Tag Archives: Asia

Tips on Getting a Tattoo in Thailand

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Tips on Getting a Tattoo in Thailand

After spending 7 months living in Thailand the thought of getting a bamboo tattoo pops into your mind on several occasions. So I did it! I got the bamboo tattoo and a couple of years on I still don’t regret it here so here are my tips when thinking about getting a tattoo is Asia specifically.

 

  1. DON’T DO IT AT 3AM! However tempting it is to go after a few drinks! Those people will regret it! They allow tattoo parlours to stay open 24 hours to take advantage of the drunk people getting those silly tattoos that they are bound to regret.
  2. THINK ABOUT IT! There are many many “typical” tattoos that people get when in Asia and Thailand. Do you want to be “that” person
  3. DO YOUR RESEARCH! Lots and lots of tattoo parlours line the streets in islands in Thailand. There are allsorts of tattoo artists in these parlours. Google them, check out their previous work and ask to see them tattoo someone else. If you are getting foreign words tattooed on you make sure they say what you hope they say.
  4. CHECK THE NEEDLES! A bamboo tattoo is just that a needle sticky taped to a stick of bamboo. Watch them get a new needle out and go through the process of sticky tape.
  5. LOOK AFTER YOUR TATTOO! Bamboo tattoos heal very very fast in comparison to normal tattoos but does not mean you shouldn’t look after them for the time it takes to heal. Make sure you Vaseline the tattoo daily and follow the care instructions.

Bridging the Gap – Can We?

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My friend from university came to stay with me a few weeks ago.  This was both a good and bad thing.

Firstly, while it was really nice to see somebody from home, I am working here.  It’s a bit depressing to see her and not be able to actually do anything.  Also, it’s a bit of a disruption to my life.  My room here is tiny – I don’t even have furniture, and it had to become home to all of her belongings too.

Most of the above, I really don’t mind, but the main thing is time.  I haven’t seen her since I finished university a year ago.  I’ve barely spoken to her since then.  I’ve worked in Korea and she’s worked in Spain.  We’ve both done a lot, and changed a lot since we last saw eachother.  I don’t tell people from home the majority of what happens here, and I’ve been away from home for eleven months now.  I’ve got used to living within Asian culture and have been moulded by the people I’ve met and the relationships I’ve had with them in that time.  I’ve probably become a different person, and there is a sea of information and happenings that people from home have no idea about.  And it’s probably the same for my friend.

For friends that used to live together, and therefore knew everything about each other, it is a bit strange.  It’s a funny feeling to go from being so close to being so…. distant; to go from knowing everything to knowing nothing.  Though they say that true friends can go months without seeing or communicating with each other, and this is true, there is such a vast amount that has happened since we last saw each other, and there’s no way really to bridge it.  Our friends aren’t even mutual anymore, it’s a strange situation.  Our stories wouldn’t make sense to one another without a ton of background information, and everything would take far longer to explain than we have.

Obviously, our senses of humor are the same as they were, and our interests remain largely unaltered.  We still get on, fantastically, and it’s still a friendship I want to keep.  But now there are jokes or comments that the other doesn’t understand, ulterior motives to things, and even habits that we are unaware of.

How much things have changed since I’ve been away has been highlighted by my friend’s visit.  When I’d return to my hometown after four months of uni, the only thing that made me realise I’d even be gone would be the odd new shop in town or new bedding in my parent’s house.  This has been far longer, so I guess the effects are stronger.  The longer you are away and out of what so many regard ‘real life’, the further you drift from those that are still there, the harder it becomes to have anything even to say to each other.  Your priorities are different, your lifestyles are different, your mindset is different, and it becomes more and more difficult to relate to their problems or successes, as even these seem strange and unfamiliar – things that you may consider not even worth mentioning, or things that are just so far from your version of reality now that you can’t really comprehend them.

I’ve heard the same can happen even to those who stay at home: there is an age at which many start to settle, get married, have children.  For the ones that don’t have any desire to do this at this time, if ever, they find the friendships with their friends become hard to maintain.  People that used to be so similar become so different, and resentment builds up easily.  This person who chooses not to get married and have children when everyone around her seems to be finds conversations suddenly consist only of ‘wedding talk’ and ‘baby talk’ and finds herself uninterested and therefore excluded.  I guess it’s a similar thing.

