Sunday, March 19, 2006

Mahd's Guide to the World, Part 7: East Asia

Welcome back to our Guide. Today, we travel to the mysterious Orient, or East Asia as it is called by those who are not 19th-century British explorers. Our countries today spread from North Korea to Indonesia, China to Japan (which is more impressive than it sounds because China is huge). The countries:


When Chinese nationalists were driven off the mainland after WW2, they fled to Taiwan, a tiny little island off the coast. In response for not having all of the people or land that the Communists have, the Taiwanese have instead opted to make their entire island a giant theme park of commercialism. The entire island is paved and built on, right up to the shores, which explains the high "sea-view dining" restaurant to population ratio. It's impressive considering that there are 22.5 million people living on the island, all of them creating crappy low-grade toys or "United we Stand" magnetic stickers for your 10 MPG Hummer. The population density is so high, in fact, that if you're walking around and don't have a few crotches pressed against you, you're considered to be living in the height of luxury.

North Korea

North Korea is Disneyland if Disneyland were some strange place ruled by a totalitarian dictatorship with an intent to keep the status quo forever. So in other words, exactly like Disneyland.

If you could even travel to North Korea (which is prohibited), you probably would not be able to go outside the hotel (prohibited). You could watch TV (currently prohibited) or read a book (prohibited), or call room service (not prohibited, but you'll be put on a government watch list). At night, you can visit downtown Pyongyang (prohibited except between 2am and 3am. However, there is a curfew between 1am and 4am) or go to bed (prohibited). Once your vacation is over, feel free to get back on the place, which all reports say is due to be prohibited.

South Korea

When geeks die, their souls go to South Korea. The nation is well-known for it's numerous 24-hour LAN centers, where everyone spends their free time trying to get levels or gold or some kind of shit like that in online games. On the off-chance you want to interact with the real world, you can go down to the corner grocery store and buy some anime that probably features something intensely creepy.

That's not to say traditional Korean culture hasn't survived: certainly, the Koreans are always prepared to be in the middle of some kind of conflict. The little black bars on their flag actually symbolize all of the invading armies that are poised to take over at a moment's notice. Fortunately, the South Korean military is skilled in all variations of Dance, Dance Revolution, so they're ready for a fight, or preferably, disco dancing.


Thailand draws travelers in with a combination of natural beauty, hospitality, delicious cuisine and a metric ton of "ladyboys" or transsexuals. In searching for background info for this nation, every tenth link was to something related to these gender bending people. It's apparent they plan to stage a coup and establish the world's first transsexual nation. They probably plan to take all of the drag shows with them as well.

The Thai people are an enlightened, religious people. This is probably best exemplified in their sport of kickboxing: Realizing that normal boxing might be a little boring, they decided to add something to it- kicking. Since then, many other sports have added kicking to bolster flagging attendance numbers. Look for kick baseball, kick gymnastics and "soccer but with more kicking" in the next few seasons.


Cambodia is best known for two things- the beautiful and ancient temples of Ankgor and the brutal and not-quite-so-beautiful reign of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. While we may think some current world leaders are screwing things up, it's pretty safe to say that Pot was less popular, killing two million of his countrymen and turning the rest into slave laborers. It was so bad that the next leader, who himself managed to kill a million people and raze their cities is known as "The Greatest Leader ever".

Cambodia is generally a destination if you want to see the temples, or alternatively, to recreate some of your favorite Vietnam-era movie scenes.


Speaking of Vietnam, here it is. For Americans, Vietnam is a prime example of how not to try and convert a country to democracy. I mean, sure, killing the population and replacing them with people who support you is one way to do it, but far more effective is just to open a couple McDonalds and ship a cargo container worth of Coca-Cola over. It's not that exposure to commercial products makes people more open to democracy- it just makes them fatter and less likely to get off the couch to protest or fight against it.

Today, Vietnam is rapidly changing and evolving, gaining the Internet cafes, cell phones and motorbikes that plague the rest of the world. Less sure is the availability of Vietnamese hookers who will "love you long time." More research is obviously needed in this area


Singapore is a modernized Asian country, except they're really mean. That is to say, they don't put up with your crap. While they appreciate you visiting, make sure you don't park your car in a handicapped spot- the penalty is for them to break your legs. If you come here, just make sure you blend into the crowd, which, if you are a 6 foot tall pale white man, is not easy. If this is the case, be sure to get a tan and crouch.


Laos is a country trapped in time: they want to modernize, but they want to do it at their own pace. Don't try to foist your skyscrapers on them: they don't want them. Okay, some of them do, which is why about 10% of the population left. I mean, you can only gaze at awe-inspiring waterfalls so much before you begin to ask yourself where the nearest pub is.

