Below is the view from my hotel room – or at least that’s the view I’d want. You’ll notice that there’s a series of monuments, landmarks, and icons from countries around the world. How many can you name?
Let’s make it a travel contest to see who can come up with the most – the Travel Trivia Challenge. Try to name every world landmark you see. For each one you correctly identify, you get one point for the landmark name and one point for the city or country where it’s from. For example, if you can identify the Sydney Opera House in the front of the image, and know it’s from Sydney, Australia, you get two points.
How many world landmarks can you name from this image?
Click the image to see a larger version, then right-click it to save as your new desktop image.
Ask me if you need hints for naming any of the buildings, landmarks, or monuments.
Hint: I saw two of these landmarks in the first half of my recent Asia trip – I wrote about both experiences and posted the photos. Which ones?
Post your totals in the comments or on our Visit50 Facebook page and afterward we’ll crown the winner of the 2011 Travel Trivia Challenge.
Photo/Art credit: I can’t remember where I received this image from, and would like to provide the appropriate credit. I’ve had it on my computer for a few years now – great desktop background!
Eat with your hands in Asia for meals like the locals – but be prepared! There may not be napkins, or even soap. Here’s what you need to know to stay clean and safe when eating with your hands in Asia.
[squeemish warning – you may find this post to be disturbing, on par with the post on airline bacteria]
Paradox: The more likely a culture is to eat meals with their hands in Asia, the less likely to find napkins on the table… or even soap in the bathrooms. Disturbing!
Mailbag: After a few posts raving about the fun of choosing your own fresh fish at a market and eating street food, I’ve been asked a bunch of related questions about the quality of food, safety of eating street food, cleanliness of restaurants, and even if the “Three Seashells” method was used (best line from the movie, Demolition Man). This post is for you! So yes, after traveling around KL and all around Malaysian Borneo, I had to make a few mental adjustments and preparations.
Here are a few observations:
Like a lot of other areas in the world, if you’re at a restaurant where you eat with your hands, like I found frequently in Malaysia, often no utensils are used. Occasionally you find chopsticks and definitely no forks, no knives, nothing. Not even a spork! Westerners are used to using our hands for foods like hamburgers, fruit, and bite sized appetizers, but nothing as little as rice, and nothing messy.
The cleansing power of water
That bowl of water is NOT for drinking – street restaurants occasionally have a bowl that acts as a communal hand washing station. In my first exposure to it, the guy next to me dipped his hands in it and the water changed color. I thought it was the first time he washed is hands in days. Lovely. Be prepared…
The Cucumber Method
The Cucumber Method: Beyond a bowl of murky water, rarely were any napkins provided, or even available upon request. Occasionally you’d find another bowl with sliced cucumbers, which are not there to be eaten but rather to be squeezed and rubbed until whatever crud you have gets off your hands.
If you’re really lucky, in rare instances, instead of the cucumber solution for hand-washing is a dispenser of tiny tissues. Given the previous two bullets, this was a welcome addition. It’s often custom to eat with your hands in Asia, and the food is not exactly neat, so the tissues dissipate right in your hands.
Napkins? Never heard of them. Tissues are apparently the same thing.
People often eat with their hands, but there’s typically no paper (napkin, towel, tissue) to wipe them afterward, and after going to the bathroom there’s often no soap so they’re just rinsing water on their hands. Then they go back to eating with their hands.
Here’s the icky part about eating with your hands in Asia..
Bathrooms often don’t have toilet paper (or tissues) – get used to making sure you have your own supply with you, or do as the locals do. In most of Asia, locals don’t use “wasteful” toilet paper – they use a hose next to the toilet. That’s right, it’s the same hose that everybody touches. Perhaps that solution would be fine, if only there were soap…[not a typo]. They eat with their hands, but often don’t provide soap to clean those hands.
Bathrooms rarely have paper towels or air drying. and in most cases they didn’t have soap (including nicer places). Apparently they believe in the cleansing power of water and this whole soap thing is a just a fad, and don’t believe in Hepatitus A. How can a country where everyone eats with their hands not have soap in the bathrooms!?! I found that last part rather disturbing.
