It wasn’t me, it was South East Asia

31 Aug

IT WASN’T ME, IT WAS SOUTH EAST ASIA  Just one month in South East Asia is all it takes to turn a good girl bad. I realised I was moving to the dark side as I was balancing on the back of a bicycle in monsoonal rain, sitting on nothing but a sheet of metal, and swaying from side to side as my feet had no place to rest and my hands were clinging to a number of shopping bags rather than the bike. I was riding home with my housemate and we were about to hit floods. I felt like a teenager rebelling against my mother. She would have killed me for a number of reasons: I was not wearing a helmet or appropriate clothes, I was out in severe rain, the bike was ill-equipped for an extra passenger let alone shopping bags, we were often riding on the wrong side of the road and frequently into oncoming traffic.

I felt like a bad ass teen for a moment but my behaviours were not unusual for Ho Chi Minh City. Even the most sensible people eventually subside and conform with the locals. After all, many Westerners already stand out a lot. Why would they behave differently and stand out even more, right? It’s a poor excuse, I know. But when in Rome …

I have been drinking lots of cheap beer with random people in South East Asia

I’ve been eating on the streets every day, drinking lots and lots of cheap beer, allowing myself to get bitten by mosquitoes, talking to strangers. I recently befriended a Vietnamese girl at a nightclub and drank straight whiskey with her. I’ve been riding a scooter without a licence or protective gear. I spent a night drinking with a bunch of Vietnamese men, swigging from a communal glass of vodka, eating food that was all over the floor and singing at the top of my lungs. I learnt how to say “I’m with ugly” in Vietnamese.

I never intended to change like this. In fact, I came to Vietnam to become worldlier and wiser, to gain greater perspectives. I’ve actually become more irresponsible. Now it occurs to me that perhaps that’s the perspective I have been missing all along. Maybe a good girl’s got to know what it’s like to be bad, even if it’s only by riding a bike in the rain.

By Marissa Toohey

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