A Travellerspoint blog

One Size Fits All

Shopping abroad

Asia is a continent, in the main, of small, petite, good- looking people. Being a 5’ 1”, European size 8, 32B, little person myself, I love visiting this area of the world. I can hold a conversation without my head locking in a permanent upward position, I can see over a crowd of people and I can buy clothes that actually fit. Not so in my home country where size 10 - 12 is considered to be the norm. Even when I do find size 8 clothes they tend to bag somewhere or are way too long. Trousers, for example, tend to be 3 - 5 inches too long for me. Rarely have I met a size 8, 5” 6 tall woman and therefore wonder on what basis a standard 8 is developed. Manufacturers must aim for the anorexic teenage generation who have successfully been brainwashed into starving themselves into emaciation but cannot afford to have height reduction surgery (yet). In the past I solved the problem in various ways. a) shopping in the children’s section – it used to be tax-free thus saving myself some money as well. b) Buying three-quarter length trousers as they came down to my ankles. c) dressing in baggy clothing - so as to look like a deliberate fashion statement. Then at some point fashion buyers were alerted by their shop staff that there were an awful lot of small women trying and buying children's' clothes and a petite range was introduced. Unfortunately, the styles leaned towards Barbie Doll meets Cindy with a bit of Stepford Wives thrown in. So imagine my joy at discovering cheap, fashionable clothes in my size when I travelled around Thailand.

A recent development which has encompassed the world as well as Asia is the one size fits all range of clothing. Garments that expand and are supposed to fit women of all shapes and sizes. Back home these imported clothes often hang off me as they are based on a fuller sized figure. Conversely in Thailand one size fits all actually translates into one size fits small and even I struggle to get into some of the tops (in Asia I am considered to be a medium). So ladies, when shopping in Asia for a bargain and frustration sets in as you cannot fit your shapely bodies into teeny-weeny Asian clothes or you get upset at the cute, petite shop girls who eye you up and down horror, pronounce “no have in your size” in a way that suggests you are the size of a cow - the phrase "walk in other people's shoes" comes to mind. Another saying is "you can buy but not try". Because in Thai logic when "one size fits all" you could be a size 6 or 18 and the clothes will fit snugly. Now I will not buy unless I try. After all a girl needs to be sure that it suits. I did try to explain this to a Chinese seller once and got nowhere therefore, she got no sale. Now I have my own catch phrase "no try no buy". It rarely gets the right reaction but I like saying it anyway.

Posted by travelhappiness 18:29 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

There's no extra charge for the wild life

Accommodation abroad

One thing I learnt pretty quickly when travelling was that the wild life has no understanding of the words “do not disturb”. When I shut the door of my room at night for some sleep a whole zoo of small scurrying things seems to appear from nowhere to keep me awake. Wide eyed geckos large and small crawl over the room walls interrupting my slumber with their throaty calls, rodents scrabble in the roof eves waking me and putting me on alert for sounds entry, insects swoop whining in their excitement of a tasty snack, cockroaches and ants scuttle across the floor seeking any food left by unwary humans. A thorough search of the room to evict any unwanted guests, the bunging up of any suspicious looking means of entry, a mossie net and heavy duty sprays often clears up the majority of the less savory visitors but there’s still a minority that slip through the radar - normally in the bathroom when I’m in a vulnerable position.

My first serious unwanted encounter with foreign wild life was in Darwin. It was hot and humid. The shower was located some way from the room - down the corridor and past the lounge where the male residents were sat watching neighbours on TV (yes I did say neighbours!). Two minutes into the shower the hairs on the back of my neck started to prickle. Something was watching me. Washing the soap out of my eyes I looked around the very small cubical and saw nothing. The feeling persisted and I looked around again. Now, at that time my understanding about exotic amphibians was limited ie if they were brightly coloured they were generally poisonous. So when I made eye contact with a luminous green frog that was sitting on the window shelf, I panicked. Not stopping to turn the shower off I grabbed a towel, wrapped it around me and shot out of the door. I ran past the lounge where the sight of a freaked out, naked women, wrapped in a small wet towel did nothing to rouse the men’s ‘interest’ or chivalrous side - so intent were they on the fate of Kylie and Jason. My travelling companion, who went to check out the bathroom and reclaim my clothes when I fell through the door of our room had a good laugh at my expense when he found out that the lethal animal in question was a small and rather cute looking tree frog. Due to the fact that every time we met the resident lounge lizards after that particular incident smirks that were exchanged, I suspect that he had bonded with them over the stupidity of Shelias. Well they may snigger and act tough but I have superior knowledge I know that the male rough cut diamonds of Darwin watch soaps!

