The Day of a Thousand Hellos

December 29, 2012

Just how many times did I say "hello" today? I asked myself that question recently in Cambodia (where we are currently cycling). We have been greeting warmly everywhere in this country, but while cycling the tiny roads and paths along The Mekong, the greeting got intense.

Everyone said hello--parents, grandparents, students walking to school, workers out harvesting rice, the men serving coffee on the side of the road, woman making sugar cane juice, builders working on new houses, fishermen mending their nets, old women with mouths stained red from betal, little kids waving from trees they'd climbed, people on scooters, and bikes, and even farmers driving ox carts.

And they did use the word "hello". In Myanmar they say "mingalaba", in Laos it is "sabaidee". But in Cambodia, everyone called, yelled, shouted and even sang "hello".

I believe everyone who greets me should receive a hearty hello in return, not just a little wave of the hand or nod of the head. But after hours of responding, my voice was getting tired. 

I starting counting. In the first thirty minute period, I said hello 91 times. I only counted the times I responded to someone's greeting. The second count came in at 107. I was saying hello around 200 times an hour.

We spent at least six hours on the bikes that day. So I can conservatively estimate that I had a day of a thousand hellos.

And I loved it.

Photo by Kat Marriner


SIGHTS AND SOUNDS is posted every other Friday. Willie Weir is a columnist for Adventure Cyclist magazine. His latest book Travels with Willie: Adventure Cyclist will inspire you to hit the road and just might change the way you approach bicycle travel. He lives in Seattle with his wife Kat. You can read about their adventures at


Anonymous December 30, 2012, 3:19 PM

Maybe try focusing on the positive aspect of the story. About how humans can be good people and how we can bridge cultural boundaries and not the negative.

COL Scott December 29, 2012, 11:19 PM

How did you avoid land mines??

Anonymous December 29, 2012, 10:30 PM

And I love the story. It just shows my firm belief that bicycling helps us see the humanity in each individual and gives us hope.

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