As many of you know or can imagine, Asia can be a strange, wonderful, crazy and sometimes terrifying place. It’s a complete culture shock and a lot of things can seem completely bizarre. Here are some of my favourite examples of the strangest things I saw in Asia. I tried not to include any of the typical things like people eating scorpions and ping pong shows 😉
1) Let’s start this off strong. I was in Thailand. I was on a dingy heading back to the dock, minding my own business. I was happy enough worrying about whether or not this flimsy inflatable bath toy, a complete excuse for a boat by the way, would get us back safely to land. However, a passing fishing vessel disturbs my thoughts and I look up. I see a man hanging off the back of the boat. My God, has he fallen over the side?! Does anyone know he’s there? Is he a stow away?! Somebody do something! Oh, Hang on, he’s not wearing any pants. Yep, that’s right folk, there was a half naked man hanging off the back of that boat TAKING A SHIT. Risking his LIFE to take a shit might I add. Needless to say, I was horrified. This had to be top of the list for the strangest things I saw in Asia.
2) Then there was the man in Bangkok with the dreads so long that I was seriously worried that he might trip over them and injure himself. He must have been growing them his entire life or paid a fortune for extensions. Dreads are awesome, I think they are highly attractive on some people, but honestly why would you need them to be so long that they could be used as a skipping rope!
3) I was queueing for my boat on one of my day trips in Palawan, the Philippines trying to find a tiny spot of shade to stand in. I looked over my shoulder and was confronted by a man drying shaving in broad daylight, in the middle of the queue, with no shaving foam. He barely had any stumble to begin with so I, personally, felt the whole exercise was a bit of a bizarre way to pass the time. Absolutely pointless. He just whipped out his razor, shaved whatever stubble he seemed to think he had and then placed it back in his backpack. Completely casual. He was standing beside his wife at the time who didn’t even bat an eyelid. On a feminist note I couldn’t help but think that if he had been a woman shaving her pits or her legs in such a public way, the rest of the people in the queue probably wouldn’t been so nonchalant about it.
4) Watching a monkey try on an Epic Gap Year bracelet in Ubud, Bali was a pretty unusual sight. Granted I had given it to monkey, but only out of necessity. It was more of a trade really. The monkey had come up to me and started playing with an anklet which was very firmly tied around my ankle. He liked the colourful beads I imagine. Anyway, I was worried about what would happen when he realised that he couldn’t get it off my ankle. I did not want to deal with an angry money clinging to my ankle. Therefore, I bravely offered up one of my Epic Gap Year bands as a sacrifice which he then placed around his wrist, the little fashionista! It was a bit big, but he managed to pull it off.
5) SWEETCORN MILKSHAKES!! ick. Why?! No. Never! EVERYWHERE in Cebu, the Philippines.
6) Geckos are everywhere in Asia. One night I was sitting enjoying my dinner in the wonderful restaurant of Kermit surf camp Siargao when all of a sudden I heard a splat and saw something hit the table right beside my hand. It then bounced off the table and landed in the sand. Upon closer inspection I realised that it was a gecko. He must have fallen from the roof. I was struggling between concern for the geckos well-being and my urge to explode with laughter. Come to think of it geckos are an endless source of entertainment. In a restaurant in Ubud I also saw a male gecko “woo” a lady gecko and then bring her behind a picture frame for a bit of privacy. However, he neglected to realise that he had only hidden their faces and not the important parts. Sooo myself and the other restaurant patrons ended up with a free gecko sex show between courses. Antoher classic example of the strangest things I saw in Asia.
7) Mopeds and motorbikes are another wonderful source of entertainment in Asia. I’ve seen so many unusual things on mopeds. Entire families all squished onto one bike, crates and crates of coconuts strapped to the back until it seems like a miracle of physics that the bike is still moving, all sort of animals. There’s nothing you can’t fit on a bike in Asia. The prime example being the man in Java who had strapped an entire, fully assembled, bed frame to his bike and was driving along happily sat in the middle of it. Watching him turn a corner was a nail biting experience.
8) Getting accosted in Red Island, Java for photos was fairly odd. We were essentially the only non-Indonesian tourists there so I guess we stood out. It was my first surf lesson. I stood on the beach with my instructor and within two minutes I had attracted quite a crowd. The first lady demanded that I KISS her on the cheek for the photo. Then I had to pose with her dad. Then there was another girl and her brother, of course. The next was a group of adorable children that had been cheering me on during my lesson. We all posed in the sea while their father took pictures. Then when we returned to our beach hut a group of college students interviewed me and we had a mini photo shoot. One girl grabbed my hand and would not let go the entire time. She dragged me to different places to pose with different back drops. Absolutely adorable but definitely not something I’m used to.
9) I was in Bali, Indonesia. It was the first day of my surf camp. I was sitting on my board floating in the sea, trying to avoid actually surfing, when I looked down and saw something on my leg through the water. I couldn’t make it out but I just whacked it and it eventually came off. A few moments later the back of my knee began to sting. I looked down and saw the little creature again. I tried to flick it away to no avail. I then reached down and pulled it off. It was quite stuck on. When I inspected it in my hands it looked like a large see-through woodlouse. It’s horrible multitude of legs were flailing everywhere. I was so horrified that I threw it back into the sea. I had no idea what it was but whatever it was I knew I didn’t want it on me. Just thinking about it makes my skin crawl.
10) Our friends came to visit us in the Philippines and unfortunately for Matt he got bitten by what we suspect was a spider. It literally looked like someone had cut open his arm, shoved a golf ball under it and closed it back up again. I’ve never seen a worse reaction to any sort of bite in my life. Well, at least not until our other friend, Cribby, woke up one morning with hands that looked like he was wearing Mickey Mouse gloves. We’re still not really sure what happened to him, but but it was pretty funny I must say.
11) Last but not least on my list of the strangest things I saw in Asia, another queueing story. While I sat and waited for another day trip in the Philippines I saw countless street vendors selling pearls. A family were sat to my right and were particularly interested in the pearl earrings. After much bartering and haggling the ladies bought several pairs. One of their children thought that her father needed to wear some. She took some tissues and wadded them up. I didn’t like where this was going. With a skip in her step she approached her father with the tissue and an earring. Then, as I watched, she pierced her father’s ear right then and there. No ice cube. No alcohol. Just some tissue and a single pearl earring. She was no older than 9 at a push. This little girl then decided that she also wanted to wear one. She set her jaw and pressed another earring into the soft skin of her lobe until the skin on the other side had no choice but to give and her little pearl earring was perfectly in place. She was sitting right beside me when she did this. I watched the skin form a tightened tent over the metal back of the earring until the skin finally broke. I was nearly sick. I had to look away.