My friends keep telling me that the pictures from my previous trip are really good and all, but they are not sure if the place is actually beautiful or its more to do with my photography skills. I will share a very important photography secret here: Never make your bad pictures public. I am usually disappointed with my good pics too, but that’s when Photoshop comes into picture. Anyway,the point I am trying to make here is, for me, travel is not all about going to beautiful places. Its much more than that. For example, I just love the sense of belonging you feel after staying in a place for a few days, even though you have no idea of the place before this trip. You begin to identify the routes and the lanes, go around by yourself and even give directions to other tourists. You talk to the locals, you eat their food (though sometimes it doesn’t turn out to be a good experience), you visits their pubs, you basically blend in. You become a part of the world not your own for a short while. And when you come back from a long trip,its just awesome to find your people, your home, your bed, all of which you would take for granted otherwise. Much later, on a dull day, your magnificent brain decides to cheer you up and says,” Ok let me show you something nice” and starts conjuring up images and sounds of those moments lost in time and your face unwittingly breaks into a wide smile. I can go on and on.
My last trip to Cambodia was one such trip. We had a LOT of time to get bored of all the temples and architecture around, so I had to find entertainment wherever I can. Some mildly interesting stuff happened which at that time seemed much more interesting. I thought I will write it anyway.
We got up at 4:15 AM, took our cab and drove for around 12 kms to reach the temple at 5:00 AM. It was pitch dark everywhere and I setup my tripod at the edge of the pond, all set for the sunrise. There was an Asian guy next to me. Asian as in <racist slang here>. For the rest of the world, there are two types of people in Asia – Asians and Indians. So this guy started taking some pics while my cam was complaining about the low light. I peeped and asked him what settings is his camera on. He loudly said something in a language totally incomprehensible to me, as if I am totally expected to understand what he was saying. I told him I don’t understand the language and showed him the error message on my cam. We started communicating through our LCD displays. “ISO” he said in his typical accent and showed me his aperture and shutter settings. After that, he kept informing me every time he changed his settings, or lowered his tripod to get a better view etc with both of our vocabulary basically limited to “aaa” “umm” “ooh” “yayaya” . Some time in between, I asked him if he was Japanese. With my hundreds of hours of experience in watching (Japanese) anime, I should have guessed he was not speaking Japanese, but it was 5:30 AM on a cold, cloudy,dark morning! His wife who was standing next,giggled and said “Nooooo, Chinese”. It was quite sweet. I thought Chinese people usually take offense at being mistaken for Japanese. After that, I got so busy clicking I didn’t notice them go.
Later that day, me and my friend were trying out noodles at a mobile stall on the roadside, after painstakingly explaining him not to add anything that has moved once before (any animal,that is).Of course,I told him to be liberal with the chilli. It was all looking good. Now came the bummer – he handed me the noodles along with two chopsticks! Expecting me to finish a bowl of noodles using chopsticks is like expecting Salman Khan in the lead role of Paan Singh Tomar! But as the cliche goes, desperate situations call for desperate measures. There was food on my plate and I will be damned if I don’t finish it,and do it while it was hot. An elderly Chinese couple came to the stall. The husband looked at me making the chopsticks dance and smiled. I gave an embarrassed laugh and said “I am not used to this”. The stall boy asked him something and he replied “Can, can”. I immediately turned and asked him “Are you from Singapore?” He was. A brother from our land in a foreign land! Sentiments started flowing freely. He told us that they have come by a tour package and how he roamed about wild and free during his younger days but now he needs a transport to take him around.He meandered into the topic of Singapore by-elections and so on.It was amusing how I actually felt happy seeing someone from Singapore. And to my credit, I totally cleaned up my noodles plate using the chop sticks. It couldn’t be helped, the stuff was spicy and delicious.Looking back now, thank god it was noodles and not rice!
The same night, I left my friend having a good time at the club and started towards the hotel at midnight. A tuk tuk stopped (A tuk tuk is basically a moped fitted to a carriage. Very comfortable for 2 people) and I felt lazy and got in though the hotel was at a walk-able distance. He started the vehicle and without looking at me asked “Mister, want some lady?” I was caught off guard and replied “No no, just take me to the hotel”. He paused, turned back in slow motion and gave me a toothy, sheepish grin “HIHIHI” . Best grin of 2013 so far.
And there were stereotypes everywhere. The Chinese always arrive in bus loads. Once they descend in the vicinity, everything else goes silent. People move out of the way, the birds stop chirping, everything just freezes except the Chinese moving noisily around and their cameras pointing in all directions in all weird angles. Things get back to their normal peaceful self once the battalion has moved on to another target. I think, same would be true with Indians too, if only we had enough money to go to all these places. For now, I will give you an advice I read in a blog. Do not travel anywhere in the world, I repeat, ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, on Chinese holidays. Moving on, the Indian stereotype – wearing tees/full sleeves, jeans and shoes – the entire wardrobe, in 35 degree C weather. Me and my friend were guilty of it too. I know at least one westerner who looked at me top to bottom and gave a sideways smile. Well, we laughed at them too. I don’t understand why westerners have to wear clothes like they are living in utter poverty when they are traveling? Okay, agreed the clothes are more comfortable than ours, but some people who seem well off, wear clothes that resemble rags and are definitely not washed for a long time!
So that’s that. I don’t know how to end this, so I will just quote a brilliant line by one of my favorite bad guys in fiction.
“There probably isn’t any meaning to life. But perhaps you can find something interesting to do while you are alive.”