We have recently left Asia after a crazy 5 months. Here are 10 things that we wish we knew before we left home.
1.Don’t be afraid to eat local street food
When we arrived in Asia we were so terrified of getting sick that we just ate cereal and bread for 3 days, and surprise surprise we still got sick. Some of the most delicious, and cheapest, food that we have eaten has been local street food and we have not gotten sick once from it. So eat the salad and the fruit, enjoy the ice cubes in your drink (majority is made from filtered water anyways), sanitise your hands before you eat and you’ll be sound. I mean you probably will get diarrhoea but it passes.
2. People hack up phlegm all the time on the street.
When we arrived first we really didn’t know what to make of this, but in Asia this is a totally normal practice, so don’t get offended!
3. Karaoke is everywhere.
From nightclubs in Koh San Road to the mountains in Sa Pa Vietnam, there is no escaping karaoke in South East Asia. This is not limited to bars or clubs either. We have walked past numerous houses to hear people belting out the latest top hits on their own personal microphone in their front room.
4. Rainy season has less rain in 3 months then Ireland has on a summers day.
Okay so maybe that is a bit exaggerated, but we were so worried about travelling in rainy season, and honestly it didn’t effect us much at all. We found that the majority of the time it would be really nice all morning and early afternoon, and then after 4pm would bucket it down. So if you just get up early and see what you want to see it wouldn’t effect your plans much. What we didn’t realise about rainy season however is the humidity! It didn’t ruin our experience and we learned to just embrace the sweaty life but if possible it would probably be more comfortable to travel during dry season. Rainy season is different in every country so just do your research better than we did before you go.
5. Beeping is not a sign of aggression
We are so conditioned to getting offended when someone beeps their horn at you on the road that this one took us a while to get used to. Beeping or honking is used as indicators, as a sign that they are overtaking or undertaking another vehicle and sometimes it seems like they are just beeping for the craic.
6. There is plastic and rubbish everywhere
This is one that I don’t think we will ever get used to. Unfortunately everywhere we have been in the past 5 months has had plastic and rubbish all over the sides of the street, in the drains, on the beaches and floating in the rivers. It is probably what we have struggled with the most to be honest. We have witnessed people throwing rubbish out of train windows, throw plastic off the side of a boat and on the side of the street. It’s very hard to watch, but unfortunately we couldn’t change the mindset of an entire continent so we had to learn how to be conscious travellers and ensure we leave each place as we found it or maybe even a little better eg. beach clean ups.
Tips for being a responsible traveller–
- Bring reusable bottles
- We made a rule that we would only drink coffee or smoothies if we had time to sit in and drink it- no keep cup, no drink!
- Bring usable straws- bamboo straws are available all over to buy
- Use shampoo and shower gel bars of soap instead of bottles- this also saves place in your bag so win win.
7. Not everyone wants to scam you
This was something we learned pretty quickly. When we started travelling we had our guards up with everyone, worried that they were trying to scam us in some way, but in reality 9 times out of 10 people just want to chat and see where you’re from and hear your travel stories. Obviously you will have some who are not 100% honest, but you have that everywhere. There is no need to be any more cautious in Bangkok or Siem Reap than it is in somewhere like Paris or Barcelona.
8. Think outside the box
This is probably more of a general travel tip rather then specifically for Asia. You won’t get the real feel for the culture by just visiting the top 5 things on trip advisor. Some of our best moments over the past 5 months have been in places that we had not heard of until speaking to other travellers about where they have been or speaking to local people and asking where their favourite place is. We have also found that staying in Homestay’s with local families is a great way of getting to know the local culture.
9. Don’t be afraid to haggle
Throughout the many markets in Asia we have had to learn to bargain for everything from fridge magnets to clothes. Don’t feel rude by not giving the asking price. When street vendors see tourists coming they will add on what is called a ‘tourist tax’ and hike up the price of everything. We have been told that always offer 50% of their asking price and expect to get the item for one third of the asking price. If they refuse to give you a good price then start walking away and I guarantee that they will come running after you or you will get the same thing up the street for cheaper.
10. Be prepared for the culture shock
Everything is so different. The noises, the smells, the lack of personal space. You will more than likely be overwhelmed at first, but it will pass. We probably wouldn’t recommend starting in New Delhi like we did, but to be honest after getting over the culture shock from there I feel like we can tackle anything. Just sit back and enjoy the madness and we promise you will grow to love it.
Thanks for reading,
Róisín & Bernard