At least I look the part…

**Originally published on tumblr in Feb 2013 **

It happens every time I travel to Asia…

First, some background on me:  In a time long long ago, I was born to Chinese parents in Singapore.  We lived there for another five years before we made a major shift and moved to Vancouver, in British Columbia, Canada.

By every measure my parents raised me well, teaching me to treat everyone with respect, eat my vegetables, and study hard—you know, pretty typical asian stuff.  They even taught me how to eat durian (a really stinky, smelly Asian fruit) and weird stuff like pickled baby snails and stinky tofu (another really stinky, smelly, Asian thing).

What they didn’t ever push on me, however, was the need to go to Chinese school.  They asked me, and left the choice up to me.  This was a decision that many of my friends never got to make for themselves.  After all, what seven-year-old boy would consciously make a decision to attend Chinese school every weekend, over going out to ride his bike around the neighbourhood with friends??

So in my later life (i.e. now) I have come to realize that it really sucks to look Chinese when you travel in Asia, and can’t speak Mandarin.  For example in Singapore, at the food stalls away from the touristy areas, I’m still initially spoken to in Mandarin.  Fortunately, most of the “Uncles” and “Aunties” who run these stalls understand English (surprisingly to most people, English is one of Singapore’s official languages) and they switch over right away.

Another time, I was on a business trip to Taiwan with some white co-workers, one of whom could speak Mandarin.  Wherever we went and interacted with the locals, their first instinct was to look at me and speak in Mandarin.  Many were taken aback when I would give them a puzzled stare and look to my coworker Mike, who would then reply in Mandarin.  We always got a good chuckle out of it every time it happened, which was often.

Well, at least I look the part.

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Greetings from Bali

**Originally posted on tumblr on Jan 2013. **

Greetings from Bali, Indonesia.  It took us 2:45 hrs to fly here from Singapore.

After getting some lunch in Penestanan, the town where our rental villa is located, we sauntered over to Ubud to check it out.  Definitely more touristy over there, whereas Penestanan has more of a remote village feel to it.

Unlike our typical vacation style of go, go, go, we’re enjoying just hanging out in the relative luxury of our villa, which has its own pool.  In the evening it’s quiet, except for a frog that was trying to find itself a mate, and the crickets that are probably doing the same.

Us city-dwellers often forget what peace and tranquility really sound like–when you don’t hear any traffic, or people, or other signs of civilization.  Nothing but the steady whirring of our ceiling fans, and odd noises from critters outside in the yard.

It’s times like these when my thoughts always turn to giving up the urban lifestyle, and moving to a place like Penestanan, for a simpler life.  Maybe if I did, I would eventually yearn for the bustle of the city, but I sure would like to give it a try.