Southeast Asia is a destination few truly invest time to discover in their life. It’s full of locations that are daunting for the average Westerner, and that’s fair. Some do venture to the northern asian countries specifically Japan, Korea and China, safer and more developed, but few head south to the countries that are scattered along the Silk Road. I’m talking about Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar (Burma). These countries take a level of caution, risk and skill to explore. I’ve discovered seven rules travelling Asia that have served me very well on my journey, so far.
- Explore and take risks. Okay, exploration is a given when you’re travelling through a foreign country, but making your way through Asia can take another level of courage, and risk, albeit calculated that can set it apart. The best adventures always involve a degree of risk, and stepping outside of your comfort zone.
- Always have cash on hand. Asia is not a western country. Cash is still king. There will be many instances (most) where you’ll need cash, and there’s no other option. ATM machines can tend to be rare in smaller cities and towns, so stock up. Have a minimum of $50 on hand at all times.
- Don’t get pushed you around. Travelling to any country, the locals can tend to be a bit brash to foreigners. It doesn’t matter if you’re the queen of England, this is their country, their city, their community. They have every right to accept you or not. Some will be like fresh air, and bend over backwards to help you out, while others may appear as though they are trying to scam you. And they may very well be trying to. I’ve had many “taxi drivers” try to pull a fast one on me. I’ve found when I’m firm, not emotional, and respect them, even if they’re trying to manipulate the situation, they back down.
- Mingle with the locals. A trip through Asia wouldn’t be complete without chatting up the locals. Sometimes you’ll need to use a lot of hand signals, depending on their proficiency in English, but you’d be surprised with few words how much can be communicated. Eat with them. Drink with them. Connect with them. I’ve found there to be some real gems to be found in Asia. They will open up the four walls of their home to you, and make you feel like family.
- Be generous. There is a great deal of poverty in Asia. It’s humbling. I’ve seen people selling everything from loads of bread, lottery tickets to slingshots, and on the sides of dirty, noisy and busy streets. When you first arrive in Southeast Asia it becomes clear that you’re the lucky one. Life can is hard here for most. Many live on less than $5 a day. When it feels right (and doesn’t) dig down in your pocket, tip generously, and give when they least expect it. You can be certain that most who you give to will make that extra $2 or $5 go much further than you ever could.
- Connect with other travellers. Travelling is one of the greatest joys for most. And those that are brave enough to go to Asia are often be great compadres. Not all, but most. Extend a smile or hand shake, and go from there. Fellow travellers can often be the wind beneath your wings when you’re soaring throughout Asia.
- Be safe and have fun. Travelling Asia comes with a few cautionary tales. But this shouldn’t stop you from having the time of your time. Be prepared to get a little shaken at times. It’s good for you. Take some risks and immerse yourself in the bounty of delights that can be found in this diverse and fascinating continent.
So what do you think? Let me know in the comments below if you agree, and whether I missed any.