The Hello Mister Trail

Once sorted out my visa extension (corruption paid) and laundry (after the rainy Rinjani climb my clothes were chemical weapons) I headed to Sumbawa.

Sumbawa is a nice islands that sees almost no tourist, apart form a bunch of surfers. It is a top destination on the hello mister trail, I just made this up and I like it. From now on I will use the term to refer to the places where tourists are seen as Unidentified Foreign Objects. Places on the trail are quite different among them but they share some common features:

  • English is mostly not spoken and the few locals who are able to produce some basics will chase you for a friendly talk.
  • Often children will point at the UFO and loudly exclaim “bule, falang…” or similar. Either they welcome you with enthusiasm or hide scared.
  • People will not try to scam the tourist so no need to ask for the price first. Sometimes taxi drivers and other of the same kind may occur in an exception to this rule.
  • Local will greet the UFO with a big smile and a “hello mister” (hence the name) or any other friendly greeting in their native language. Be aware they have a sixth sense to spot foreigners, even in extreme conditions. On the darkest night you still will get lots of “hello mister” from speedy motorbike riders.
  • Quite often people would like to take pics with you as if you were a famous football player or a hot chick.
  • Kindness gestures are common, including sometimes free lifts, food or accommodation. Efforts to speak the local language are usually highly rewarded.

You won’t find package tourist on the trail as they see it as scary, difficult or can’t cope with the lack of facilities. Neither banana pancake fans as they regard these places as boring: nothing to do there.

Most parts of Indonesia (Bali is NOT Indonesia) and Myanmar fall into this trail. In Cambodia or Lao it requires some research to find these places when in Thailand is really difficult and you will need to search for places not listed on the Lonely Planet (this trick works pretty much everywhere).

Places fall in this trail for different reasons: no major attractions, difficult to reach or sometimes just the tourist industry didn’t aim at them for unknown reasons.

Back to Sumbawa… The 1st night I managed to get a lift to a remote secluded beach (remember the kindness gesture bullet point). Big surprise, there was a group of surfers (my favorite) setting a bonfire for the sunset. Huge wtf??? What are the chances??? They were nice and let me get into their endogamic society and enjoy their coolness for the night. I can’t avoid been sarcastic, actually they were nice guys and even got me a beer. This time I shouldn’t take on them.

I spent the rest of my time there wandering around the island as an UFO. As usual I enjoyed a lot the food abundant local markets. Nothing bits the thrill of haggling hard over that yummy pineapple with an old lady to end up downing the price $0.10.

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