Lost In Translation: On English FAILs Across Asia

When I was a kid, my Dad used to travel to Korea often on business and he’d always come home with gifts for me and my brother.  Now when I was very little, this was always exciting because he’d bring fun, transforming toys or Hello Kitty knick-knacks I’d never seen in the U.S. But by my pre-teen years, I began to dread these homecomings because he’d started to bring … CLOTHES.


As a pre-teen girl, I was pretty sensitive and particular about fashion. I wasn’t very conventional to begin with but I didn’t like to stand out. Although, I wasn’t aware that I already stood out at my preppy, D.C. area, private school in hand-me-downs from my six aunties.  While all the kids at my all-girl, predominantly white, Episcopalian school were head-to-toe in L.L. Bean, J. Crew and Laura Ashley, I wore oversized, neon, second-hand, ‘80s gear and carefully ironed my bangs into a little sausage roll across my forehead every morning.

I have no shame. I’ll share this photo. (c. 1989)

As I got older, my Dad started to bring home all sorts of strange, exotic clothing from the Mama-land – all, oversized, odd-colored and branded with random English words that would form non-sensical phrases. I was SO embarrassed.

One of the last outfits I remember that really horrified pre-teen Betty was a skirt/vest ensemble.  The skirt was literally like a large trash bag – it was made of a slick fabric with a sort of sheen and ballooned out like a ballgown. It cinched at the waist with a visible drawstring cord and the material gathered heavily around the midsection, just like a trash bag – as part of the “look,” I suppose. This monstrosity was colored a pukey, army green with neon orange trim. And of course, it had a few nonsense phrases vertically written in large, white, cursive script, from the waist to the bottom of the skirt.  Now if you can imagine this horrible idea turned into a vest, that was the matching piece up top. Hood included. The entire outfit looked maybe like a take on ‘Paratrooper, Military, Trash Bag Barbie.’

I was MORTIFIED at the thought of wearing this THING. But, I did my best to act enthusiastic to my parents.

Initially, there were a few occasions where I would be forced to wear these Korean ensembles by Mom and Dad. But, overtime as I got older, I managed to hide much of the clothing or “lose” them.

But now as an adult, I find myself WISHING I had saved these vintage pieces. In retrospect, they were amazing!

Traveling Asia as an adult, you’ll see all sorts of English FAILs on clothing and beyond.  It’s now one of my favorite things about traveling the mother continent.  It’s so fascinating and bizarre, there are many blogs and kitschy books inspired by nonsense English spotted around Asia.

Often, the awkward phrasing on signage results from poor translations – which you can only really grasp and comprehend if you know a second language, an Asian one especially. Your typical subject-verb-object composition of a sentence in Romance languages is entirely null and void in Asian languages – as well as entire words and meanings. And in some Asian languages, like Korean, the letters for “l” and “r” are the same; as well as “v” and “b” – which is why you have jokes in poor taste about “robster craws” and such. Ugh. :/

But, I digress – study some linguistics or learn a second language and you’ll get my point. Continue reading “Lost In Translation: On English FAILs Across Asia”

I Thought I Was Being Kidnapped in Thailand Last Night So I Wrote This Blog Post #ViajoSola

Last night, for the first time on my 2+ month travels through Asia, I felt like I might be getting kidnapped and was a little scared for my life.

But maybe my brain was being hypersensitive because I just recently read about two young women who were murdered while backpacking through Ecuador.  The Internet of course was quick to jump to blame the victims for “traveling alone,” which is pretty ridiculous on many levels, but, especially since they were not alone – they were together. TWO of them. But they are blamed for their own deaths because they were “alone,” without the company of a man. Oh Internet. You sexist assholes.

The hashtag #ViajoSola has since been going viral on Twitter in support of women who choose to travel alone, and manless … Like ME!


Last night, I found myself stuck one town over from where I am staying in the Krabi province of Thailand – about a 30-minute drive away. It was past 8 p.m. and the last public “bus” (a pick-up truck with benches in the flatbed) which shuttles people between towns had left. My only option was to find a private taxi which would be about 10 times the price. But, we’re talking the difference between $1.42 for the shared ride or $14 for a taxi – which is a pretty cheap cab fare by Manhattan standards. I wasn’t that distressed.

Me, earlier in the day, awkwardly scuba diving in the Andaman Sea – I don’t “know how to swim”!!

After talking to friendly locals on my options, I hailed down a taxi – also, a pick-up truck where you ride in the flatbed on benches. The car is professionally logo’d and looks as legit as any – so I didn’t even think twice. Instead of 500 baht which seemed to be the norm after talking to the locals, he quoted me 100. I was pleasantly surprised and hopped right in. Continue reading “I Thought I Was Being Kidnapped in Thailand Last Night So I Wrote This Blog Post #ViajoSola”