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28 August 2006

Sooooo nice

A response to a magazine article I had published:

Dear Johnny,

I have thoroughly enjoyed your Tour de Farce feature article, which was featured in Plan B's July issue. After consuming the article, I felt compelled to share with you my thoughts and at some point got quite excited when I found your personal website. Opps -I don't quite mean to stalk you down, but after all, this is what journalists (read: pseudo) do. Please don't keep tabs on my grammar as you continue reading.

Anyway, I hear you! I love the idea of backpacking but even now, backpacking has gained itself a shameful connotation. Backpackers-oh are we talking about the ones who flood places like the alcohol and drugs infested full moon parties? Or maybe we are looking at the elite group who display their passion for traveling by showing off a significant collection of Lonely Planet books stacked on the shelves and postcards of exotic locations stuck on their PC screens? All of a sudden-it becomes hip to travel. But when these people do, while most don't get boorish-(after all Asians are the more genteel race...haha!) like those hooligans you met during your travels, these people form an exclusive club where conversations would range from Did you visit the Eiffel Tower in Paris to Hey, I toured Europe on Euroline! When I talked about my volunteering adventures in Myanmar, all I get was a quick nod and these eloquent elite travelers will resume back to discussing about NYC or London. It seems that a tour around your own backyard or countries within South East Asia does not belong to the 'traveling' category. Even then, I don't think I belong yet to the traveler's category, merely a tourist who became more enlightened after a trip.

Not canggih enough lah! Do what in Myanmar? Myanmar is in Thailand right? You stay 4 months there to volunteer? Teach English? You know how to speak Burmese meh? Use the money to go Australia mah. Got gwei los and kangaroos to see.

So, while you are ready to emancipate yourself from the Western civilization, let me break free from the Asian one first.

However, despite all that, I found a place in my heart to forgive them-thinking that there is certainly enough place in the world for people with diverse interests. Until I found out that when they travel, they only keep to themselves for company. Everyone else is a suspect for theft and psychos. What? I asked them how many locals did they manage to talk to, did they have any language problems, what adventures did they get themselves into and all I get was : Can't you believe it? She got so drunk in the club that we had to drag her back to the hostel.

End of adventure. Period.

What happened to 'I like meeting people from all walks of life?'

There was also once where a bunch of wide-eyed poverty stricken children pestered us at the stupa ruins in Bagan, Myanmar. A fellow traveler nearby was seen shooing the kids away like flies. Not even a playful dismiss; only an aversed look. Thankfully for the kids, they couldn't tell the difference.

Wanting to fulfill my quota of making at least 20 people smile a day, I decided to bulk buy some packets of sweets and shared them around. In return, I had a shy kid presenting me with a precious one Kyat (which is currently out of production. The smallest value for the Burmese Kyat is 10; even then it is very rare.) in return for my spontaneity. It was one of his treasured earthly possessions, along with the other foreign coins that he collected from foreigners. Who says money is the only solution to everything?

So in answer to your question posed, I want to be your friend! Except for the fact that I'm not a Westerner.

I plan to hitch-hike around Malaysia with very little in my pocket. Relying completely on people's generousity must be a humbling experience. I wonder how far can I go. Except that it's rumoured that Malaysians only give rides to mat sallehs. Oh well.

If you have made it till this far (of the email), thank you very much for reading. Hope you continue to touch many more lives while leaving footprints on their land. May you have more gnarly adventures with people from around the world!


Kher Ying

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