Unfortunately, my days in SE Asia have come to an end but I bet there are many of you, fellow backpackers, who are about to hit the road towards this amazing part of the world. To enjoy your time spent over there a bit more, read about the lessons I learnt during my three month stay and don’t make the same mistakes as me 🙂
1) If a local says: „Be careful, it’s spicy“, immediately leave everything behind and get the hell outta there. Seriously, I’m a chef so I always wanna taste everything and I hardly ever listen to any advice so many times I put myself in a very hot and spicy situation that I ended up regreting for a few hours afterwards. Especially don’t enter a 10m radius around a chilli pepper smaller than 1 cm. Unless you’re into masochism, then it’s fine.
2) Always carry some toilet paper or tissues with you. Even though you are in a nice city and that toilet you’re heading to doesn’t look bad at all, you will be guaranteed not to find a piece of anything to wipe the most precious parts of your body with.
3) Don’t think too much about all the „drive safely“ videos you watched back home while you‘re on a bus in SE Asia. Just make yourself comfortable, close your eyes and imagine the driver has some magical powers that will always prevent him from crashing. Yes, sometimes it is really and I mean REALLY bad. I caught myself thinking about getting off the bus in a few situations too. But nah, I had to overcome that fear and in the end it just felt like a very cheap ride on one of the craziest attractions in Thorpe Park. See, I’m still alive!
4) You’re used to eating in nice restaurants with beautiful looking food and good service? Yeah, so was I. It was really difficult for me to watch the cooks follow not a single hygienic regulation. Yup, that raw chicken has been casually chilling there on straight sunshine for the whole day. But trust me, go for it. I don’t know how they do it but the cheaper the food is, the better it tastes. Just make sure you follow number 2.
5) You can talk to anyone about anything and no one judges you. This was a tough one for me as I came to SE Asia completely fucked in my head with many secrets that I could only talk about to like 2 people back in London. Even though you only just met that cool guy in the hostel 20 minutes ago, the casual conversation about which countries you’ve visited will soon become boring and people crave hearing different stories as well as they want to talk about their problems to a complete stranger. People will give you various opinions that’ll help you get through difficult times. In the end, the chance you will ever see them again is very small.
6) Everyone has a shit story. And I don’t mean a very bad story, I mean it literally. Everytime I drank with fellow travellers, our conversation led to shit stories. A backpacker I met in Thailand told me: „You ain’t a proper traveller until you have your own shit story.“ This is also very often connected with point 2 and 4 but some people have the craziest stories ever. Once I met a girl that had just hiked Mt. Bromo in Indonesia and badly needed to take a dump while having breakfast at a local’s place. There was no toilet in the „bathroom“ and she didn’t know what to do with the product once she relieved herself to the bathroom floor (which the locals normally do) so she ended up wrapping it in a ton of TP, put it in her pocket and carried it away with her. I know, disgusting right? But imagine yourself completely drunk and listening to the whole story. Unforgettable. Luckily, she followed rule number 2 🙂
7) Oh, you lost a T-Shirt or a pair of boxers while it was being washed in the laundry? I’ll be honest with you, you will never see it again. But wait, the good karma comes around and soon you’ll end up having someone else’s underwear in your surprise-bag of clothes you pick up from the laundry.
8) Be patient. I used to be probably one of the most impatient people on the planet until I travelled around Indonesia and found out that time doesn’t matter. Did uncle Google tell you that that 100km long journey should take about 1 and a half hour? Always multiply it by three. The bus driver will need to stop a few times to have a cigarette (if he doesn’t smoke on the bus), use the toilet (hope he doesn’t do that on the bus too), get something to eat, get more fuel, talk to his fellow bus drivers, etc. You will get to your destination eventually. Just be patient. And when he hits the road, make sure you follow number 3 🙂
9) Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten track. That’s where the true tresure is, that’s why you travel. People are normally very willing to help you, sometimes even invite you for lunch or let you stay at their place overnight, especially if you travel solo. When I was in Indonesia, I didn’t see a white person for 18 days and I can honestly say that it was my best backpacking experience so far. Even though three times I saw a guy masturbating when I walked past them in a random town (I know, can’t really blame them, hard to resist haha), it never put me off. Weirdos are everywhere in the world, just make sure you don’t make an eye contact with them.
10) You will master the art of improvising. This especially applies, if you follow number 9. Once I nearly got raped (yeah, still didn’t convince me to act like a tourist though, yuck) and ended up walking in the middle of nowhere for 7 km with no water, no food and no cigarettes until it got better and made plan A. I know, people normally make B plans in such situations but since I normally have no plan at all, a very simple plan was needed. You will become very creative if you’re about to miss your flight or don’t have any clean clothes left too. Just do not panic. Everything has a solution. Unless you didn’t follow number 2.