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Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Being plus size in South East Asia.

 photo 10343656_10155072197625571_7971071159165566675_n.jpg




As you may know over Christmas my boyfriend (now Fiance ahhh) Dan and I traveled for 5 weeks across parts of South East Asia. It was perhaps the most challenging and incredible 5 weeks of our lives and was something we had been planning for months, I read pretty much every forum/blog going on the internet about what to do/see/ and eat in Thailand and Cambodia. One day I stumbled on a forum all about being Fat in Asia and the experiences of plus size people who had been made to feel uncomfortable about their size when travelling. Anxiety is something I suffer with a lot so as soon as I read this panic mode set in for me. What if I don't fit in the seats of the internal flights? What if the chairs are too small for me? What if I lose my suitcase and have no clothes... where will I buy clothes that fit me?! It got so bad that I ordered my own seat belt extender (from Ebay) and Dan and I packed half of our clothes in each bag in case one got lost. My preparation went to crazy levels and I prepared for every awkward thing that might happen, you know, just in case. 


When we arrived into Bangkok and boarded our internal flight to Chiang Mai I got out my seat belt extender anticipating that I would need to use it, and it turned out that it wasn't needed at all. Air Asia 's seat belt fitted just fine, in fact more comfortably than they ever had on a budget UK airline like east jet. The flight attendants didn't look at me any differently, well not that I noticed anyway. To be honest my experience in Chiang Mai was pretty much entirely positive, people didn't seem to pay any mind to me or Dan. Our first day there we decided to get an infamous Thai massage, these two little Thai women handed me what essentially was a pair of Pajamas and they were so tight on me that when I put them on all three of us giggled. Normally, my immediate response would be to freak out and feel embarrassed but I decided to not let it ruin our fist day. When they were massaging my body they would sometimes laugh and really feel my body which I have to say was a bit weird, but honestly I think they were intrigued. A few days later because the massages were just so good we decided to have another one. This time we were in a different place and the Thai lady was plus size.  I honestly was shocked because I had not seen one plus size Thai person at all. and when I arrived inside the shop a young guy who was also working there asked if he could translate something that the lady was saying to me. He began by telling me that the lady had seen me every day walking from our guest house and said she thought I was the singer Adele, he then went on to say...

"She thinks you are very fat and beautiful and she wishes she could have nice clothes like you"

Many women might find being called Fat offensive, some people just don't like that term at all but I didn't mind, in fact I left with the biggest smile on my face. You see, something I came to learn quickly was that for most people calling a person fat was the same as calling a person tall, it was just a descriptor and to be called fat and beautiful in the same sentence was something I had never ever experienced. As we moved on to the Islands a few days later, again I had no real issue, there was the occasional stare but nothing outright rude or upsetting which was shocking considering this was the place where my body was on show the most wearing swimwear and cover ups.

As a blogger think its so easy for myself, and other bloggers out there to put up this glamorised version of our lives where everything is perfect. Many never share the difficult or nitty gritty bits of their lives and even though I like to keep this space as positive as possible I think its best I also share some of the difficult and challenging things I experience as a plus size woman. I cannot not lie to myself or you (as great as my experience in Chiang Mai was) and say that at times it wasn't difficult for me when handling the way I was treated as a fat person in Asia. Cambodia was a completely different ball game altogether and I want to open up about this so other plus size people who plan on travelling are able to understand what they may come up against and how to best prepare for that.

