There are few things in life that can prepare you for going travelling. As much as you research your destinations, follow your Lonely Planet guide and eat at authentic Southeast Asian restaurants before you leave, travelling is an adventure that brings new experiences every single day.
Many things (pleasantly) surprised me whilst travelling, yet many things shocked me in more ways than one. Needless to say, the memory of Matt hosing me with a bum gun because the shower was broken is a recollection that will not leave my mind anytime soon (yup, it was a low point in my life).
Here are a few realities of travelling Southeast Asia that you should probably be prepared for before you jet away on your adventure around the world!
1) Haggle, haggle, haggle
Southeast Asia is a haggler’s playground. Whether it’s a tuctuc ride, a bag of mangos or a Chang vest, you can pretty much haggle the price of anything. It might take you a few days to get into it, but you’ll soon find your technique and you’ll become a pro before you know it. My best tip? State your lowest price, and if they’re not willing to budge then walk away. 9 times out of 10 they’ll chase you down the street and you’ll score a bargain.
2) Proper toilets are a luxury
When you’re travelling Southeast Asia, you’ll develop a massive appreciation for proper toilets. You’ll quickly learn the tricks of the trade when it comes to public squat toilets (yep, it’ll be you and 10 other girls squatting next to each other) and it’ll soon become second nature to carry Kleenex with you all the time!
3) It’s impossible to avoid carbs
Before we left for travelling, starchy carbs didn’t form a huge part of my diet. However, in Southeast Asia, meals are made up of 70% carbs and 30% protein, probably because foods like rice and noodles are much cheaper than quality meat and veg. If you’re on carb watch, limit your rice intake to one meal a day and opt for soups or salads if they’re on the menu.
4) If you don’t give money to begging children, you’re not a bad person
One of the hardest things you will have to deal with is children trying to sell you items or begging for money. It takes all the guts in the world to say no and walk away, but you’ll soon realise that for many, it’s more strategized than you think. Parents will often send their children to beg as they know they’ll make more money, and many guides will discourage you from going to orphanages as these can be money-making scams too. By giving children money, this only encourages them to continue begging which means they’re kept out of school and don’t get an education. In places such as Cambodia, particularly Angkor, you’ll soon learn that the children are taught to play on your emotions and if you don’t give them what they want, you can expect verbal abuse and a few kicks to your shins!
What surprised you most about travelling Southeast Asia? Drop me a comment below, i’d love to hear your thoughts!