What I Learned About Southeast Asia

Dressed for the weather in Hoi An, Vietnam

How can this person even see?!

More than a year ago when I was packing for our trip, I decided to bring shorts and tank tops to wear in Southeast Asia. The region is known for its heat and humidity, so those outfits seemed like the obvious choice. But before we left, I was admittedly pretty ignorant to the habits of other cultures.

In America, we dress for the weather. If it is hot outside, you wear as little clothes as possible. If it’s cold, you bundle up. But I’ve come to learn that the East and West are very different when it comes to attire. When you get out of the bigger cities, such as Bangkok, you’ll notice that locals aren’t sporting miniskirts and spaghetti-string tops. Even though Thailand is known for its beaches, many locals do not wear bathing suits or revealing clothes in beach areas. Many dress conservatively no matter how hot it is and even swim fully clothed. This is especially true in Malaysia, where more than half the population is Muslim. Nude and topless sunbathing is completely taboo, though it’s done by some foreigners on the most touristic beaches.

Their conservative clothing choices are a result of their cultural behavior and religious views. But another reason you’ll find Vietnamese women, for example, walking down the street in pants, a jacket, hat, gloves and a facemask is because they adore light-colored skin. They are afraid to have the sun darken their complexion and damage their skin. Aside from protecting themselves from UV rays, they embrace the use of cosmetics that contain whitener. Continue reading

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When You Hear Southeast Asia, What Do You Think?

Flying to Phuket, Thailand

Flying to Phuket, Thailand.

Hello world! After traveling through Southeast Asia these past five months, I wanted to share with our readers what surprised me the most about this area, namely the things you don’t learn about unless you have been here. Then I got to thinking about perceptions and misconceptions. Everywhere Mike and I have been has revealed itself to be slightly or very different from what we were initially expecting.

For example, we thought Johannesburg, South Africa, would be an intimidating crime-ridden place. But like any big city, it has areas that are sketchy at certain times of the day and areas that are quite vibrant and safe. It was truly different from what we were expecting.

So what I want to know from those of you who have not been to Southeast Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, et al.) is this: When you hear “Southeast Asia,” what comes to mind? Even if it’s as simple as chopsticks and beaches in Thailand, I want to hear from you (and I promise to give you huge thanks in my article! 🙂 ) Continue reading

Taking The Bus From Singapore Into Malaysia

 

Traveling into Malaysia from Singapore? Buses are a comfortable, safe and affordable means of transportation to and around Malaysia. Here is one more way you can save some money when traveling to Melaka, Kuala Lumpur or any other location in Malaysia via Singapore.

The View From Inside A Singapore BusBus companies are plentiful in Singapore, but rather than buy your ticket in Singapore and pay Singapore dollars, use public transportation to cross the border into Malaysia and pay in ringgits (this has a far more favorable exchange rate regardless of your country’s currency).

Forget about Singaporean travel agents or bus companies and take the MRT North-South Line to Kranji. Then take the 170 bus headed to Johor Bahru (JB). Be mindful of the end destination before boarding the bus to ensure you’re getting on the correct one going the correct direction. You will pay local public transportation costs, which are measured by distance traveled (roughly S$0.10/kilometer). Continue reading

Can You Drink the Water in…

Cold Water in India

But is it potable?

We don’t travel with guide books. They add too much weight, take up precious space and buying a new one for each country we visit would cost too much. Sometimes we read the ones left behind in guesthouses, but mostly we look to the Internet for a few important answers. Before arriving in a new country, we always look up the following information:

1) the local currency and exchange rate
2) what the tipping etiquette is
3) any local customs or important cultural differences
And, super important:
4) can you drink tap water without getting sick?

This last question has become very important to us. Being in constant travel mode between very foreign places has caused us to miss certain things, and ice on a very hot day is one of them. Sometimes, if you can’t drink the local water, you can’t have ice, a smoothie or diluted juice. But other times, like in Malaysia, ice is made in factories and purchased by local establishments. Thank you, Malaysia! But we wish you the best if you attempt to drink ice water in India.

Obviously this is very important information to be prepared with. Here’s a breakdown of countries we spent significant time in during our trip and whether you can drink from the tap.* Some of them may surprise you:

Continue reading

Explore Singapore on a Budget

Not many people had nice things to say about Singapore before we arrived.

Singapore Skyline

Singapore skyline at night.

“It’s expensive.”
“Just another big city.”
“It’s so not Southeast Asia.”

It’s frustrating to me when people compare, say, Singapore to Bangkok. Well, obviously they’re going to be different. You have to look at cities – like people – as individuals with their own unique characteristics. (While I’m at it, the same goes for the pyramids. Can everyone stop trying to compare them to Petra? They’re completely different!) And Singapore has a lot going for it. Yes, it’s a big city, but that also means there are a lot of activities for visitors, and not all of them will break the bank.

We’re budget travelers and certainly not Singapore experts, but we were successful in experiencing a lot while spending $25USD* per day per person outside of accommodation costs. Here are our best tips for spending a little and doing a lot:

Continue reading