When we asked for 5 weeks off from work and our requests got approved, we had to take it. Embracing the “YOLO” motto, we plunged straight into planning for our much needed vacation.
With 5 weeks to travel, it would be more worthwhile to venture far, like Asia or Europe. In the end, we decided on Asia because it was a wiser financial decision. We chose to visit China, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines and our time planning definitely paid off as we had the best time of our lives. But like any other destination, Asia too has its downsides. So we will share these with you, to prepare you mentally, when you decide to venture on your own to Asia.
1. Be prepared to get ripped off!
Let’s be honest here, who are we kidding, the locals could smell our foreigner’s sweat from miles away. Even though I look Asian and thought I would blend in and wouldn’t get ripped off, I found out that the starting price to a local is less than half of what they quoted me. So from personal experience, even if you were able to negotiate half-off, you are still paying much more than the locals. Of course, this may not be true 100% of the time, but it is true most of the time. After a while, we realized that we are just bargaining a difference of less than a $1 most of the time, so it really wasn’t a big deal.
Getting ripped off by the locals is not as bad as having your stuff stolen. However, keep in mind this can happen anywhere.
We met a girl, who got her phone stolen from her purse and did not even see it coming. So be alert and keep an eye on your stuff and surrounding at all time, especially in a crowded area like the airport. Thieves commonly use the distraction technique to make you lose your focus. They work in a group of two or three, two will distract you by asking you to take a picture, while the third with an empty suitcase will approach you from a different angle. Since you are busy taking pictures you will be less vigilant of your stuff, and by the time you know it, your valuables are being stolen and being placed inside the empty suitcase.
3. Hotel Toilets
Although we have been warned about it before our trip, it was still not a pleasant experience. In Thailand and the Philippines, most hotels have signs telling you to not flush toilet papers down the toilet. Instead, you are expected to wash yourself off with the butt spray, then wipe your butt dry with toilet paper, and then throw the toilet paper in the trash bin. Coming from a developed country, this was a huge culture shock. I really did not want the bathroom to stink in our hotel room, so I, with a heavy heart, decided to flush my toilet paper down the toilet. Yes I said it, I could have plugged up the toilet and caused a plumping disaster, but thank goodness I did not. But you will be glad to hear that because of my fear, my consumption of toilet paper was greatly reduced. However, you can avoid not being able to flush toilet paper down the toilet by staying at a fancy 5-stars hotel.
4. Public washrooms
I’ve travelled to Vietnam on many occasions and I was never affected by using public washrooms. I guess it was because we were visiting families and we were never out and about for too long, so I was able to hold it together. However, this time around, they were more difficult to avoid. I hate public washrooms, even in Canada I shudder a little every time I have to use one. That being said, public washrooms in Asia were a nightmare for me. If you were not aware, throughout Asia there are no toilet paper in public washrooms. You either have to carry toilet paper with you at all times, or hope they sell some nearby. Not only that, you must also pay a small fee or make a donation to use most of the washroom facilities. For some toilets, there is just a small hole in the ground. Some were so disgusting that I, after paying and all, had to turn around and quickly rush out. I will give you a moment to digest that image.
All in all, if you are able to get past these flaws, you will have the most incredible and unforgettable experiences. Things in Asia are still so much cheaper, and the scenery is simply breathtaking. You can do many activities there that you cannot do elsewhere, and without breaking the bank to do it. So embrace the “YOLO” motto and venture on your own journey to Asia.