After 27+ hours of travelling from Thailand Dan and I finally arrived into Cambodia and checked ourselves into a cute little guest house, we were exhausted and hungry and ventured into the town to get some dinner. We took a tuk tuk into the main area of town to Pub Street known for its many massage stations and restaurants and wandered along to find somewhere to try some traditional Cambodian food. It was so busy and really really warm. I was wearing a Carmakoma plain black dress with some sandals and had my hair thrown up in a bun, as we were walking I noticed at the side of my eye a group of Korean people outside of a bar point at me, they then all began laughing, pointing and shouting . Confused as hell, we carried on walking, and when out of view I looked at Dan to see if he saw what happened. A feeling of numbness came over me, my eyes began to sting as I asked Dan if he saw them laughing at me. He nodded that he did and threatened to go back over and say something but I told him no. We carried on our way and found a small restaurant and ordered our food, but I sat their pretty much in silence feeling paranoid and anxious and then I asked Dan to take me home. That night I cried because of all the time spent in Thailand I had never once been made to feel so low. In the morning we had a trip to the waterfalls of Kulen Mountain and after a good cry and a good nights sleep I felt a ton better only to arrive at the waterfall and again become a focus of peoples attention. I had monks staring at me, and a group of people taking pictures of me in my Bikini. I became acutely aware of my size more than I ever had before and decided to leave. As we walked back up the metal stairway to leave the waterfall people coming down began to point and one woman even grabbed my arms and squeezed my skin. My face flushed red and began to have what I can only describe as a mild panic attack, Dan began to get very angry and shouted to the people that were pointed whilst he found me a seat and gave me water. I had to sit there trying to stabilize my breathing whilst people continued to walk past and point at me. Finally my strength came back and wiped my tears and walked to the car, my first reaction was to ask Dan if we could go back to the hotel but then something in side me said no, I had posted the day before on my Instagram about the night in the street and I decided to re-read all the comments. There were so many lovely, wonderful thoughtful comments from women all across the world sharing the experiences of size discrimination, many talking of experiences in South East Asia and it made me really stop and think about what I would be gaining by leaving for hotel again. 

So here's the thing, I thought that my experience was all about me when really it wasn't, cultural differences are something you cannot avoid when you visit another country and the reality is that in countries such a Cambodia people are very poor, and in their eyes fat equals wealth. I took the attention negatively and let it really hurt me when in reality they most probably weren't even thinking of me in that light. Yes you will come ac cross people who are ignorant but at the same time to have the privilege and opportunity of being able to travel the world is something that isn't accustomed to everyone. Many people are ignorant because they have never seen anything else other that their usual surroundings and they simply are intrigued and interested even if they don't show it in the politest of ways.

I want people to know that size does not stop you from doing anything you want in life, it didn't stop me whilst we were away and although at times it wasn't an enjoyable experience being stared at etc as soon as I firmly said no to people taking my pictures or smiled back when people stared, did I stop myself getting so upset. This world is a wonderful place and it would be a shame to miss out on it just because you are worried someone will be staring at you. Life goes on and in around 0.2 seconds they will have forgotten all about you and moved on to the next interesting tourist.
Flying out to Thailand as a size 22 woman was an interesting experience but,what was more of an experience was getting to do the things I never dreamed in my life I could do. Please don't let anything stop you from trying to achieve your dreams, don't let the fear of not fitting in an airplane stop you from flying, don't let the worry of being to big for a boat stop you from at least trying to get in. If you truly aren't happy and want to lose weight don't let these things shame you into doing so. Life is so short and no matter what your size you deserve to experience the absolute best of it and this is exactly what I did.

Kayaking in the Ocean

<img src="Kayaking Ao Nang.jpg" alt=Kayaking in Ao Nang" />


Trekking uphill through the jungle rain forest
<img src="Jungle Trek Khao Sok" alt="trekking in Khao sok" />


Snorkeling in Koh Lipe

<img src="Koh Lipe Thailand snorkeling" alt="underwater snorkeling photo" />

Swimming under waterfalls in Cambodia 

 <img src="Kulen Waterfall.jpg" alt="photo of kulen waterfall" />

Bathed Elephants in a river in Chiang Mai

<img src="Elephant Nature Park Thailandjpg" alt="Bathing elephants" />



Boat rides across huge lakes
<img src="Chiew Lan lake boat " alt="boat ride across chiew lan lake" />

and much much more.  (as you will see in our video below)








20 comments:

  1. OMG I can relate to this post so much. I have so many random experiences of people calling me fat as I walk by, or just staring and laughing. The most painful things happened here in my country, FInland. Once when I was younger I was out with my friends and saw a cute Guy, so I went to talk to him. He had a guitare and before I had a chance to say anything he took his guitar and started to play a random music and sing "lady is fat so vety fat" or something like that. I remember how I felt - like someone kicked me in the stomach. It was so painful that i remember it still after ten years.

    These days I am very anxious about how I look. I am lucky tho I have a boyfriend who loves me and thinks I am beautiful. Still, sometimes I give him hard time..If I hate myself, how can you love me?

    It helps alot to see someone like you, who is so brave to share those painful things and turn them into strenght. Thank you for that. You are amazing and beautiful.

