TIPS: How to Survive in South East Asia

HEY GUYS! I’m alive!

Yeah I know, it’s been almost four months. Sorry. I was travelling the entire time and I only got back two weeks ago! And I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to change my blogging style because I have too many photos for WordPress. So maybe I’ll only upload 3 photos or so per entry instead of 20-30. You don’t need to see everything I saw, right? Aside from that though, I’ll still talk about where I stayed, what I ate, and what I did, general advice, etc. So the format of my blogs wont change, just the number of photos.

But anyway, in this post, I want to summarize everything I learned while travelling South East Asia (SEA). Early January, I went to Tokyo, then Seoul… and then all over SEA for about 2.5 months. Then back to Seoul and now I’m finally home (Toronto). I’ve been doing a lot of resting and applying to 23958725 part-time jobs to kill time this summer … counting down the days until my adult life begins in September.

SO before I become braindead from all the boredom and lack of intellectual stimulation, here are some tips on how to survive SEA.

  1. Never buy from the first place. Ever. You think they’re being nice to you, but everyone is trying to rip you off. They’ll ALWAYS say “the original price is X but because you’re pretty and I like you, I’ll sell it to you for Y”. B to the S! Don’t buy a word they say and don’t buy at their prices. Always, always look around. Even if they yell after you being like “OKAY OKAY I GIVE TO YOU AT PRICE Z” just walk away. I promise that you’ll find an equal if not BETTER deal next door. You have to get an idea of how much those items cost in that island/city/place before you decide you’re getting a deal. Yes, it might be 10 cents because everything’s cheap in SEA but everything adds up. Believe me.. I’m pretty damn broke now.
  2. Always cut the price in half. No time to look around and take my advice #1? Cut the price in half. Yeah, sounds ridiculous but they doubled it for sure. You’re a tourist. They know $5, $10 means nothing to you. But this is so much for them. You can literally eat 3-5 meals for $10 in SEA.. now are you willing to blow that on an item that you should really only be paying $2 for?
  3. Always have toilet paper. SEA is … sometimes really disgusting. They have those toilets that are actually holes in the ground and you have to squat and see everything that comes out of you.. and then there’s no way to flush other than this bucket of water that OTHER DIRTY HANDS have touched. You use this bucket to pour water into the so-called toilet and manually flush everything down. And then you probably want to use the water on your hands, but how to touch bucket handle without actually touching bucket handle? How to wipe? TP is your best friend.
  4. Never assume that the bus will be on time. Self-explanatory… always guesstimate extra time when you’re trying to decide how long it’ll take to get somewhere. It takes time to figure things out, especially during transfers.
  5. Board Viet Jet early or don’t buy from them at all. I’m still so angry at them but long story short, we missed their flight after waiting at the airport for 3 hours… how did that happen? We still don’t know. Our theory is that everyone on that plane are ghosts because we definitely didn’t see anyone boarding. The airline had zero sympathy for us. I probably sound like an entitled millennial but it was a long day, we spent it in the airport, we even got kicked out of a cab that was trying to rip us off, and then we missed our flight for literally no reason.. so yeah. Viet Jet can suck it.
  6. Don’t use the wet wipes. They’re right in front of you at restaurants. Vietnam is notorious for this. They cost money, but they won’t tell you until you use them. It’s like the appetizers in Italy! They just stick it in your face and wait for you to crumble.
  7. Take a photo of all your receipts in case you lose them. ALL of them. This comes in handy for many reasons – whether you’re splitting fees with friends and need to keep track, or because this is the only proof of payment you have when you later board a bus. Taking a picture of all my receipts saved me so many times in SEA. It takes a second. Just do it, you have nothing to lose.
  8. Always have cash. I don’t know if you know this, but some cities literally… don’t have any card readers. Like, in the whole city. You have to understand that most countries in SEA are TOTALLY different from what you’re used to. Their economy is not your economy. A lot of them have never left their country, never flown on a plane. They aren’t properly educated.. but don’t pity them. They’re happy. They run their family business and live in their bubble (though it’s not what you imagine a bubble to be). Just let them do their job, and you can make this easier for them by having cash handy.
  9. Always have a scarf with you. Many reasons, temples being one of them (they make you cover your shoulders, sometimes knees too). But the main reason is that you will be cold at some point in the day due to AC. SEA is one of those places that are so bipolar. If you’re Canadian, you know that one week can have all four seasons.. but in SEA it’s one DAY. Haha I’m exaggerating, but only a little. You will probably be scorching hot to the point that you think your skin is melting off your skeleton… then enter a room that is so air conditioned that you feel goosebumps. This is how you get sick. I didn’t get sick, so listen to me. Bring a scarf around! 😛
  10. ATM is your other best friend. Aside from TP, keep an eye out for ATM machines. Not only do they give you cash, but they’re usually in tiny rooms that BLAST AC. My friends and I literally went ATM-hopping in Cambodia because it was SO DAMN hot.
  11. Be careful what you eat/drink. I mean, this should go without saying.. but food poisoning is just waiting for you to suffer. You don’t know where their water is from or what water they used to make that ice, so don’t ingest anything you don’t open from a bottle yourself. I had food poisoning for 80% of the trip. It probably wasn’t the water and I barely had street food, but I just have a weak stomach. It SUCKS. I mean, as a foodie I still couldn’t resist the delicious food regardless of my health issues. I had to survive on black charcoal and some drug I got prescribed before my trip for traveller’s diarrhea. And contrary to popular belief, no this does not lead to weight loss – I came back from SEA exactly the same weight as when I left for my trip. So don’t get your hopes up LOL.. just lower your expectations. You’ll be surrounded by amazing food, yes, but also food poisoning.

Lastly, this isn’t really a tip.. but just know that you’re going to sweat every second of every day. I’ve never sweat like that in my life. And keep your bags close by you. I didn’t see theft as an issue in SEA surprisingly. I heard about a lot of bag slashers prior to my trip, but I didn’t witness it once. If anything, I felt much more paranoid about theft in Europe.

Any questions, feel free to comment! I’d love to help out.

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