Just Like Fish

Dirk and I have been to a lot of different cities. We have driven in most of these, been passengers in the others. North America builds big roads to allow for the increasing number of vehicles. Population grows, the infrastructure grows. A 2 lane divided highway is no longer feasible, we now need 6 lanes.

Our first encounter with Asian traffic was in Bali. Sitting in our taxi taking in the sites of not only a new city, but a new country, we both are amazed at the number of motorbikes and scooters on the road.

As an outsider looking in – you see what you want. Scooters weaving. Scooters honking. Scooters with 5 passengers. Scooters zooming along while a young mother breastfeeds her infant on the back. Scooters with only the parents wearing helmets. Scooters drivers with cell phones shoved in helmets so they can talk and drive.

This is uncivilized and lacks any means of organization or rules to follow. It is chaos. Or is it?

While in Ubud, we needed to rent a scooter as our hotel was farther out then expected and nothing around it at all. This was our first test at the driving system. And it all started to make sense.

There is a system. We needed to learn it or end up sitting at the intersections forever. Their system is actually simple. Common courtesy. They all know to be aggressive and nose out into traffic. Why? Because everyone is courteous enough to let them in. No one starts to freak out, swear, or flip you the bird.

Passing is done with a short honk of the horn. This warns others that you are making your move and please move over. These are not the back home acts of aggression, they are a system of allowing others to know you are there. They honk to pass, they honk at blind corners to make there presence know. They honk to let you know they are turning.

If anyone has ever driven with Dirk, you know he got the speed and honking down pretty quickly. He even was able to weave around the dogs as they wondered out into the street. He was quickly becoming a fan.

Dirk said it best, when walking down the street and you encounter another pedestrian, do you walk into them? No, you make eye contact and merely flow around each other.

I liked his observation, but I felt it was more like a school of fish. Always knowing where each other was, never touching, but moving as one.

Scooters are weaving for a reason. They can. In Ho Chi Ming City, we took an amazing scooter tour by Saigon Adventures (yes I am plugging them). They were three young university students that would give you a tour of the city on the back of their scooters.

In a city of 11 million people, 7 million scooters are on the roads. Yet the system and flow is amazing. We drove around the city for four hours. Everyone flowed as one. At a traffic circle, which from my perspective was daunting and not going to happen, we smoothly flowed through. Just like fish.

Enjoy these pictures of Vietnam.

Travel Tip:

Don’t be afraid to try new things. We have been told not to rent scooters as it is dangerous. I disagree. Although it will take time to get use to your surroundings and etiquette of the roads, it is not dangerous. Ensure you where a helmet. 

When renting, ask the hotel to help you out. They know the safest and honest places to rent. Most rentals are only $7CAD a day and payment is up front. 

No Poo

I decided to try not washing my hair. I didn’t really mean to start the experiment, it just happened while we were in Kuala Lumpur. The shower flooded within minutes – barley enough time to wash one’s body. So I did’t wash my hair for fear of flooding the condo we were renting. It was nearly a week later when I realized my hair felt fuller and my curls more manageable.

That is when I decided to investigate whether or not one really needed to wash your hair on a daily basis. I found there is an actual movement called ‘No Poo’ that recommends that we stop washing our hair with commercial products and use only baking soda to wash and apple cider vinegar to condition. They also assured readers you won’t smell like a salad. I wasn’t about to do this, I mean we are traveling and carrying around Baking Soda and Apple Cider Vinegar was crazy.

Dirk decided to support me and stopped washing as well, but his hair was soft and looked amazing. No flakes he always complained about. That was when I realized he was running hot water over his head twice a day. I was already showering three times a day: Once in the morning. Again before dinner to remove sunscreen and sweat. Lastly, before bed to remove bug spray and sweat.

With hot water twice a day, I never got greasy hair at all. But if I missed a day of hot water, my hair was had to brush and the brush got really gross. So it increased my frequency of cleaning combs and brushes. Yes people, you need to clean these!!

Even allowing my hair to self condition, the sun was damaging my ends. My last hair cut was the day before we left Canada. I was adamant about not letting anyone but my hairdresser touch my hair. But as weeks went on, I could see that if I waited any longer, when I returned home I would no longer have long hair.

At a small shop in Ho Chi Minh City, I asked for a trim. They laid me on a bed with my head resting in the sink. They washed my hair for 30 minutes. I was wondering if this treatment was due to the lack of washing I was doing. I was assured by a friend that they just wash your hair that long, but not just my hair, they washed and exfoliated my face, neck and ears.

This ended my experiment and I am glad I tried it, especially in a country where no one would care or see me again. I think Dirk is happy it is over as well, I won’t ask him everyday, ‘Does my hair look greasy?’ or ‘Are my ends looking too frizzy?’.

I usually add a Travel Tip, but due to the post I have decided this tip more appropriate:

Your scalp produces an oil called ‘sebum’ that provides moisturizing and a protection barrier for the skin and hair. Washing your hair everyday will remove this much needed oil.

You need to clean your hair and scalp, it is just how often you need too depending on your oil production. If your skin and hair are anywhere from normal to dry, you probably only need to wash it once or twice a week. If you have a greasy scalp, you probably need to wash your hair more often.

Texture matters because it affects how quickly sebum works its way from your roots through the length of your hair. Coarse or curly hair slows down sebum’s spread, so you may only need to shampoo once a week. On the other hand, people with fine, straight hair will likely need to shampoo twice a week or more. 

In between shampoos, rinse your hair, massage your scalp, and apply conditioner to the ends of your hair.

Finally, use a good shampoo, not the crap at the drug store or supermarket.



Small Piece of Advice

Dear Traveler,

I have been watching you. Yes, creepy but true. You don’t know me, but I have come across you when I owned restaurants. I know how you behave when you are in your home country. I understand your expectations. But here’s the thing. your in Asia now.

This is different, they get to you when they get to you. That could be right away or in 15 minutes. And when they do show up, don’t be alarmed if there is a cigarette in their hand. For that matter, don’t be alarmed when you glance towards the kitchen and the cook is smoking.

They will only approach you when they see the menu closed. You will not be told any specials. The menu is what they make, end of story. You will be expected to give them your entire order, not just your drinks. They will stand there quietly until you have completed the entire order.

So a couple of suggestions. When placing the order, for the love of god, don’t ask them what is good. They will stare at you like it is a trick question. If the guy is smart, he will just point to the most expensive thing on the menu.

Don’t modify the food! They barely speak English so raising your voice and slowing your speech, while you ask for the dressing on the side is not going to help. Eat is as it comes. Or order water and bread. Your choice.

Food may not come out all at the same time. It will come out when it is ready. It is something we accept when going out for Japanese. But for some reason all other restaurants in North America, we have come to expect that all food must come out together.

If there is one meal that is delayed or incorrect, don’t expect it to be removed from the bill or deeply discounted. Remove your expectation to eat your meal with everyone, that may not happen. Your food may also arrive prior to your drink. Complaining won’t help you out at all. Smile and just accept the fact that the food and drink finally arrived.

They are not going to hover over you or try to be your friend. You need something, wave. That is the only way they will approach the table. Your bill will come once asked for and your dishes will not be cleared until you leave.

You don’t need to follow my advice, that is okay. But may I suggest you stay home then?



P.S. Enjoy these pictures of Cambodia.

Travel Tip:

Tipping is a North American concept. Most other countries have the service charge added to the bill automatically. The staff receive a decent salary in most countries, plus will share the service fee. If you feel you had exceptional service and food, it never hurts to leave a dollar to two. Some locals will take offence to you tipping. It then starts a precedence for them to tip as well, so be careful not to offend anyone.