The friend who visited me was one of the people I was closest to in England, and so it makes me wonder how life will be when I go back, if I go back.  In my head, everyone I left behind is still a friend as close as they were when I was there, despite the fact we don’t communicate as much.  But for those still there, do they regard me in the same way, or have I simply disappeared?  For those that consider our friendship ready to be picked up again on my return, will we find we have drifted apart too much to do so?  Will it be possible to bridge the gap that my long absence has undoubtedly caused?

Miss L

I can read minds, don’t you know?

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This is just Asia in general, but I hate the way we are expected to be mind readers here.  I don’t know whether it is something to do with the deep superstitious roots in these parts of the world, and the reliance, even today, on fortune-telling and card readings.  Numerology and astrology are still used by all those in major positions of power in order to advise them on how they should act.  So, of course they (the local people) should presume we do the same…

Maybe this is why they feel we should know things without being told?  Why I should know that I can’t use a red pen to write names in Korea, and that I have to give English homework at precisely 12.40 on a Monday in Thailand?

Maybe this is why they expect us to instinctively know the days we have to dress particularly formally, and the days we have no classes.  Maybe this is why I am expected to know when I have to teach my class dances or songs to perform at ceremonies I’m expected to know are happening.  Maybe this is why I am expected to be able to teach Thai social studies.  After all, though I know nothing about Thai history, culture or Buddhism, I’m a mind reader aren’t I?

Maybe I shouldn’t blame my bosses or my schools for not telling me things, I should just find the answers buried somewhere inside my brain.  Or consult a crystal ball.  Maybe I should just start looking for signs to do random actions.  Someone said hands?  That must mean I should measure the length of my students hands in case they’ve grown?  I have a dream about being free – must mean no class tomorrow?

While I resent this, I also quite like it.  If I don’t do something, it’s because of pure ignorance that I was meant to be doing it.  If I’m not told, and I genuinely don’t know about something, how can I do it?  I know it’s terrible, but I often use this to my advantage with things I’ve heard through the grapevine that I may have to do, but haven’t been told officially by anyone of any authority.  I know I should probably seek out this information if there is a hint of it. Also, the sheer amount that I am never told reduces what my workload should supposedly be by quite a lot.  Today, it was assumed I knew I was supposed to give homework after my lesson.  English day, apparently.  Obviously I had no idea whatsoever, but when I was informed later on, I said I would find something to give them.  The class had lessons all day – I assumed I could give the homework quickly between lessons.  Oh no, not allowed.  I had to give it at lunch time (again, I was told this after lunch).  Well, I’m sorry but I go out for lunch and I was totally unaware.  Subsequently there was no time to give homework,  and so no homework for me to mark tomorrow.  I’m not complaining.

A coworker of mine has also been told she has to find extra time before and after classes to teach her students a dance and song for a ceremony in November.  Well, I haven’t been told this, and November is far too far away.  There’s no way I’m unnecessarily staying behind after school to teach a dance on the off-chance I’m meant to be doing it.  If I find out that the class do need to perform and have nothing to perform closer to the time, well, we can learn it in November.  It’s not going to take them five months to learn a dance routine like the Cha Cha Slide.  I’m not assuming I should be doing it just because it’s been briefly mentioned to my coworker: that is not sufficient instruction for me.

So, although I know I should be embracing and accepting the local cultures, traditions and ways of life (and generally, I am), this is one aspect of culture where I’m sticking to my western values.  If you want me to do something extra and unpredictable, I have got to be made aware.

Miss L

Getting Naked in Asia (the right way)

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Getting Naked in Asia (the right way)

In Japan they’re called ‘onsen’s, in Korea ‘jimjilbang’s.  What are these strange words?  Are they a type of noodles, a strange piece of cultural clothing?  No, it is the term used for the public baths.  If you’re British, the phrase ‘public baths’ may conjure up an image of a dirty government swimming pool made of rough concrete, but rest assured: these are anything but.

It is my opinion that you cannot say you have lived in Asia until you’ve experienced one of these.   I’d heard a lot about them before my first visit – my co-workers described them as incredibly relaxing and indulgent places to spend a day.  Jimjilbangs are bathhouses, or big spas, with saunas, jacuzzis, steam rooms, a variety of hot and cold pools and massage rooms.  You can get a full body scrub, any kind of massage you like, and you can even take in your own toiletries and use them as you wish.  They are dirt cheap (around £3) and you can stay as long as you like.  If you want to stay overnight, the price is about £5, cheaper than most hostels.  You can eat a meal there, have beauty treatments, and in some there are even singing rooms.  They are EVERYWHERE, in every few buildings you’ll find one.

