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Travelling through Asia with Foot-in-Mouth Disease

Author: John M. (More Trip Reviews by John M.)
Date of Trip: April 2006

I was in Cambodia touring the temples of Angkor. My guide Ry, was staring at me with a look of utter horror on his face. I was smiling broadly before the penny dropped, and realised I had made one of life's awful tourist gaffes.

It was a hot morning, and I had been at the temples since 5.30 to capture the magical moment when the sun rose over one of the ancient world's most amazing complexes -- Angkor Wat.

By 11.30 am, Ry could see I was struggling with the heat and humidity.

"Sir," he enquired, "Would you like to walk back to the air-conditioned car and go to a restaurant for a late breakfast? You are looking very hot."

It sounded an excellent idea, so I willingly agreed. We returned to the car and, as we began driving towards the restaurant, I decided to invite Ry and the driver to join me because I was travelling solo and disliked eating alone.

After some 10 minutes, the driver pulled into a small car park and we got out. Ry pointed to a cute little bridge over a small stream and a winding path that led through the trees to a vague sort of stone building. He nodded enthusiastically and gestured for me to cross the bridge.

I beamed, and said: "Ry, I'd like you and the driver to come with me. It will be so much more fun if we go together. I really don't like going by myself."

It was at the this point that Ry blushed profusely, looked stricken and stammered "No, Sir..."

But I was not to be so easily put off. I jocularly grabbed Ry and the driver by the arms and began theatrically pulling them over the bridge, chuckling, "Come on guys, let's all go together! It will be so much more fun!"

It was at that point Ry explained the car had stopped at the Angkor public toilets so I could have a comfort stop. Apparently, the restaurant was still several kilometres away. I wished the bridge would collapse and the stream would carry me away.

I am good at creating embarrassing moments for myself. But, in a strange country, many of us are prone to the tourist foot-in-mouth statement.

As I wandered through Indo China, my embarrassing moments continued.

In Hoi An, on Vietnam's central coast, I made enemies with a female solo traveller. Hoi An is the tailoring capital of Vietnam, and has about 400 tailor shops. Take tear-sheets from fashion magazines, and the tailors will copy anything for you -- at dirt cheap prices.

My initial thoughts, as I wandered through streets filled with tailor shops was that the clothing looked very 1970s-ish. The styles and colors were, in the main, diabolically awful.

While sitting at a coffee shop, a female solo traveller asked to join me. As we chatted about our Vietnam experiences, she commented about how cheap the Hoi An clothing was. I nodded, and looked diagonally cross the road to one of the tailor shops. I thought most of the clothing on show looked utterly hideous.

"I agree, it is very cheap," I said to my coffee companion, "but most of it looks like rubbish."

I pointed to the shop opposite.

"Look at that shop," I said with a chuckle, "who would be seen dead in most of the outfits it has on display, especially that dreadful looking furry jacket!"

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