Religion, Living Expenses and Being Americans

Religion, Living Expenses and Being Americans


Yesterday, after two months of drinking beer we decided to purchase some hard liquor-vodka. We had already purchased tonic water and limes and were ready to kick back with a vodka tonic at 6 p.m. Walked up to the counter to pay only to find out that it was a religious holiday-No alcohol or cigarettes could be bought. So we thought we’d talk a bit about religion and cost of living in SE Asia.

There are three predominate religions here-Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. Our knowledge as travelers is pretty basic and this is what we have observed.

For Buddhists it is all about the karma. If you lead a clean life you will advance and be reincarnated at a higher level until you finally reach nirvana. Thailand is almost all Buddhist and Vietnam, although a socialist country has a large population of Buddhists.

Although most Hindus live in India, Bali is a small island in Indonesia that is Hindu. The aspects of the religion that we experienced in Bali had a bit more of an subservant feel to it. Offerings-incense, flowers, fruit, money etc. are made to the gods on a daily basis in hopes that the gods will bestow riches upon you. There are many, many gods-some are demons and some are benevolent.

Islam is the followings of the words of Muhammad, the messenger of the one god, as found in the Quran and Muslims are the followers of Islam. Islam requires an emphasis on faith, prayer, charity, fasting and a pilgrimage to Mecca. Malaysia has a large Muslim population and many visitors from Arab countries vacation there. I guess the thing we observed most about Muslims is the females with head scarfs and their entire body covered. When we visited Tunisia our guide, a female Muslim, explained to us that this is because men have weak minds and are unable to pray if women distract them. Pray is very important. More important than women.


Actually getting money exchanged at every country we have been in requires a bit of thought-how long will we be there? What do we have planned? If you take out too much it can be impossible to exchange it back (as we found out when leaving Bali.) We are so lucky to be living in the age of ATMS!

First off, this is about OUR cost of being here. To be honest we have no idea of the income/expense info for the natives. Our US dollars afford us a very inexpensive life of moderate luxury. Our very nicely furnished two bedroom two bathroom condo with very nice pool,AC,fast wi-if for a month-costs $1,200

The ferry back to the mainland and hourlong bus to airport is costing us $13.00.

Food-such good food for so cheap. We buy fruit and salad makings at a farmstand-it’s about 1 mile away. We walk early in the morning with a backpack and shopping bag every 3-4 days. We spend about $10-$12 on fabulous produce and that provides the two of us with breakfast and dinner for 3-4 days. Lunches we eat at restaurants that are on the beach where we spend the day in the water- yes we are getting old and rarely eat dinner out. First comes the beer-a bottle of Singha for $2-then an endless variety of delicious choices (fish, shrimp, chicken, pork, noodles, rice, wonderful sauces)-about $4.

Massages are one of the best deals here in Thailand. A full body deep tissue hour- long massage, with tip, costs about $12. Carol gets a half hour neck and shoulders for $6. Now that is something that will never happen in the states!


You are swimming at a pool in Malaysia when some men jump in the pool and ask where you are from. USA we say, and you? Iraq they say and we start talking about how they are college athletic teachers on a pleasure trip at the end of their term and as you are talking to one another you are aware that people that they know were killed in a war started by Americans looking for “Weapons of Mass Destruction”-it was an emotional struggle.

You are waiting in line to board a cable car and the young men in front of you strike up a conversation-where are you from? USA we say, and you? Pakistan they say and you are actually a little stunned-we’ve never met any Pakistanis before and in the back of your mind you think of the impossibly complicated relationship between our countries.

You are ordering some green papaya salad at a food truck and start talking with a young man waiting for his order. He shares some local knowledge with us then asks where we are from? USA we say. Oh he says, I thought so but did not want to insult you in case I was wrong.

On this trip we have met and conversed with individuals from Vietnam, Australia, Nepal, China, Cambodia, Singapore, England, Malaysia, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, India, Algeria, Switzerland, Norway, France, Austria, Denmark, Germany -in fact our next door neighbors are from Siberia. They all speak English-learned it in school, but, very few people that are not travelers know our language and we do not know theirs so communication can be a challenge. It is often done in mime.

We are all ambassadors when we travel and in the future, when we read something about any of these countries, we will think of them-the individuals that make up the whole and not the politicans, elected or otherwise.

5 thoughts on “Religion, Living Expenses and Being Americans

  1. Thank you for such a thoughtful record of the trip and the people you have met. Here everything is so crass and we are so disconnected from each other in this country. There is an acceptance of the loss of civility, kindness and generosity making it easy to forget that we as humans are connected to all on the earth. This was a wonderful, heartfelt reminder. I am proud of you as ambassadors as we currently have none.

  2. Beautiful commentary, well said, and so true. The prices of food is amazing, thank you again for so much insight and info.!

  3. What Kathy said. I am very proud and feel fortunate to have your bright karma representing us as ambassadors

  4. It is amazing what a smile, a kind word and direct eye contact can open for you. There are amazing people everywhere if we take a moment. I look forward to this experience and so grateful you are sharing.

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