Formulaire de contact


E-mail *

Message *

mercredi 20 mars 2013


Last year an astonishing one billion (nearly one out six humans on this planet) took a trip of some sort or another. A substantial minority, especially among the white people (to denote European, British, Australian, Canadian and NZ) were “backpackers” and predominantly from Australia and Europe.
This morning, I had a long conversation with my Burmese Brother who owns and operates a Hotel in Cambodia
The conversation went something like this:
When I began this hotel, my clientele was exclusively European, with Air Asia came more Asian tourists, mainly from Malaysia and Singapore.
Let me tell you brother, he continued, the European tourists are more and more like beggars, all they are interested is in saving money. They want cheap accommodation, they don't care at all about the quality of food, but they would spend money on drinks. So, if you walk along the Sisowath Quay in Phnom Penh, all the restaurants are catering for the tourists. They sell bad food, small portions, for 3-5 dollars but charge 2-3 dollars for cocktails. Asian people wont go there to eat, unless they are Asian wannabee back packers mainly Singapore and Malaysian Chinese with skewed up European values. You will never get food of the quality served in Sam Doo resto in Phnom Penh where the clientele is exclusively Asian. Most of the good restaurants are catering for the Asians, local and visitors. Asian visitors don't mind spending money on food, as I have seen in KL and BKK and they hardly drink except Chinese tea at dinner. So a good meal at Sam Doo, with variety, taste, quality might cost 4-5 times the tourist places, and the European tourists wont go there, because they don't want to spend money on food and they want to drink alcohol. Look at the meals at the restaurants along Pub Street in Siem Reap, usually low quality, small and unhealthy meals but the cocktails are cheap and plenty, so the Khmer owners can make money out of the Europeans, and not worry about quality.
(Rusdi Kirana, Owner of Indonesian Airlines, Lion Air with some Europeans)
But things are changing, he continues. Asian tourists, mainly Chinese from Malaysia, Indians from India, Thai from Thailand, and more and more from the mainland China are visiting Cambodia and they want to spend money, and also they are not searching for exotica, off the beaten path etc. like the European.”
The Economist had a cartoon showing David Cameron, the UK PM, supplicating before a seated, bejewelled Man Mohan Singh. How things have changed!! Europeans in New Delhi begging Indians for favours!
My Indonesian Chinese friends were wondering loudly whether to send money to Spain to help them out, out of charity.
My father, olav ha shalom, said something when I was very young, the significance of it becoming only clearer now.
“No one respects the Chinese now. But mark my words, when they are economically strong, the whole world would respect them”
China has overtaken every single European country economically!
So I have a few words of advice to European tourists. Travellers don't need any advice.
As an anthropologist, Medical Doctor, trained and educated in the West but of Asian origin, having lived all my life in the west, I can honestly say I have a reasonable understanding of the western ways of thinking.
1.   Please dress reasonably well. This morning I saw a couple, hair all matted, with no shoes, with the expected loose fitting Indian style clothes, sitting down for breakfast
What would you call an African walking around Melbourne, in feathers and bells, barefoot, entering a McDo?
This is exactly what Asians think of you, if you are dressed like that. Don't expect them to respect you from the humble to the well off.
2.   Show respect for the Local people. Learn to treat waiters, ticket agents and guesthouse keepers with respect. They are not here, each and every one of them, to leech money out of you, as you think. You attach importance to money, and they attach importance to human interactions.
I can’t imagine you walking into Radisson Blue in Brussels, shouting and carrying on and expect them to kowtow to you. Not every one has to speak English to you. You are the guest and you are welcome to leave if you don't like it.
This lack of respect is the legacy of colonial days and many of the “innocent”, “naïve” backpackers behave very much like their colonial ancestors did in India or Indochina.
3.   The time and place to save money is when you
are in your own countries and not when you are travelling. A fool and his money are soon parted, says an old adage. Don't penny pinch when you think you can get away with it. A waiter at a Cambodian restaurant makes only 70 dollars per month, so be a little generous with tips or go to places where the local well off go to eat and splurge and at the same time eat well. Good for your health and good for others.
Whenever I hear the words BUDGET, CHEAP in a travel conversation with an European, I stay away from that conversation.
I do my research well before I arrive, so I travel well, stay well, eat well and most importantly have long talks with friends in places I visit.
In Siem Reap, I have friends from all sections of the society as I have been visiting there since 2002. Think that you may see them again, rather than thinking you can get away being rude since you may never see them again. Imagine you are living among them, then that is the “off the beaten track: and not the trekking into the mountains to see tribes who are part of a show put on by an entrepreneur (as in Chiang Mai)
4.   In Asia, just learning the word for Thank You in
the local language will bring a smile to the people you meet every day in the market or in the resto or at the watering hole. Know again that local people don't eat at Pub Street or Sisowath Quay in Cambodia… and all over South East Asia there are areas or streets just for the backpackers.
So learn to say Teremah Kaseh, Nihun, Okkun, Jesu tin bade, sawadee ka whenever and wherever you can.
5.   Asians place a lot of importance on Gratitude and humility. You are a guest in their land, go home a better person and not a bitter person: be humble, be grateful for any little help.
My grandparents never left their environs, my parents travelled within Asia and Middle East. Here I am traversing the world: Cuba, Miami, Europe, and South East Asia at least ten times per year. I am grateful for being able to do this and thank all my friends in each of these countries that make each and every one of my visits memorable, even though some of them see me fairly often. A friend of mine in KL once said, I see you more often than some of my friends who live here. You live 10,000 miles away!
(No Pork just because One Jew is amidst us!)
My Indonesian friends insist on not ordering dishes containing pork when I am the only person who does not pork in the table, out of respect for my habits. On a recent dinner hosted by my Indonesian Chinese friend in Bangkok, there were six of us, four Chinese and me and a Khmer: all the twelve dishes ordered were without pork or pork products.
Please try to return in kind the consideration the Asians would show you.
(some airlines do serve good food!) 28 Feb LHR-BKK
This trip began on 23 February and ended on 13th March, a total of 18 days. I was in USA, in a reservation of Indians, then on to Cambodia visiting both PNH and SRP, to Bangkok for delicious eating hosted by my Indonesian friends, went back to Indonesia with them, now to eat some more of Sundanese cooking and at the same time planning to do a Prevention of Diseases Clinic for the Poor in Bogor. A short stop in Singapore and Beijing, I was back in Europe, I come to Europe to rest before I go off again to Mexico. I stayed with Indians in USA, Mandalay Inn in Siem Reap, Citrus Hotel in Sukhumvit in Bangkok, Harris Hotel in Sentul City in Bogor. Flew United/United/Thai/Air China/Lufthansa for long hauls.
I do not remember any bad incidents during this trip. The next trip to SE Asia would be to witness the Triathlon at Bali Marathon in June 2013.
In the Yogic philosophy as well as the American Indian philosophy, they require that you make a list of Gratitude, think of people to thank when you get up in the morning. When you do this on a regular basis, you realize how many people you are indebted to for your good life.
(Karimata, Sundanese food, Bogor, Indonesia)

So on this morning, my gratitude list
MC in KL
MM in Athens
PJ in Sentul
MvP in PNH
Ko MM in SRP
And all my lovers in my little island. Cuba