From Conversations

Private and personal conversations made public.

Guilin
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Charades

GUILIN, China — I stretch my arm into the air to draw an imaginary river, but it is met with another highly baffled look by the woman in front of me. “Tour. Li River. Yangshuo,” I said while trying my darnedest to conceal my frustration. Spirit of Mulan, guide me. It has come down to…

Lost Need Direction
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Trust Issues

BATANGAS, Philippines — I am staying at the porch of our Batangas home and pondering life’s complexities when a family van pulls over. The window rolls down and reveals the matriarch in the passenger seat. “We’re going to Manila,” she says. “Should we go straight?” “No,” I reply. “If you’re Manila-bound, turn right.” With that,…

Zhangjiajie
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Conversions

ZHANGJIAJIE, China — He looks at my passport, and I know something is not right. The bank teller stares at my currency exchange form and gives me a look I can’t decipher. My stay in Zhangjiajie is ending, and I need some yuan to catch the last train out. His fingers tap the desk anxiously,…

Ask Me Nicely

Everyone’s Looking

BANGKOK, Thailand — “Dance with me.” His order is delivered with an adhesive stare and in a stoic tone. No distinct accent. Deep, raspy voice. But it is his deeper eyes that scream a million sexy words. Just ten minutes earlier, he said I could call him Ray. He pressed his back on the wall next to…

Tales from Behind the Wheel: Si Aida, si Lorna, at si Fe

MALACCA, Malaysia — The driver greeted us with a smile as we hopped into his cab. “To Melaka Sentral, sir!” My friend Ces, as usual, took the passenger seat while Asta and I occupied the back row. The driver beamed, nodded, and responded, “Okay, okay,” and started to drive. It was our last afternoon in…

The Kind that Makes You Forget

Pete

SIEM REAP, Cambodia — I do not remember just how many mugs of beer I have emptied into my belly but I am sure I’m not stopping any time soon. I dive into the mob, get lost in the pumping music, and vanish under the phosphorescent lights that move as if trying to put me…

The Locals

LUANG PRABANG, Laos — There was an overflowing sense of confidence in me when I finally reached the parking lot of the Preah Prom Rath Pagoda in Siem Reap, Cambodia. It was my first time to ride a bicycle in almost 15 years and I was just so proud that I was able to reach…

Ha Long Bay Boats

People Along the Way: The Solo Backpackers

HA LONG BAY, Vietnam — “No stars tonight?” She put down her glass of pina colada and sat next to me on the bench on the top deck of the boat, floating softly in the middle of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. “Not even one,” I painted a faux pout on my face while picking up…