The Few Days Before Departure One

Now I find myself three days before departure and aside from buying my ticket and having my yellow fever jab all I have done in preparation for my adventure to South America is get my rucksack down from the old man’s loft.

There it is lying on my bedroom floor.

Atop of it is two pairs of flips flops and a packet of tissues that I have apparently deemed necessary for a backpacking trip to at least one, probably more, South American countries.

I like to pack light and I always go with the attitude that as long as I have my passport and money then nothing else really matters as I’ll be able to buy whatever is needed in the area I am in. I also like to support the local economy, well that’s my excuse for buying stuff.

When I was 24- an age when other people deem it reasonable to go off backpacking- I went on a five month trip to South East Asia. Taking in Thailand first for a few weeks then on to Cambodia, Vietnam and lastly little Laos. A few months into the trip all my clothes were a dirty brown colour (due to the local launderette usually being the brown Mekong river) so I decided to purchase some clothes whilst in Vietnam.

As an average sized female in the UK I have no trouble getting clothes that fit.  A quick Google search tells me that the average Vietnamese woman is 1.5m/4 foot 9 inches. I am 1.7m/5 foot 6 inches. So I am approximately half a foot taller and this proved troublesome when buying clothes in Vietnam.

However, being an enterprising and hard working lot the Vietnamese do not let you leave their shops empty handed without putting up quite the fight. I was offered men’s clothes, told that trousers aren’t meant to come down as far as your ankles and one kindly man even told me he has size XXXL out the back. Yes I promise you he said X three times.

Overall, shopping for clothes in a country where the people are smaller than you is a fairly humiliating experience. The result was I went to a tailor and got some handmade clobber. One item was a pair of jeans. After having a fitting and all was well the seamstress told me to go away and come back in an hour as she wanted to press the clothes before letting me take them. What a great and thorough service she is providing, I thought to myself. After collecting the clothes and taking them back to my lodgings I found that she has starched a line right down the middle of both legs which was not the look I was really going for as a slightly dirty traveller type. The crease never fully left.

I suppose, therefore, I have formed my own conclusion in that I really ought to be a little more prepared in what I am taking with me. First stop is Peru. The coast will be warm and sunny, chance of a shower. The Andes will be mild and damp, cold in the evening. The jungle a steamy hot tropical mess. I am finding it hard to pack light when I need to cover for such a wide range of weathers. I’m doing ‘a Janna’ and ignoring it all until the last minute when I’ll do all the packing in the few hours before departure. It’s worked well up until now so I’m sure it’ll be fine this time.

getting measured up, Hoi An March 2006
Getting measured for clothes in Hoi An, Vietnam March, 2006

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