At least 100 times a day someone on the street double looks and even triple looks as I pedal by. I have tested the voyeuristic market here in Indonesia and warn short sleeves, long sleeves, short pants, hats, scarfs on my head and one day even tried to dress like a boy. None of these efforts make a difference to the attention level a solo women traveler can receive. By mid-day, I sometimes feel like a mutant not a Madonna by all the attention. The attention ranges from a intense I just saw a martian look to a hello in English, Spanish or French to the outright racial word in Indonesian for whitey/foreigner.
Tip one for the solo female traveler in Asia is to expect attention, lots of it and figure out YOUR best approach. The options range from ignoring the cat calls, diverting your eyes to wearing sunglasses. I prefer to join in the feline chorus and meow right back. In many remote villages they don't get a lot of foreign visitors so I usually say hello right back to everyone or at least the first 50. I usually respond in the local language hello I am a misses. The word tourist in Indonesian is masculine so everyone says hi mister. Due to the wide spread love of Michael Jackson I sometimes add hello I am misses and I like Michael Jackson. A basic Michael Jackson number #1 conversation can usually be mustered up with most people. And if that doesn't work the moon dance is entertaining and doesn't require any language. It is important to note that the attention is completely harmless just don't let it do your head in and find a quit place to regroup at times if the attention gets to be a bit much.
Tip two for the solo female traveler, myths exist all over the world concerning women and men too for that matter. As a solo female traveler, I have been asked if I like taking my clothes off in the sun and letting my skin go red, if I drink whiskey and in Australia I was mistaken for a prostitute and was asked if I was working and what I charge. I walked away laughing so hard I thought I might pee my pants. I was wearing dirty shorts fresh from the tent floor, a ripped hippie hat and clearly hadn't showered since college. A fashion myth buster right there on the street corner.
However, some of the stereotypes and myths are warranted because many foreigners flock to the popular beaches of Thailand, Malaysia, India and Indonesia in bikinis to visit the sun. I have nothing against the bikini and own a few (pro-tip/a bikini string is the best bungee robe to lash things to a bicycle rack) but in countries where women are swimming in their long sleeved clothes and local men have hardly ever seen them naked, perhaps as western women we should follow suit of the local culture and fashion. After all, if I farted in Japan where farting is a compliment, I would enjoy the new experience of not excusing myself at the dinner table. Therefore, If you want to wear the g-string bikini there are great clothing optional beaches in Southern Spain, Spanish men are hot and the Mediterranean sea region is truly beautiful.
Tip three for the solo female traveler, there are lots of restaurants, hotels and shops that are operated by women, often by a mother/daughter and her daughter team. In areas ,where I am sticking out like a sore thumb, I naturally float to the company of women. The only times I have ever been asked about drinking whiskey and taking off my clothes is when I accidentally walked in to a room full of drunk men playing cards. On the same token some of the best directions I have ever been given have been late night by sober men. So perhaps the lesson there is never get directions from drunk men in any country. Another myth that may or not prove true!
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