May 27, 2022Liked by Stuart McDonald

Always a good idea to get a range of transport in any country, if you can afford it, and find out where you feel most comfortable. In India I found that no one talked to me or gave me any help so pretty boring, though certainly more comfortable and the food is mostly better. In cheaper trains I found people were helpful - ‘wake up. Train is here’ at 5am when I was sleeping through my stop. Lots of people chatted and shared their food too.

In Vietnam once a hotel bought me a long distance ticket sitting up overnight. I was upset because I was sure I could never sleep that way, but there was nothing else. I was pleasantly surprised to find that no one stayed up playing on their phones, as they often did in soft sleeper, but lights went out early and everyone went to sleep, and so did I. That experience has been useful in both the US and Australia where sleeper tickets can be very expensive and I usually travel overnight sitting up.

In China I have often found that the areas in small villages where people live are roped off from tourists so you are left with the beautiful old houses that have been turned into shops, less interesting to us nosey tourists but safer and less intrusive for the villagers.

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I remember thinking WTAF when I learned poverty tourism was even a thing. Don't get me wrong -- nomading in Mexico City and Istanbul and even southern Italy, I've seen some pretty poor places. But I can honestly say it was because I was living in those areas at least a month and my day to day life just happened to intersect with them. And I did learn things from those encounters for which I am grateful.

As for which people make a country "real" as you so astutely point out it's a ridiculous question as everyone who lives in a country is "real."

As for tours in Bali, to be fair, most every city has banks, but if you're outside of Asia, rice fields are pretty interesting.

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