake and it comes not just in the throwaway plastic cup but also with a plastic bag to carry it in. Whilst the fruit and veg comes as naked as you like ( a rarety in the likes of Tescos), every other food item comes mini sized and/or double wrapped. Even the Pot Noodles come with a extra layer of plastic. The supermarket bags are so small and useless that you have to use double the amount to carry home your items and when I cleverly handed over my old bags to reuse, they would look at me like I had two heads, tuck my bags under the counter and get new ones out. Aaaaah! Cambodia and India have the worst issues with rubbish due to the lack of money in the infrastructure to dispose of it. Towns don't have bins and rubbish piles up in every corner of the street while bus journeys showed plastic blighted every inch of land. Out of our 25 hotels, only one offered a water bottle refill service to reduce the amount of bottles bought and only one seemed to be recycling glass and plastic. What a shame theses beautiful countries are being over run with something they can't control.

Well, so long till our next set of travels fellow blog followers. Hope you've enjoyed reading it. Sawadee ka. Sonja and Rob x x