Tourism with the “real girlfriend experience”

I’ve talked about nudist tourism and debauchery tourism, now here’s another spin on hedonistic tourist packages. It seems that the market for “sex” when traveling is rapidly being replaced by the emerging market for “girlfriends” on the road.

Premiering tonight at 10pm (GMT) is the documentary “My Boyfriend The Sex Tourist” that explores the life of western men for whom “wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am” is not enough, resulting in the growth of “commercialized love” packages where they can have women at their beck-and-call, 24-hours a day. The film’s director Monica Garnsey, traveled to Venezuela and Thailand and spoke to women trapped in these professions; the 2-part documentary is through their eyes.

When I was in Thailand, I saw the sorry state of Thai women making a living from prostitution. I heard that it is not uncommon that they submit to more that just sex, under the illusion of being rescued by a foreigner who will fall in love and want to get married. I saw the promo of this film and it seems like a much “happier”(?) one than I imagined. I think it is very depressing.

Traveller’s Must: The Go-To Safety Food

When I travelled through Thailand, I saw a western-style restaurant that had a big sign saying, ‘Tired of chili ring sting? Eat here!‘ While a bit crude (but true), it was an effective draw for tourists who aren’t used to eating spicy Asian curries every day and simply wanted something bland; something from home.

After talking about eating pizza in Thailand, I got to thinking — I’ve had pizza in a lot of places. Every country I’ve been to, in fact. Except Korea and Cambodia, but even then I had spaghetti and meatballs, which is somewhat similar in it’s Western-ness. Pizza, for me, is my go-to food, what I eat when I don’t want to be adventurous and am simply craving a taste from home.

I think everyone has a ‘safe’ food that makes them feel a little bit less homesick when travelling. An overseas comfort food, if you will. For my mom, when she was trekking through the middle of Africa in the 70s, it was mashed potatoes. For my friend Jenny, it’s plain rice with a bit of butter. For Cheryl, it’s McDonald’s chicken nuggets. So, indulge me, and let me know what your’s is — that way, I won’t feel so silly for eating pizza when surrounded by Pad Thai and ancient Buddhist temples.

The Thai Women’s Guide to Scoring a Foreign Man

I love Thailand. It’s a great place to travel to and is brimming with gracious people, good food, rich history and amazing scenery. But one of the most disturbing things about Thailand is the sex trade, which is literally everywhere. Beautiful Thai women (and ladyboys) crawl over one another for the chance to ‘entertain’ fat, balding foreign men (or women!) who they believe can be their passport to a better life. It’s really heartbreaking.

A new book is coming out aimed at Thai women, which gives them step-by-step instructions on how to get — and keep — a foreign husband. The book, called “Foreign Boyfriend, Foreign Husband”, paints a romantic vision of Western men, claiming they are respectful and kind, unlike Thai men. Um, right. The point of the book seems to be this: Old, Western men might not be handsome but they’re loaded.

This is a tricky issue — on one hand, I think it’s appalling that women would be encouraged to marry for money and a passport. But at the same time, I’ve never known the desperation of poverty, and as a Canadian, I’ve always enjoyed all the benefits of a first-world passport. Is marrying for love a luxury that people in poorer countries can’t afford? Call me a romantic but I sure hope not.

A Canadian In Beijing: Piddly-Squat

I know squats are good for me. They’re assigned in most aerobic workouts and they’re apparently my ticket to a more shapely behind. Still, I had forgotten that I’d be practicing this movement several times a day in China.

In 2001, Lyndell and I spent five days in Hong Kong on a stopover from Sydney to Toronto. That was my first introduction to the “squat-and-pee” style latrines in Asian countries. I didn’t mind them then and I don’t mind them now.

My knees mind them.

I’m hoping that after three months of this activity, I will no longer hear the crunch of my cartilage against bone as I squat to relieve my jasmine-tea-filled bladder.

Urinating in this position is actually healthier for your body than the western toilet. I learned this many years ago and understood squatting to be better for the bladder’s optimal drainage versus sitting which doesn’t enable one’s bladder to fully empty itself. This then puts more strain on the body to relieve itself more regularly, hence keeping this organ working overtime on a perpetual basis. (This company bases its whole product on these findings. Check out this image for a good laugh!)

I must say that they take some getting used to, however. Remembering to bring your own toilet paper is a must and no paper is deposited into the holes but instead is placed in the uncovered wastebasket provided. Sometimes this can be a smelly collection and I’ve found that holding one’s breath is the best solution. All in all, I’m then working my squats AND my lungs. Surely that’s exercise!

My room at the university and most modern hotels and shopping centres also offer western-style toilets. As Beijing continues to grow and accommodate travellers, more and more western-style toilets are available. Still, the toilet paper rule applies. In this way, they are keeping miles and miles of sewers free of foreign material and just filled with organic waste.

Now if Beijing would only start a humanure project! With this massive population, I’m sure the city’s many coal-driven energy systems could be replaced by the methane, combustion or fertilization possible via human waste.

But, I won’t hold my breath for that one!