If you’ve ever been anywhere in South East Asia you will understand the love/ hate relationship that it can inspire. For most the love will outweigh the hate, even if at times it feels like there are far more downs than ups, it is unlikely that they will ruin your experience and on the bright side, your misfortunes make fantastic icebreakers. These are just a few of the peaks and pits you’ll almost inevitably encounter on your trip…
Firstly, the chances are you’ll be travelling on a budget, so South East Asian prices are a huge bonus. Everything is so cheap and if you don’t feel satisfied with your bargain, you can always have a go at bartering for a lower price. The perfect place for students, surely? The pit is, you tend to get what you pay for and cheap hostels usually mean unsanitary conditions. These imperfections can fluctuate from being as minor as stained sheets or absence of toilet roll to as major as an infestation of cockroaches or a rat that lives under your bed. It sounds revolting, but after the initial shock, you tend to get used to it.
Food- peak! Seafood, vegetables and fruits, more rice, noodles and soups than you could possibly imagine, and a surprising amount of banana pancakes. You can gorge yourself for a couple of pounds and wash it down with a beer costing as little as 8p, but the peak coincides with a pit, illness. Thai tummy, Bali belly, Vietnam… whatever you chose to call an upset stomach, you’re almost guaranteed to get it, however much you keep your mouth shut in the shower and use bottled water to brush your teeth.
In touristy areas of South East Asia you may find some of the locals less than welcoming. Not exactly the ‘land of smiles’ vibe. On your route you’ll hear ample stories revolving around theft of phones, passports, money or even entire backpacks, so as a traveller you learn to always guard your belongings. It’s a shame that incidences like this happen because for every one light fingered local, there are hundreds of overgenerous, welcoming ones, who do anything to make you feel at home in their country and will go out of their way to help with directions or even invite you into their own homes to watch the World Cup at 3am. As a traveller you learn to trust the kindness of strangers, but at the same time you learn to be cautious.
It’s not so much a pit that everything in Asia is always late, but it is a bit of a nuisance sometimes, especially if you’re pushed for time, (which is usually the case, as there is so much on your itinerary to fit into your time away). So, say you’ve booked a bus from X to Y and you’re told it departs at 9, you get there at 9, and it leaves at 10.30. Say, you’re meant to arrive somewhere at 4, you’ll arrive at 6. You quickly come to realise that when you’re told, ‘200 metres’ they mean 20 miles, when they said ‘only 6 hours’ they mean 9. You’ll crave the punctuality of the Western world. Having said that, although it might have been a struggle, you’ll eventually reach your destination, and the result will be a spectacular new adventure, making the 14-hour, no air con, bumpy, cramped bus journey 100% worth it, it’s the ultimate peak of travelling.
Whether it is a bustling city like Hanoi, a beautiful beach in Bali, the mountains of Pai, or a wonder of the world like Angkor Wat, you’ve survived, reaching a new exciting location and nothing can top seeing incredible scenery you thought you’d only see on Google images.