On the bright side, Laos is a friendly place, where you're far less likely to be attacked by bandits or raiders or Communist forces. While some cynics claim this is because you're carrying bags of cash into their country, the more realistic view is that the Laotians are actually happy to see you. On an unrelated note, anti-depression medicine is made near the country's central water supply.


Indonesia: the very name conjures up...well, it makes you think of.... Okay, it may not make you think of anything other than a bunch of islands. Well, up until recently, you would be right. Then the President walked under a ladder while spilling salt over his shoulder and as a black cat crossed his path.

The end result for Indonesia is disaster after disaster. Bloody civil conflicts combined with poundings by Tsunamis have all Indonesians working twenty-four hours a day on a giant four-leaf clover. If it goes according to schedule, it will be ready by early 2007. Assuming another tsunami doesn't destroy it.


There's nothing wrong with Malaysia. It's a pleasant place to go, where all cultures blend harmoniously in order to create a unique synthesis that all travellers can enjoy in. There are touristy areas for the less adventurous, but for those seeking a little more flavor they also offer more exotic fare.

Frankly, it's disgusting. Considering the problems its neighbors face, Malaysia must think it's pretty special to be so great. Oh sure, they had some damage from the Tsunamis, but let's face it- put a small blemish on the prom queen and it makes the rest of her even more beautiful.

Plus, I hear they smell bad. So there.


The Philippines are an interesting mix of Anglo and Asian influences. Because the islands were a colony of Spain for many years (until the Spanish-American war), the influence is undeniable. It's often that you will see a Philippino taking a siesta (or nap) after eating a plate of nachos and burritos. Bullfighting is a popular pasttime, and you won't be able to walk anywhere without seeing a traditional sombrero on some young Philipino's head.

Or maybe I'm thinking of Mexico.


Somehow, someway the one oil-rich country in the region is an Islamic sultanate. The irony is astounding, but it doesn't mean Brunei is a bad place. On the contrary, because it's so rich and has so few people, the standard of living is insanely high. If you're a resident of Brunei and you live in less than a Giant Palace, you're considered one of the lower classes. No person walks around with fewer servants than 10, and those servants are only members of the idle rich who have decided to see how the "other half" lives. The fact that they too have servants kind of defeats the purpose, but that's just how the country works.

It's not all sunshine, though. Recently the Sultan's son was accused of using a polo mallet two inches too long on the polo grounds. It's quite a scandal, really.


Communist China is one big country. And it's hardly Communist anymore. Oh sure, they'll kill some dissidents from time to time just to relive the good old days, maybe have the military march with missiles down the street, but it's kind of a sham. Everything has some great number attached to it, here. Eighty million billion people, seven hundren thousand years of history, and so forth. It's kind of exhausting.

Despite their new-found capitalist leanings, there's still the interior of the country, where the people toil endlessly in rice paddies, seemingly unaware that the year now ends with an "AD" rather than "BC". Kind of like Nebraska.

China has one of two futures ahead of it. One of those is to fully embrace capitalism, which will lead to even greater achievements for a span of approximately 3 years, at which point the planet will run out of natural resources for all those people. The second would be to re-embrace their communist roots and cast out the new capitalist influences, which will undoubtedly lead to a global nuclear conflict. It's a comforting thought, either way.


Ancient Japan was a beautiful and mysterious place. There was art in the delicate Kanji characters that the people created, and it helped that they weren't getting tattooed on stupid foreigners who think the one that means "dumbass" really means "valor". Samurai and ninja fought for the honor of their feudal lords, and the sword had a nearly mystical and spiritual quality and meaning. The Emperor himself refused to allow European trade to come until the 1850s.

Then, they had the atomic bomb dropped on them, and went insane.

Now, they sleep in individual tubes and draw horrific hentai scenes. They sell panties alongside dried octopus in vending machines. They make brilliant inventions, and then torture us by making smaller and more useful versions six months later. It's an America on overdrive with a completely different set of phobias and neurosis. It's a great place, but you almost want to calm them down a bit, maybe introduce them to your "friend" with the dreadlocks who smells like patchoulli. He'll definitely mellow them out.


At 11:02 PM, Blogger Scorpy said...

I love this series....most laughs I've had in ages, especially since I've been to lot of these countries and your spot on with a lot of it (Thailand, Malaysia, Idonesia and Phillipines)

At 2:16 AM, Blogger ChickyBabe said...

Never thought of North Korea as Disneyland! And dried octopus flavoured panties is turning me right off my chocolate. So I think I'll head off to the Caribbean...

Well done, again on this series. You should have all the posts linked in your sidebar!

At 4:53 PM, Blogger Mahd said...

Scorpy, of course it's correct: I'm an American; we know about these things ;)

ChickyBabe, Good idea. When I redesign...


Post a Comment

<< Home