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8 things everybody should know before going to Southeast Asia

  • By Easia Admin
  • August, 10, 2017

Looks like the next wave of travelers is ready for their next exotic journey in Southeast Asia huh? Everybody has booked their flight tickets and accommodation, their whole family has planned everything out, they’ve been shopping for the perfect swimsuit, imagining themselves lying on the beach catching rays. Well, somebody please tell them to sit down a minute because there are some unexpected things to be aware of. Here are 8 things everybody should know before traveling to Southeast Asia.

1) Prepare for all the surprising delicacies: When we say surprising, we mean wild. Because, aside from all the renowned cuisines, people in Southeast Asia are substantially attached to Mother Nature. From fried scorpions, tarantulas, and snake bile, to fertilized duck eggs, blood soup, and dog meat. If there are lots of Bratwursts in Germany, then there are floods of deep-fried tarantulas in the street food stalls of Cambodia – each delicate leg dipped in salt, garlic and oil of course. And when the creepy-crawlies are enough, pass the border to Vietnam or Laos and give fertilized duck eggs (Balut) a shot. These are chicken embryos boiled alive, spiced up, and served in their shells. Apparently, they are super rich in proteins…and as the saying goes: If you want to grow big and strong, protein is what you should be on.

2) The ultimate rule of transportation is that there is no rule. Be creative. Firstly, transport in Southeast Asia is extremely diverse. If its got wheels, its used as transport. The Cambodian and Laotian streets are alive with the sound of tuk-tuks, scooters zoom around Myanmar, and motorcycle taxis (xe om) and cyclos build the foundations of Vietnam. Despite the array of transportation available, it is very normal to see a single contraption completely overflowing with humans of all sizes, fruits and vegetables, trees, dead livestock, pets, building supplies – you name it, these people will move it! Secondly, when it comes to grabbing a taxi, check the correct route and destination first, and ask the drivers two things: the distance and the availability of the car’s meter. Sometimes drivers will exaggerate the distance and charge a higher fee, so being alerted is key. But in general, get ready for the hustle and bustle of organized chaos in this part of the world, because riding on the roads in Southeast Asia is an art form not experienced anywhere else! Everybody shares the boulevard: cyclists, motorcycle riders, and taxi drivers, people peddling cyclos, tuk-tuks drivers, men, women, teenagers, children, dogs, cats, chickens and rats. After all, sharing is caring.

3)Learn how to cross the roads like brave Mulan, but don’t be blindfolded. So, in Southeast Asia, there is an unwritten rule: the bigger the vehicle, the more respect it earns. Buses surpass trucks, trucks beat cars, cars rule over motorbikes, motorbikes exceed bicycles, and eventually all of these trump pedestrians. In short, crossing the roads is a challenge for newcomers, expats, and even some locals since all of those vehicles will be coming at you sounding their melodious blazing horns. Therefore, make sure to look right, look left, look straight ahead, look behind, and look a little bit more to the right, a little bit more to the left. Stay sharp, be prepared, and walk with confidence…it will be fun they say.

Picture lady in traffic

4) There is a dress code when going to holy sites. There are thousands of religious complexes throughout Southeast Asia, from Laos, Vietnam to Cambodia and Myanmar. The summer heat in these countries can be intense, but it doesn’t mean people can wear whatever they want or dress up in the name of style. Covering knees and shoulders is a must and clothes cannot be too tight. Particularly in Myanmar and Cambodia, locals still wear their traditional longyis (a 2-meter long cylindrical piece of cloth worn around the waist and draping down to the feet) most of the time. Otherwise, people will stare and whisper about all the inappropriateness; in the worse case scenario you’ll be sent out of the religious complex for having been culturally disrespectful.

Picture monk umbrella

5) Foreigners are, apparently, Hollywood Stars. Let’s imagine how celebrities are usually treated. People greet them on the streets, asking if they can take pictures with them, or try to talk to them. Yeah, it’s a normal bona fide celeb life everywhere. In Southeast Asia? Pretty much the same thing, especially in less touristy, rural areas. Some people will just stare, some will try to approach and say hello, some might ask for a picture (this is weird but fun), and some will try to have a conversation with westerners to practice their English. In this case, have fun, smile, wave back to the lovely kids, and embrace the uniqueness of your new celebrity status (provided it’s not uncomfortable).

Picture Brangelina

6) Learn to haggle like a pro. Prepare to dive head first into a situation where haggling is involved. Whether it happens to be in the outdoor supermarkets or a souvenir shop in town, stay calm and negotiate the price. Usually, the more touristy an area, the more prices are charged to a product or service. It might feel uncomfortable to bargain, but isn’t this worth the experience to try? Here are some tips we offer: stay calm, get to know the price of the product or service beforehand by researching or ask a local, speak a little bit of the local language (numbers are a must!), and pretend to take off if the bargaining does not seem to be agreeable from both sides. Follow these rules and you should get what you want at a suitable price, and not to mention a glowing sense of achievement for having done a very local task.
Picture Shop

7) For the love of all humankind, go for ethical tourism. Behind the booming tourism in Southeast Asia are thousands of stories to be told. Whatever traveling story you are creating, make sure it’s an ethical one that contributes to the conservation of these wonderful destinations, rather than hindering it. Firstly, say no to any kind of orphanage visit. Orphanage tourism exists mostly in Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia. A visit involves taking photos and playing with the children, often in run-down environments, and you will not be contributing to the orphanage itself – any money you hand over will not go where you intended it to. Not to mention, the delicate psychological state of these children should only be approached by trained/certified professionals and volunteers. These tourist ventures skew the purpose of orphanages towards for-profit businesses rather than the philanthropic purposes they were originally intended for. Secondly, the truth behind wildlife tourism is painful. Elephants and other animals such as dolphins, monkeys, and tigers are suffering from unethical tourism. Instead of being in their natural habitats, these animals are held in captivity and experiencing psychological damages. Tourism is not all about taking, it’s also about giving. We all need to make our ways to protect human and animal rights, and contribute to the sustainable development of the region and the world.

Pictures of elephant painting

8) Don’t rush. Again, seriously, don’t rush. Traveling in Southeast Asia is much more rewarding when travel slowly. Sit down and have sugar cane juice after a day trip to the rural areas, sip some fresh coconut juice while admiring the ancient architecture in Luang Prabang, enjoy the famous Vietnamese coffee or fresh beer during your stroll in Hanoi, find peace in the sunsets. Moments will come and go, and what remains is mere memory. So allow yourself to breathe and linger in the present, live at a slower pace, and embrace your wonderful time in Southeast Asia.

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