Now let’s tie this together. Especially in small towns, people often eat with their hands in Asia, but there’s typically no paper (napkin, towel, tissue) to wipe them afterward, and after going to the bathroom there’s often no soap so they’re just rinsing water on their hands. Afterward they go back to eating with their hands.
Thus, I felt like my time in Malaysia was unofficially sponsored by Purell hand sanitizer and Kleenex, because hand sanitizer and tissues were must-have items in my day-bag at all times. Pepto tablets before meals were a must, especially in unsanitary, dirty, or just questionable conditions . While many people I met got travelers sickness, somehow in 6 months I only got sick once (Jordan in the desert) and not in SE Asia. Eat with your hands in Asia, but be prepared.
With all of that said, I really loved the food in Malaysia, and it was one of the best countries for cuisine out of the 15 countries I visited on that trip. Just be prepared and you’ll love it!
The 3 Seashells Method
Below is the clip I referenced from the movie Demolition Man, which is set in the future. They had an unconventional method of washing their hands.
The Petronas Towers , also referred to as Malaysia’s Twin Towers, in Kuala Lumpur. The Petronas Towers were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004 until surpassed by Taipei 101, but remain the tallest twin buildings in the world to this day (the Sears Tower / Willis Tower in Chicago is taller if you include their antenna).
You wouldn’t think that something as simple as a haircut would be worth telling about, but when you’re traveling, even a haircut can be an adventure!
After a month of travel, it was time for my first time getting a haircut abroad. This should be interesting. I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital city, and the pouring rain altered my initial plans. The receptionist sat me down at a chair and handed me a card to choose choose the services I wanted, and the level of experience of the hair stylist (different charges for each).
A Shampoo Massage?
A girl in a mini-skirt and stiletto heels came over and introduced herself and said she’d be washing my hair. She was dressed to go straight to the clubs afterward. I started getting up, assuming it would be at a sink. It wasn’t. She tied up her shirt and said she’d begin. I sat in the chair while she sprayed my hair with water (and herself), and started massaging the shampoo into my hair. She was dancing to the music as she lathered. A little head massage may be typical, but the massage moved down to my neck, and then shoulders. What the? Surprise! After a long day of hiking it actually felt outstanding. I had been thinking of going to get a massage after the haircut. Is that normal for everyone’s haircuts in KL?
After the shampoo massage (!), she said she’d track down the stylist. I told the guy how I wanted my haircut. He looked perplexed and gave a counter offer. Interesting. He said for me hair, “we do spikey spikey.” I thought it was a miscommunication so I clarified what I wanted. He explained his vision for my hair. Yes, he had a vision for what we’ll do with my hair. I didn’t realize this was a negotiation. I was direct and specific. He tried to close the conversation with — ok “I show you spikey spikey and you show me how much you like it.” This back and forth ended with him agreeing (verbally), but halfway through it didn’t look like he was cutting the way we discussed. This particular story has a happy ending (no not that kind!), because the haircut came out fine. Feel free to disagree – I took hundreds of photos throughout Malaysia, so you can be the judge.
One of the big challenges about traveling are the things you miss from home. My New York Jets (American football) were in the playoffs, but I was in Malaysia! I was excited to learn that my NY Jets playoff run took them all the way to the AFC Championship game. Unfortunately, I was set to arrive in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, one day before the game. It’s a region of the world without any NFL fans. None!
KL is a major city, so my plan was to investigate if there’s any tiny sports bar that might have it (spoiler alert – there’s not). So I was thinking it would be a challenge, but imagine my reaction as we landed right next to this:
That’s right – This is an Air Asia plane, with a custom Oakland Raiders wrap/paint job. At first I thought it was just Raider colors, but a closer look revealed that the side of the plane featured the name, the logo, and even images of the Raiderettes!
Why would a discount Asia carrier have a jet that’s decked out in Raiders colors? My first fleeting thought was hopeful, incorrectly thinking perhaps there’s a small NFL fanbase here that they’re catering to. There’s not. They don’t even fly to the United States.
As it turns out, Air Asia’s trying to break into the U.S. market, starting with Oakland. This WSJ article explains the situation best.
This could be GREAT news for the U.S.! I’m a big fan of Air Asia. Good experience at a cheap price. Yes! The airlines in the U.S. are lackluster, so perhaps this could push them to step it up a notch. Air Asia, we’re rooting for you!