One Last Oddball Conversation in SE Asia


Stu and I were walking along a street in Bangkok, looking for something to eat. A smiling old man stopped me on the sidewalk and extended his hand, asking where I was from. At my reply of “America”, his smile disappeared and he gripped my hand tighter. Uh oh.

I relaxed my grip, thinking our handshake was finished, but he held it tight. “You have Indians in America?” he asked, his eyes narrowed in suspicion. Stu’s crazy-detector is pretty well-tuned and he continued walking on past, then turned a bit further up the block to listen in on the conversation.

“Indians?” I asked. “Do you mean Indians from India or Native Americans?”

Still holding my hand in his right, he held four fingers from his left behind the crown of his head, in a fairly good imitation of feathers, and then bobbed his knees up and down while singing ” whoo whoo whooo…”

“Ahhhh… those kind of Indians. Yes, there are many in America. Some live in the cities but many live on their own land, on reservations.”

He let me finish and then just glared at me in silence for a good thirty seconds. Finally, he spat “Why you kill Indians?”

“Buh… buh… I… what?!”

“Why you kill Indians? I see on TV.”

“No! No, Sir. That was a long time ago — a hundred years ago or more. No one kills Indians now. We like Indians.”

He considered this for a moment, but still gazed at me as if I was guilty of genocide.

“Then why did you kill them?”

Now it was my turn to pause. “Well, the ugly truth is… I guess… they were killed so others could take their land. It was a very bad thing.” I looked behind him and Stu was grinning back at me, enjoying my predicament.

His grip lessened and I pulled my hand away, thinking this was my chance to escape but he changed tack quickly.

“Do you follow Buddha or Christ?” he asked. Oh, boy.

I knew better than to tell him the truth, which was neither, because that would open up a whole new discussion and this one had already gone on far too long for my liking.

“Buddha!” I lied. “The Buddha was a very wise man.” I nodded at Stu to get moving.

The old man was surprised at this. “Really? Buddha? Very good!” He started to ask me a question about my new-found faith, but I cut him off. “I have to catch up with my friend. Very good meeting you, Sir.”

I scurried away before he could answer and caught up with Stu, who was laughing. “I told you not to kill those Indians,” he jibed. “But nooo, you wouldn’t listen.”

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Hodson October 20, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Classic. I love misunderstandings ;)
.-= Michael Hodson´s last blog ..How-to- StumbleUpon to Drive Website Traffic =-.


Nancie October 20, 2010 at 7:49 pm

You know the TV is always right :)
.-= Nancie´s last blog ..Through the Sandbox Lens 16 &8212 The Art of Traveling Light =-.


Dave October 20, 2010 at 9:38 pm

This is a good example of why I don’t shake hands with strangers on the street. I will talk with them but refuse to give them my hand. Plus you do not know where that hand has been or when it was last washed. I hate shaking hands with people anywhere in the world.


kiki October 21, 2010 at 2:09 am

Hahahahaha, that’s fantastic. Good answer on the christ/buddha thing hehe. xo.


Christy @ Ordinary Traveler October 21, 2010 at 2:41 am

Haha! Great story! I agree with Dave about not shaking hands with strangers. My boyfriend tends to get himself into situations like this and I’m pretty good at getting him out of them. :)
.-= Christy @ Ordinary Traveler´s last blog ..Does Long-Term Travel Have an Expiration Date =-.


Conrad October 21, 2010 at 3:58 am

Ooh, I love to shake hands when traveling.. Or give a high five. Touts, street vendors, the religious freak, the ultimate stranger, a firm hand they all get. I know most of the times there is a tedious story to be followed, but sometimes you just run into a splendid character and the conversation evolves into a true gem. Memories are made of those times.
.-= Conrad´s last blog ..A New Travel Personality- or what =-.


Mike October 21, 2010 at 7:04 am

Funny stuff. Sure don’t know how I would handle an encounter like that.
.-= Mike ´s last blog ..79 Plane Ticket- Atlanta to New Zealand and Australia =-.


Vago October 21, 2010 at 11:27 pm

Bummer man, you were just about to be given the secret of nirvana from him, but you didn’t stick around to listen… oh well…I’ll tell you now the secret of nirvana is that…..Kurt Cobain never actually died. Guess you didn’t miss anything after all.

.-= Vago´s last blog ..Free airfare A couple more options… =-.


wes October 22, 2010 at 8:48 am

Haha! I already knew that, so I guess I’m enlightened, ya?


ayngelina October 22, 2010 at 9:45 pm

I don’t like touching people either, but I’m female so the idea of anyone gripping me is frightening. In fact I’ve jumped many times when well meaning but touchy Colombians reached out to touch my arm.

Sigh, I’m so uptight…
.-= ayngelina´s last blog ..The only place worth eating lunch in Taganga =-.


Glenn Dixon November 9, 2010 at 7:34 pm

I’m fascinated by stories like this. At least he was concerned about genocide. We need to try dispelling the ‘ugly American’ stereotype. It’s an uphill battle. Hollywood doesn’t help much.


Natalie December 3, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Ha ha. I would of liked to have a drink with that man actually. It would be an interesting conversation. Nice of your friend Stu to help you out there.