Posted by travelhappiness 18:28 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Need A dentist? Go to Columbia

health care abroad

Last week the cap on my tooth fell off. Today, the dentist told me that she couldn’t replace it as the molar had broken off at the gum line, the root was infected and therefore it would have to come out. I was informed that a replacement would either cost 3,300 dollars for a bridge or 5,000 for a screw in. For those of you who don’t live in Australia and are now trying to calculate how much that is in your currency – don’t bother I can tell you it’s shit loads. As it takes about 6 weeks to recover from the extraction before any new work can be done I have time to consider my options. But for the present I have a hole in my mouth where the offending molar was as well as one in my wallet the size of 220 dollars.

One of my first memories of going to the dentist was running out of the consulting room screaming at the top of my voice whilst a huge Irish woman chased me into reception. She’d whipped two of my teeth out without any anaesthetic – although she claimed that she had put “some cream” on before shoving a pair of pliers in my mouth and extracting them. My mother was outraged and I was traumatised. Thereafter, the mere mention of a check up had me quivering for days before an appointment.

The next really painful dental experience was some years later when I fainted at school and hit my face against one of the heating pipes. The bottoms of my two front teeth sheared off apart from a small section and the rest of my teeth took a bit of a knocking. The dentists proclaimed that it would take months maybe even a year before my teeth had recovered enough to be fixed. My parents couldn’t afford the cost anyway so that was that. On reflection the damage is not really noticeable and I don’t have rabbit teeth anymore. But for a 12 year old growing up in a world that demands perfect white, straight teeth it was a disaster. To the many people who used to say to me “smile it’s not the end of the world” or “why don’t you smile more?” Well now you know!

But the dentist that managed to totally alienate me was the one that pronounced that my teeth were in a shocking state and many of them needed filling. This he did with an enthusiasm that lead me to believe that there was nothing wrong with me he just liked inflicting pain. It was at this practise that the aforementioned cap was inserted into my mouth complete with a fake filling to – get this – blend in with the others he’d created. I changed to a new dentist who was horrified, as well as temporarily blinded by the flashing silver light, when I opened my mouth. It was this dentist who helped me get over my phobia. He very patiently talked me through my fears and at some point I began to trust him enough realise that injections are the best thing going when it comes to teeth and maintenance work.

Since then I have had some wonderful dentists, in both England and Australia. The only reason I’m scared to make an appointment now is because I’m worried they’ll bankrupt me! So now I’m wondering the alternatives are to emptying my bank account. I could go abroad. Whilst travelling around South America we met a friend who’d visited a dentist in Colombia. For the princely sum of about 500 dollars he had root canal surgery, several teeth capped and some other stuff done that I can’t recall. He had great teeth! Other friends I know often combine a holiday in Thailand and visit the dentist whilst they’re there as it saves them a substantial amount of money. Maybe I could follow the example of the group of intrepid travellers who settled on one of the Galapagos Islands in the 18th century. Due to a lack of dentists in the area at that time they had the foresight to have all their teeth removed then have one set of false teeth made up to be shared by them all. Presumably dentists were so expensive even then that one pair was all they could afford after their extractions.

The last option seems a little extreme therefore when I go travelling again the first country on my list will be Colombia. However, that’s in the future and the only place I’m going at the moment is to find some painkillers.

Posted by travelhappiness 18:26 Archived in Colombia Tagged people travel humour care health stories Comments (0)

Mittis pizza parlour

Amazing bloke living in Ecuador

I have mentioned a few times in my blog about how bad we are at reserving accommodation in advance and how we often arrive late at night in a town with nowhere to stay. Well it happened again in Cuenca (Ecuador). We caught a taxi from the bus station into town and our chosen hostel. By the time we arrived it was dark, cold and the streets were very quiet. We knocked on the door and found that there was surprise, surprise, no room. Working our way down the street we visited several places – all full. Well there was one vacancy but it was way too expensive. Back on the street not having a clue where we were and unable to read the map due to no street lights and very bad eyesight, the only thing that was clear was that we needed a plan. Travel books warn you not arrive late at night as you’re an easy target, and as I tramped the streets with backpack and hand luggage I certainly felt like one.

As we were turning around in circles debating which way to go, a man emerged from a plastic fringe covered doorway, walked towards us, asked if we were ok and if we were looking for somewhere to stay. It turned out that the doorway was the entrance to a 4 table restaurant. He invited us in and told us we could leave the backpacks with him while we went and looked for accommodation. Being of a suspicious nature I declined and so it was decided that my partner would go looking and I would sit with the bags and have a cup of tea. The owner of the restaurant, Marco, then offered to accompany him and translate (his English was pretty good). He obviously didn’t have a suspicious nature as he left me in charge of an empty restaurant and, I presume, not so empty cash register. I was too tired and cold to object figuring that if any customers came in I’d just wing it until he returned. Luckily they found a place and within ½ an hour we were installed in a roomy but very chilly guest house. We headed back to the restaurant for beer and pizza and to thank Marco who’d helped us pull the proverbial rabbit out of a hat.