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  2. In the last couple of years, but more so in the last twelve months, I have consciously decided to stop hating and limiting myself because of my size and to be honest, it's been great and amazing and empowering and then the other day, I had a bit of a slip up where I found myself being negative and I felt like I'd totally regressed and lost all the progress I felt I was making and I felt really shit about it, like I was my fifteen year old self again But, then I realised that this is totally normal. That I'm still allowed to be scared or anxious of things but I need to make sure that that fear doesn't stop me because that's when my progress will have really been lost. This post was such a good read for me and came at the perfect time because we all have moments of weakness. Even you. Even the people that seem like they have it all sorted and that's okay.

    Sometimes I hate writing comments because I honestly feel like I just sound so cliche and cheesy but reading and following body positive blogs and Instagram accounts (like yours) has totally changed my life and sometimes, I just think you should remember that not only have you learnt to be proud of your own body but you've managed to make thousands of people also proud of theirs.

    Like seriously, you should always try and remember that :)

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  3. Hi Callie, thank you to write this very personal post. I am a plus size myself and originally come from Indonesia but I've been living in Berlin-Germany for this past 6 years. Being plus size my entire life, I am used to my relatives or my parents' friends or my friends or random people calling me fat or trying to lecture me of the disadvantages being fat. Thank God I've built a thick skin so Those kind of people don't really bother me at all. But do you know what I am most afraid of? Children. Or teenagers. And I find the children and teenagers in Germany are way more impolite, rude and ignorant. I got called fat a lot in public in Berlin compare to Indonesia. I got starred a lot but very rarely people in Indonesia call me fat publicly. In Germany , it is a different story. Weird isn't it? Because I also expected people in europe being more understanding, polite and less ignorant. But sadly I don't experience it in Germany, maybe it is different in the UK though. I sometimes feel very insecure if I see children looking at me in subway or public places because I am afraid they wll call me fat or names loudly. People in Germany are not the most open too, so living there as a foreigner is not the easiet. Gladly I almost finish my study so I'll be able to come back home soon :) Speaking about fashion though, I got to admit that we are so spoiled in Europe compare to Asia :)

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  4. Patricia Moral Solés6 May 2015 at 10:31

    Beautiful post, it brought a tear to my eye but you kept it really positive and it's like a breath of fresh air, you and Dan look mega happy, I wish you all the best x

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  5. Nadja Farewell6 May 2015 at 10:31

    I haven't seen that video yet! AWESOME! Did you use a go pro? Or sth similar?

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  6. With Love, Lottie6 May 2015 at 10:32

    I love this post Callie! I'm slightly larger than average and am visiting thailand in january and was paranoid about whether I would be affected by This. Reading your posts makes me so confident about my size. You are beautiful inside & out and inspire so many girls every day!
    XO charlotte
    withlovelottie.uk

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  7. Thanks for posting this Callie, you have made my day! I am travelling to Chaing Mai and Phuket next week with my hubby for our 5 year anniversary and I have been panicking about the trip, to the point where I am in tears most nights and ready to cancel it! This has been so helpful and reasuring and really boosted my confidence! As a size 22 I always worry about plane seats and things like that, too embarrassed to have massages and not wanting to do anything in case I'm too fat or won't fit or whatever! I really didn't want that to ruin my trip as this is really a once in a lifetime experience, so I am going to take your advice and not let anything hold me back! Even if people do stare! I'm so glad you had a good trip and congratulations on your engagement! You are a real inspiration :)

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  8. You are beautiful, and this post is so instructive. Thank you for being brave enough to share it. And do remember you are a knockout!

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  9. Maria Węgrzynowska6 May 2015 at 12:49

    THANK YOU! Really, thank you for this post. I really needed to read something like this. I'm a plus size girl and currently live in London but I'm going to Thailand in August for a month, mostly to volunteer in Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai but also to backpack a bit through the Thailand islands. Recently I also came across opinions that South Asia is not fat-friendly location. But you gave me strength to not give up and just take it as it is. People may stare, they may laugh (they do it anyway even here, in UK or anywhere else in Europe) but they won't stop me from experiencing this crazy adventure and they won't take the excitement out of it. We have thick skin and elastic hearts, us big girls and we can get through anything. Thank you for reminding me of that.

    Also, quick question. I saw on the video that you rode on the motorcycles. Was it ever an issue being overweight? Did they every tell you that you are too heavy to ride it? Because I would like to try but I worry that my weight may be an issue.

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  10. Such a beautiful post and so many amazing experiences. Me and my boyfriend look into it sometimes, we'll definitely go in the future. I had no idea it was that harsh on a plus size woman, I don't think I'd be able to enjoy my trip if I had people staring at me and mocking me.

