“That’s too expensive! I don’t want it.”
As an American, medication and a doctor’s visit in my own country would cost an arm and a leg. Without proper insurance, getting medical care is expensive in the US, so as you can imagine, I love the fact that it’s the opposite in Asia. I once went to a clinic in Thailand for x-rays after an ankle injury and ended up only paying 13 dollars for everything. However, medical bills aren’t the only thing you can get cheap. Clothes, bags, shoes, knick-knacks an unimportant item, often not very useful, artwork – you name it, Asia’s got it. And it’s usually at a dirt cheap very inexpensive price! Heck an expression that can show surprise, frustration or disbelief, even when it’s already cheap compared to European or American prices, you can bargain it down cheaper!
I remember spending Chinese New Year one year in Beijing. The city had so much to see: from the Forbidden City, to the Great Wall, to the Temple of Heaven. I ate an entire four person serving of Peking Duck at a nice hotel restaurant (it was that good) and caught a fantastic performance at the Beijing Opera. The night ended with a firework celebration that lit up the sky like a meteor shower with what are known as “fire flowers” in Mandarin Chinese. However, no trip is complete without a little bit of shopping at the markets. My girlfriend needed a new rucksack and the main market in Beijing was the perfect place to get one.
In fact, anywhere in Asia, the markets are awesome places where you can find anything your heart desires. Just remember to bargain! In fact, it is expected by the vendors and this negotiation of price is a sort of national sport no matter which country you go to. In Beijing, the trick a particular way to do something, often the only way to be successful is the “walk away” method.
First, you find what you want and make sure you look long enough so that the vendor knows you really want it. Then, ask for the price. Whatever, that vendor says, respond with these words “That’s too expensive! I don’t want it.” Then, start walking away. Nine times out of ten the vendor will be calling you back to work out a deal. Remember to be patient, smile, joke a little and wait to get the price down to a number that you like.
“What’s over there?”
I might be in the minority, but one of my favorite parts about travelling other than the food and shopping, is getting lost. These days it’s nearly impossible because as soon as you get off the plane, you can get a cheap SIM card and Google Maps is always going to point you in the right direction. However, I often like leaving the phone in my pocket and wandering to walk without a desired destination in mind, and Sri Lanka was one of those places that I enjoyed doing that. A less popular vacation spot, Sri Lanka has many similarities to India, but the Buddhist culture tends to make the people feel a bit more relaxed in general.
People tend to live a lovely religious way of life, there is nature all around you, and in the southwest corner of the island there are fantastic seaside surfer spots. If a quieter stay is your cup of tea something that you really enjoy having or doing; it can be used for people you like, activities you enjoy doing, food you like eating, this is the country for you. Speaking of tea, did you know that the Ceylon tea you can buy in the supermarket come from one of the absolutely gorgeous extremely beautiful (very, very beautiful) tea plantations in Sri Lanka?
Anyway, I digress to begin talking about a different topic from the original topic. It’s often done before you have finished your conversation about the original topic. To get back to getting lost, Sri Lanka was a wonderful place for wandering because the cities like Colombo, Kandy and Trincomalee were big but pretty laidback with something happening on every street.
I remember staying in a small place called Dumbulla where I once took a random road to go in a direction that you don’t know where it will lead to but couldn’t find my way back to my homestay an accommodation where you stay with a family in their house. I asked a local if the city was “that” way, pointing to my left, and they said “yes.” I wasn’t sure if they understood, so I asked the next passerby a stranger who you see walking on the road if the city was to the right. They also replied “yes.” The conclusion: when you’re abroad, never ask yes/no questions, but instead opt for “What’s over there?” If they don’t understand, a “yes” or “no” response won’t make sense, and you won’t start heading in the opposite direction of your desired destination.
“Where’s the bathroom?”
Up to this point, I’ve talked about a few places you can choose for a short visit, a few days to one week. However, if you are like me and prefer to go away on vacation for weeks or even months at a time, then just north of Sri Lanka is India. This place is the ultimate the last one; in the story it is used to mean that if you choose only one place to be your last place to visit, India should be it destination for a long term vacation. Most countries get a 6 month tourist visa, the price of food and most accommodation is dirt cheap, and the country is so big, it’s like visiting several different countries all at one time. Whatever you like, you will find it in India. If you want to further your yoga practice, why not stay in one of the yoga capitals of the world in Rishikesh or Mysore.
If you’re a beach bum someone who loves spending time at the beach, usually just relaxing and want to spend your days lazing away to spend your time being lazy and doing nothing in sun and sand, the coasts of Kerala and Goa provide a nice retreat. If you’re a history buff someone who is very interested in the history of a country or culture, they often know many facts about the history of a place and you want to see the colossal forts of the Moghal Empire, visit Rajasthan or Agra to see the majestic Taj Mahal. While you’re there, spend a few days on a camel trek where you can sleep on the sand dunes of the Thar Desert under the stars. Sites like Varanasi and Amritsar will give you insight to the spiritual practices of the Hindu and Sikh religions.
Of all the wonderful things to see and do, and eat (Indian food is so diverse and delicious regardless of which state you’re in), the number one question I still get is “How safe is India?” It’s totally understandable why this is the most asked question because most press coverage news stories about a placeabout India tends to focus on incidences of violence and health. I’m here to say, like most places, use common sense. I lived in India for a year and a half and it’s not a lawless wild west, but don’t go walking around late at night in big cities, look both ways and cross the streets with caution, and again be careful with the food!!! Street food is where you’ll find the best value. It’s tasty, it’s super cheap (the average meal will cost you about 4 zloty), and the smells and taste are euphoria to your nostrils and taste buds.
Still, hygiene isn’t perfect and some bacteria are unfamiliar to our sensitive western stomachs. A dish might be spicier than you are use to and ten minutes after savoring to eat and greatly enjoy doing it a delicious plate of chole bature (chickpea curry with deep fried bread), your stomach is doing gymnastics. I’d recommend even before eating, ask the restaurant owner or street vendors “Where’s the bathroom?” because despite having a population of over a billion and a half people, bathrooms aren’t always widespread as you think they should be.
Vocabulary Words: Knick-Knack, Dirt cheap, Heck, The trick, Wandering, Cup of tea, Absolutely gorgeous, Digress, Took a ranodm road, Homestay, Passerby, Ultimate, Beach bum, Lazing away, History buff, Press coverage, Savoring