Sometimes you come across things that don’t fit into any proper blog post but still blow your mind. Our journey through SE Asia offered a bumper crop of those, so here I present my personal photo gallery of 10 assorted weird and wacky SE Asian sights:
1) I probably never would have noticed this vehicle, which was UBIQUITOUS in Cambodia. But Steve, who’s astute about such things, immediately identified it as a Camry, a brand that Toyota has never sold outside the United States. Equally weird, the horde of Camrys plying the Cambodian streets and byways are all 10-15 years old, and they’re universally in mint condition. One of our Cambodian guides said they typically cost about $8,000 (and remember that Cambodia is one of the poorest countries on earth). In the US, a comparable one would run half that price or less.
2) The Southeast Asians aren’t the only ones posting bizarre images on toilet stalls. I’ve puzzled over this (lower) Japanese one before and only this trip, while passing through Narita International, did I learn it means the stall is equipped with a fancy toilet that can spray warm water “for cleansing of the buttock.” We had a short connecting time, so there was no way I was going to test it.
But I’ve added some new ones to my collection:
Men can use this toilet. Women can too. You can pee standing up. You can pee… squatting? You can wash your hands. Sit on the toilet. Squat on the toilet. (Really?) You can throw up in it? Kick it??? You can change your baby’s diaper or breast feed (…maybe?) You can take your wheelchair in? Throw something in a waste basket. And that huge image — perverts are allowed???
3) Not only bathrooms have that certain je ne sais quoi when it comes to scatological iconography. We captured this one attached to the dashboard of the taxi that picked us up at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport:
No doubt about its meaning.
4) The only way I can imagine any death-defying babies besting those in Vietnam is if the babies actually were driving the mopeds themselves. The wee one in this photo is hardly the youngest one we saw, but usually we were too slow to photograph them — because we first had to stifle our gasps and close our jaws, which were gaping open. Not only are these youngsters NOT riding in their National Highway Traffic Safety Administration-approved car seats, restrained by seat belts, but sometimes Mom was only holding on to them with a single hand, while Junior bounced up and down on the seat on his tiny toes. Some infants were too young to hold their heads up, let alone bounce.
6) This is Tucker, my Labrador Retriever. We didn’t see him anywhere in SE Asia, but we did see a fellow who looked like his younger brother looking very sad in a very small cage in Hanoi. We also saw heartbreakingly tiny and pathetic puppies for sale on a market street. We had a very, very strong suspicion they weren’t destined to be canine companions; one restaurant not far from that street had a whole section of doggy dishes on the menu. I am aware that some people in China and SE Asia eat dogs, but when I saw that menu, I was too upset to try to photograph it. I felt almost as revolted as if the menu had a selection of delicacies prepared with human meat. I don’t know if this is weird or wacky, but it’s certainly one of those sights that tell you you’re no longer in Kansas (and it’s a good thing your friend Toto isn’t either!)
7) If I were less ignorant about world religions, I would doubtless be blase about this sight of a lingam, which we photographed in one of the Angkor temples. I’d think, ‘Well, duh! Of course it’s normal to have statues of penises inserted into vaginas all over your place of worship.” Actually, most of the phalluses (the linga) have been stolen by vandals over the centuries. But their female counterparts, the yonis
are still everywhere, looking very lonely and reminding you that these folks had a very different view of sex than most of the Christian churches and Muslim mosques I’ve visited recently.
9) Central Siem Reap has a lot of fish tanks next to benches and adorned with signs offering a pedicure and foot massage all in one. The idea is you put your feet in the tank, and the creatures in it (“pepper fish” was one variety, we were told) instantly swarm around them and begin nibbling on the dead flesh. I paid $3 (“for as long as you want!”) and made something of a spectacle of myself whooping about how much it tickled. (It never hurt, but the feeling ranks very, very high on the weirdness scale.) In defense of the fish, I must say my feet did feel a bit smoother than normal when I got in bed that night.
10) Some fish eat. Many, many get eaten, including this assembly on Steve’s fermented chocolate and rice porridge dish. Breakfast of champions, Filipino style!