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  11. Lovely post Callie, and that video is amazing!! It all looks so incredibly beautiful and I'm glad that you didn't let the negative experiences stop you from experiencing all those wonderful things. You look truly happy and so free!
    A lot of poor people in foreign countries haven't seen fat people before, so I think there is a novelty value there. Perhaps they take photos as they are so surprised by what they have seen, that they need proof of it to show their friends and family. Like you said, they do equate fatness with wealth, so they may even thought of you as a celebrity or something! Some of them may well just have been plain right mean and prejudice, but you just can't let these people's opinions control how you live your life.
    You also had a fantastic selection of swimwear!!!

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  12. This was a beautiful read! Thank you for being so honest.

    Silly Medley: Lifestyle and Travel

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  13. As a size 22 myself, i struggle with my size and have daily battles with food and self esteem. Reading through Callies blog and the comments, does no one feel the need to tackle their size to prevent being treated like this in the future? Are you all really happy the way you are. I cant say i am but spend my life battling!! :(

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  14. There will always be people who are bigger, there always has been even if you through the centuries. If people want to lose weight for their happiness then of course they should. That is not to say though people should have to deal with the ignorance of others. We will all never look the same so our best bet is to be open minded and understanding to those that are different. x

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  15. Queen of Small Things7 May 2015 at 03:02

    What a truly awesome trip and gorgeous pictures. The only thing that went through my head was wow - what a fab thing to do while you're young and you don't have any kids. To pick up on the plus size topic, my husband got stared at in Japan for being over 6ft with long hair. Only there's no stigma attached to being 6ft with long hair. So, the first step to taking control back is in our own heads. Fat is good if fat means you have the wealth to eat and travel. I loved reading this, thanks.

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  16. Babe one thing to say welcome to Asia.U know we have the tiniest woman here in asia especially sg.Been born n bred here i m.being called a giant at size 18.They like to equate size means happiness.I dun give a damn.Not everyone born to be the same size.Imagine everyone size the same the world will be boring.Anyway u look gorgeous in all the pictures.Wish u the best n please come to sg.I swear nobody will stare at u n u even have clothes to buy n wear.I am.proud to be a plus size.Aim now is to be plus size healthy.

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  17. Hi Callie, i'm so sorry for that experience you had, i am an Indonesian and i know how ignorant we (in S.E.A) can be sometimes. I myself is considered big for an Asian girl (and i'm a size 8 UK *LOL*), i'm still being teased a lot because i am not skinny enough, etc. With age, i learn to not give a damn, and that's the way the culture is here so i can either let it keep on upsetting me or start ignoring it and live my life to the fullest-but i truly feel you. I hope you know that there are a lot of of who are polite!

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  18. Lucy Scott Evans23 July 2015 at 08:13

    Thanks for this post. I have found your blog through your amazing article in The Guardian. I am travelling to Japan in just under 10 days and have been inwardly dreading it because last time we were there I was stroked and prodded and heard the word "fat" more times than I wish to remember. When I was in Thailand I swore I would NEVER go back, that was 10 years ago and I hope my skin has thickened since then, obviously not as I was only crying to my husband last night that I was dreading being fat in Japan again. I'm afraid the Chinese tea has been out ... I am going to read your blog and try and do a bit of inward CBT because Japan is the best place on the planet and I want to enjoy it - not moan and groan the whole time nothing fits me (obviously) and people are staring (in my head?), having read the comments I think the saddest thing is that "fat shaming" seems to be the last accepted form of public bullying left. I feel sad people in Finland or Germany have experienced. I have had it many times here in the UK, "you would be so beautiful if you lost weight" is my favourite line .. AGGHRR ... just AGGHRR .. but thank you for this wonderful blog, I am off to do more reading :)

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  19. As a Korean American I'm so sorry about how the group of Koreans acted in Cambodia. As someone who's been anywhere between US 8-16 (with US8 being considered pretty darn overweight in Korea), I too suffer from constant criticisms and nagging and rude stares when I am in Korea, to the point that I have vowed to avoid visiting unless I absolutely have to. This is such a shame because I do harbor genuine love for the people and culture of Korea, too, which after was my home for the first 12 years of my life. Can we say love-hate? I haven't figured out my position nor the culture, but I just wanted to reach out because 1) I get it, and 2) I admire your bravery, maturity, and perspective in being able to share this with the world without bitterness or hatred. GOOD for you.

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