Several hours and a few beers later we had bonded over a mutual love of music, travel and life out of the fast lane. A few more hours of talking and Marco decided it wasn’t worth going home and bunked down at the back of the restaurant – he rang his girlfriend who was not impressed. We weaved our way back to the hotel only to find that we’d been locked out. I think we woke up most of the guests in the attempt to get the night porter (who must have been the only one to sleep through 10 minutes of bell ringing) to let us in.
During our stay we spent quite a lot of evenings at Mittis pizza place. We downloaded music for him and he returned the favour by giving us homemade chocolate. We talked, drank, smoked and listened to music well into the early hours of the night and Marco often slept in the building so he could get up in time for market and the breakfast trade. His girlfriend was still not amused but we were having too much fun to care. The day we left Marco closed up the restaurant and took a time off to recover, get some sleep and check that he still had a relationship.

Gracias mon amigo, me mucho gusto Cuenca e Mittis – etudes un top bloke

Posted by travelhappiness 18:23 Archived in Ecuador Tagged people food travel humour cuenca restuarants Comments (0)

Lovin it up with the mosquitoes

Do insects like to snack on you?

Insects love me. I’ve been bitten and stung hundreds of times, chased around fields by wasps and bees so desperate is their need to be near me, had my blood sucked by bed bugs, mosquitoes, sand flies and I shudder to think what else when travelling. No matter how strong the repellent, how thick the clothes or how good the mosquito net is, they still find a way in.

My friends and family say they enjoy my company as they can walk around unfettered by the usual cloud of biting insects that hover over their heads when I’m absent. It is a similar story when travelling abroad with fellow backpackers as mosquitoes will ignore any person within my vicinity. All I can say is that the insects obviously have good taste and prefer a gourmet meal!

Conversely, I do not like insects and have had many encounters of the more bizarre kind. Like the time I was walking down the street, a wasp flew down my bra and I pulled up my jumper in panic to get rid of it (a similar incident happened with a dress but thankfully I was at home at time). Or when I was stung inside my wellington boot. Ever heard of the wellie throwing contest? Well I would have won it. I once sat on a bumble bee, which of course objected and jabbed its stinger into my leg. My thigh swelled up and I ended up in accident and emergency. Unfortunately, the poison ate away some of my muscle and thanks to that bee I now look lopsided in tight fitting jeans and dresses. As well as being stung in strange ways my body also reacts violently to vampire insects. Large red egg shaped welts appear on my skin and they often turn septic – not desperately attractive. I have become adept at obtaining the correct medicine from pharmacies all over the world as I have found that showing is much more effective than telling.

To say that I am a little paranoid about getting bitten would be somewhat of an understatement. Friends who travel with me know that they can load their luggage with important thing like clothes because I carry ample supplies of protective gear. Netting with spare hooks and string, bottles of repellent in various strengths (some that will melt plastic), coils, electrical gadgets and tablets to burn in them, bite lotions, anti-histamine and antibiotic tablets/cream and malaria tablets. I recently added an anti-fungal cream to the collection as I was stung by a jellyfish in Samos, Greece (a new species to add to my growing list of things that have bitten me). My partner says that in all the years he has stayed on the island (about 25) he has never known this happen to anyone else before. Which would explain his lack of action and slightly puzzled look as I thrashed around in the shallows. By the time I was back in England the bite site had turned into a large raised red rash that was extremely painful. I went to outpatients at the local hospital where they had no idea how to treat it until they found a Doctor that fished in his spare time. The jellyfish had injected me with a fungal infection and I was given a cream that sorted it out. Hence the new addition to my medical kit.

Friends and acquaintances find all this hilarious. My response to this is to remind them of some facts. Did did you know that if you laid out naked in a mosquito infested area you would get bitten on average 9,000 times an hour and lose half the blood circulating in your body. I could have tested this theory out when we stayed in the Amazon Basin near Rurrunebaque, Bolivia. It was the start of the wet season and tourists and tour guides alike had to endure thousands of mosquitoes. They swarmed around us in camp, on treks, having a shower and going to the toilet. It was so horrendous that one girl threw a tantrum, sat on her suitcase and waited for a passing boat so she could leave. Our guide who lived in the camp had had enough as well and at the end of the trip returned to town with us. Despite taking all precautions possible by the time we returned to civilization I was covered from head to toe in red lumps. Luckily Amazonian mosquitoes are not picky and the whole of the town’s tourist population looked like they had contracted chicken pox. My suffering throughout the whole ordeal was made bearable by the fact that I had the half the contents of a chemist with me. Others were less lucky!

So if you’re like me and are beloved by insects, take no notice of those scoff at mossie nets and medication. Instead use a repellent that smells so bad that insects and mockers alike keep their distance and with any luck they may meet up and leave you alone.

Posted by travelhappiness 18:20 Archived in Thailand Tagged medical travel insects humour repellents kits Comments (0)

(Entries 16 - 20 of 32) « Page 1 2 3 [4] 5 6 7 »