China's first blind backpacker
Cao Shengkang is perhaps China's first blind backpacker to have traveled abroad alone.
The 35-year-old has just completed his 19-day tour of Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
"Although I can't see, I am able to visualise the beautiful sceneries based on the descriptions of others around me.
"I'm also able to enjoy the food and drinks. I really had fun," said Cao, who lost his eyesight in a car accident when he was eight.
Cao learned massage to make a living. He opened his own massage stores in 2007 but shut down the business last year and went to Sanya in Hainan province to learn how to sail.
He had hoped to sail around the world but had to give up the idea because of his disability, and after finding out how expensive and unrealistic it is for him.
Cao decided to tour the few Southeast Asian countries first because of their proximity to China and the lower cost. He spent about 4,000 yuan (RM1,995) on his tour.
But it wasn't all smooth.
"The key is to be brave and just ask people," he said.
Cao remembered the first time he had to buy food on his own. With no one to ask, he used his sense of smell to find a food stall.
Language was another major barrier. He only speaks Mandarin and knew only a few English words, so he had to use body language until he had to unbuckle his pants to signal that he was looking for a toilet.
He met some good Samaritans on the way. In Chiang Mai of Thailand, he got acquainted with a group of Chinese tourists, who brought him to a supermarket and treated him to dinner.
When he left for Bangkok, they gave him the phone number of a Thai woman who speaks Mandarin, so that he could call if he needed translation.
Cao also met another kind soul, a Thai backpacker, who sent him to a bus station, bought him a ticket and some food.
"The man touched my eyes, gave me a hug and said 'God will protect you'. I was touched by his kindness," Cao recalled.
In Cambodia, he met a Belgian man who spoke Chinese. The warmhearted man not only helped Cao with his daily needs but also accompanied him around the city.
He also gave Cao some English notes, such as "help me to book a room" and "help me to go back to China", so that Cao could show these to others when necessary.
"I want to express my gratitude to those who helped me throughout my journey," he said. - China Daily
Images: China Daily
Published May 25, 2012