Sounds great so far?  Why wouldn’t anyone want to go?  What the natives always neglect to tell you (probably because it’s so normal to them) is that you have to be naked….

So, this is why I was content with just hearing how great they are.  But they are so cheap, and they are meant to be so relaxing?!

My female friends and I pondered for a while, we all wanted to go.  The idea of sitting in a jacuzzi all day after working all week was heavenly.  Just not quite yet.  We needed to get to know each other a little better – after all, we’d only met a few months ago.  We were still uncomfortable drinking from the same bottles, let alone walking around together au naturel.

It wasn’t just that.  We are ENORMOUS white people (think about it: Asian women are stick thin!) with strange body shapes.  ALL EYES WOULD BE ON US.  I had heard horror stories about old naked Korean women going up to westerners in jimjilbangs and embracing them in welcome.  Which I’m sure is entirely well-meant and friendly, but I most certainly did NOT want a stark-naked old lady, with all her bits hanging out, coming to hug me.

Too soon for my liking, we were faced with a freezing cold weekend at the end of the month.  Meaning we had little money left and didn’t want to spend the day outside exploring (we feared we may turn into icicles).  Probably should have gone to a museum or something, but one of my friends decided it was the perfect time to brave the jimjilbang.  After a bit of reluctance, the rest of us were persuaded.  We’d agreed we would do it at some point, why not this weekend?

My friend informed us of a place near her apartment and we met at the subway station the next day.  As we walked apprehensively down to the basement of one of the buildings nearby, we reassured ourselves that, in reality, there would only be seconds of nakedness?  We’d get changed into dressing gowns in cubicles, and just take them off and jump into a pool.

This was NOT the case!  We walked in, paid (and were given a t-shirt and one of the minuscule towels that seem to be the preferred choice in Central Asia) and proceeded towards the door we were pointed in the direction of.  There we encountered a giant shoe closet (used to these now), and another glass door.  As we went to walk through the glass door, we were immediately confronted with hundreds of naked women, sitting on chairs and eating, or having their nails done, or just walking around.  This was the dry area!  Nobody was clothed, yet we had not come across anywhere to change.   Where were all the dressing gowns?  Actually, why didn’t we have one yet?  Nobody was wearing their giant t-shirts either.  Gingerly we walked through the door…

As we came face to face with a wall of lockers, it became apparent that there were no dressing gowns, or cubicles.  At first, we put on our t-shirts and decided to wander around.  Soon, we realised the only place we were allowed with t-shirts on was an empty room with mats (which we later understood was also open to the men), and we headed back to the entrance.  We’d have to go for it and strip right there in the middle of everybody.  We looked at each other in horror, this was not what we expected!  But, we had to do it!  Slowly, we began talking off our clothes, which was fine, until we got to our underwear.  We stood there, looking at each other, willing somebody else to go first.  In the end, there was nothing for it: we counted to three and just did it!

From that point on, there was no going back.  It was the strangest experience walking around a room full of naked strangers, naked.  With friends I barely knew.  At first, we were incredibly conscious of our GIANT WHITE FOREIGNER bodies.  The Koreans were probably judging us.  In the wet room, there were jacuzzis and hot tubs of varying temperatures, massage fountains, sitting down and standing showers, saunas, steam rooms.  Quickly we realised we had to bind our towels around our heads in some kind of Mickey Mouse shape (well, everyone else had done that).  It took us a while to get that right.  Despite feeling like we were being stared at (we were not), within about 20 minutes we had relaxed and were enjoying the facilities.

My friend described it as an extremely liberating experience.  She said she realised nobody has a perfect body (don’t think she was aware of the insult to the rest of us there) and everybody has insecurities, we’re all women, and we are all the same.  I totally disagree with all of that – there are definitely women with perfect bodies, and in no way are we all the same!  BUT, I did enjoy the place, although I can honestly say that I just FORGOT I was naked.  Let’s not romanticise it, there was no epiphany or any feelings of liberation, I just forgot.  And then it was okay.

Overall, I would recommend one of Asia’s public baths, just for the experience.  It’s a bit of a bucket list thing I think.  Would I go again?  Maybe, but I’m not a convert.  I don’t like to ponder on whether it is super-hygienic or super-unhygienic.  But, call me a prude of you like, my nakedness is not for the world to see.  One of the girls I went with has since gone multiple times, she loves it, but I’m much more a fan of our Western spas, where we wear bikinis..

Miss L