I have sung the joys

I have sung the joys of Southeast Asia for several months now. Here is a short list of things I will not miss when I leave:

  • Spitting. Great hawked gobs of betel juice and phlegm, which occasionally land on my shoes.
  • All Southeast Asian pop music, but especially Thai.
  • Being forced to drink huge quantities of rice whiskey by rowdy men at ten in the morning.
  • Karaoke. In the most basic mud hut villages, some bloody genius has gone and bought a battery-operated ‘CDoke’ machine for all-night caterwauling.
  • Roosters who think 1am counts as dawn.
  • Women being regarded as unclean or lesser beings in Buddhist temple circles. I thought only old Catholics went in for that.
  • Wearing godawful backpacker clothes all the time.
  • Humongous mosquitoes.
  • Rats in my bedroom.
  • Burmese bus journeys. My personal record was 26 hours on an old (left-hand-drive) Japanese jalopy, which broke down six times.
  • Lao bus journeys. No reserved seating, and a million sacks of flour to transport, means you have to sit on a boiling bus for two hours before departure.
  • While I’m at it, Thai bus journeys. The buses don’t break down, but the drivers all take speed.
  • One modem shared across fifteen creaky PCs.
  • Chubby 22-year-old American girl backpackers shouting ‘Is this water boiled? And I don’t eat meat.’
  • Aggressive touts. ‘You want tuk-tuk? Where you go?’
  • Bathing in rivers and falling in the mud.
  • Sending rural children into hysterics of terror at my bizarre appearance.
  • Hideous modern Chinese architecture—those wedding-cake guesthouses all over Burma.
  • Whole villages sitting in silence to watch me eat. (This only bothers me when I’m premenstrual, I’ve walked for twelve hours, and I haven’t had a shower.)
  • Small monks marvelling that a person could get to be as old as thirty. ‘Tree-zero? Wow! Wow! Ha ha ha!’
  • Condensed milk.
  • Leeches. Those things suck your blood!
  • Seeing small children with hungry, swollen bellies.
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