Have you never seen a black person before?…Highlights from our trip to Southeast Asia
Sheila and I recently returned to Nigeria after visiting our eight (Thailand), ninth (Cambodia) and tenth (Singapore) countries as a married couple. It has been a busy year for us, between work trips and a few excursions out of Nigeria, we have racked up the frequent flyer miles. To celebrate our anniversary, we visited the Goods (Andrew, Jessica, Asher and recent addition, Vivienne) in Bangkok, Thailand, visited the ruins of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia, became beach bums in Phuket, Thailand and relaxed in the infinity pool at the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore. It was an epic end to our one year of marriage. I am not sure how we will top our second anniversary. Maybe I should start planning…
There were a few things that caught our attention while traveling through Southeast Asia.
There is a new loud tourist on the scene and it’s not the rude American!
There is a new tourist on the scene…A growing middle class mixed with currency depreciation around the world is making vacation travel suddenly affordable to Chinese travelers. We saw this everywhere we went. Our driver in Cambodia said that he now sees more Chinese travelers than any other nationality. He also said that they are easy to spot because they can be quite loud and boisterous. Hotels, restaurants, and tour excursions were all geared towards the growing influx of Chinese tourist that is flooding Southeast Asia.
Have you never seen a black person before?
We had a few run-ins with some of these Chinese tourists in their desire to take pictures with us everywhere we went. Honestly, it was mostly Sheila that they wanted to photograph. Sometimes they would politely ask but other times they would find ways of getting the photo. Sheila and I quickly became aware of their schemes and would point our phones and cameras at them to take a photo. They would then get the hint and stop. But it happened in Thailand, Cambodia and Singapore. Honestly, it was never the locals but always the tourists. With the locals, we normally received a lot of stares…and that was mostly from the children.
Backpacking through Southeast Asia
To get to the airplane in Bangkok, we had to get on a bus to be transferred to the aircraft. As Sheila and I were looking around, we were completely taken aback by the number of young white men and women on the bus. It turns out that many of them were Canadians who had just finished medical school and were traveling before their medical residency started. The Canadians would be spending three weeks in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand before heading back to Canada.
Cambodians are some of the friendliest people you will meet!
Granted, we were only in Cambodia for about 36 hours but I found the people of Cambodia to be very friendly. We really enjoyed our Tuk Tuk driver Mr. Thoeun. He was a young guy that always had a smile on his face. He told us that if he took us to some of the shops, he would get a commission. And if we told them that we were Americans, he would get an additional bonus. Now, I have been on tours where drivers have pushed me into stores without telling me why I was making an unnecessary stop. Thoeun was pretty clear from the beginning and we thought, “why not! He is honest with us so we can play along.” He was also pretty flexible with our ever changing plans. We really appreciated his friendly demeanor and would recommend him to future travelers. We have his number and have reached out to him since on WhatsApp.
A Sleep Over at the Movie Theaters
Bangkok has taken the movie theater experience to a new level. During our time in Bangkok, we had date night with the Goods. So we had a traditional Thai meal and then we were off to the theaters. Unlike traditional theaters in the U.S. and even Nigeria, many of Bangkok theaters don’t have lobbies to wait on your movie. They have lounges…! These lounges are designed like modern nightclubs with low lighting, floor to ceiling curtains and low music. Your ticket to the theater also comes with a 20-minute head/shoulder or foot massage, a beverage and a snack. When you order popcorn and drink, it is delivered to your seat. The seats in the theater are similar to business class seats on Emirates Airline. The seats even turned into lay flat seats. On top of that they provide you with a pillow and comforter/blanket to get cozy and watch the movie. It was an epic experience. It’s probably not the smartest idea…if you think about it, they feed you, massage you, give you a bed, blanket and pillow and then put you in a dark, cool room…next stop – sleep!
Singapore, the most expensive city in the world!
According to CNBC, for the fourth year in a row, Singapore is the most expensive city in the world. And I would completely agree with them. While hotels were priced similar to other large metropolitan areas, food prices in Singapore were outrageous. However, we really enjoyed our time in Singapore. It was a cleaner, more organized version of the United States. For our anniversary, we stayed at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, a hotel famous for its rooftop infinity pool. It was an amazing way to celebrate our anniversary and not sure how we will top it next year.