After exploring South East Asia for the last two months, I feel I am in a solid place to share the vast and endless wisdom I now possess…just kidding. But I do have a little guidance and a few tips that I would like to share; which may or may not come in handy one day.
1) Water is your only friend
Asia is hot – just to state the obvious. So you will be drinking a solid 5x the amount of water you drink back in England just to survive the day. I can’t stress enough that water is always the highest of priorities and you must never, I repeat never, turn down free water, since you have got to pay for bottled water in Asia and you will need that life source sooner or later. Probably sooner.
2) Google maps without wifi
Luckily in Asia you will never struggle to find wifi unless you are in a seriously remote location; but usually even the smallest of cafes have this mighty source of life. My main tip is to put a desired destination into Google maps on your smartphone, whilst you are still connected to wifi and then it will continue to direct you even without the connection just by using your GPS – it’s genius.
3) Never take the first offer
Markets in Asia are meant to be bartered in, that is how the business works. So, don’t say yes straight away and if you walk away from the item they usually pitch up with a more suitable offer. You can nearly always find a way to compromise and make a good transaction.
4) Steady, slow and go
When crossing roads in Asia you will quickly realise that the rules are very different to the UK. The roads feel like death traps especially in the chaotic main cities like Phnom Penh and Hanoi. Every driver just looks out for themselves and where they want to go. So, if you want to get across the road then you have to be like everyone else and look out for number one. So be brave, walk calmly, power on through and trust that the seven bikers going 50mph directly towards you will manage to avoid making you into the road decor. Yes it’s terrifying; but it gets easier as you practice.
5) Be respectful
When travelling in an entirely different culture you need to abide by their customers and respect their way of life. So when visiting all the incredibly beautiful temples, you need to make sure that you have your shoulders and knees covered in these places of worship. It’s just manners at the end of the day.
6) Drop your British customs
I know, I know, it feels so wrong throwing away those innate customs that result in us always responding to street sellers, apologising for not doing anything wrong and standing in queues for hours. However in Asia, they rarely queue so just like the rules of driving in Asia, it’s all about getting where you want to go without stopping for others. So unless you want to be waiting in lines that move around you all day, you’ll have to drop your favourite British pass time and get a move on.
7) Watch out for monkeys
These adorable little beggars are thieving experts. They will take any food or drink that you are not clutching for dear life and they are swift and savvy whilst doing so. Just don’t underestimate our fury little friends, they are unbelievably smart. Avoid having any expensive possessions out in the open when near monkeys and watch your back.
8) Keep it locked!
Whilst staying at a hostel in a shared room, we unfortunately ended up being targeted by a thief which resulted in us having a total of £90 stolen. Annoyingly, this incident occurred even after we locked our stuff in our lockers with our own lock and key. Therefore, this thief busted open our lock with a pin, raided our stuff for money and then had the courtesy to re-lock it for us to open later on. So, here’s a serious tip, use a lock with a code cause the ones with just a key still leaves you vulnerable.
9) Airport Accomodation
I feel like kipping in an airport over night is a travel must do; it just makes you feel like an authentic traveller when you rough it on a night in true travelling style. So, if you have an early flight, want to save a few pennies and check something quirky off the bucket list then give sleeping in an airport a go. It’s free, warm and if you are lucky you might even find seats without separators that you can lie down on. To top it off there is an endless supply of shops and restaurants so what more could you want?
10) Give up on the fashion show
You will be a sweaty mess and spend the entire time in Asia resembling a licked jelly baby; so accept your fate. Deodorant is a lovely resource; but the amount of good it actually does unless you apply in every 20 minutes is questionable. But, hey luckily you will be amongst several other individuals who are also rocking that glistening glow look; so just power on and learn how to work instagram to tweak the after photos.
All Image Credits – Fraya Millard