Southeast Asia -- Peggy's Advice

I had dinner with a college friend the other night. It's such a trip to reconnect with a friend with whom you've lost contact for almost 3 years after being attached at the hip for a solid 2 academic years.

In that time, she's been doing big things; among those big things is travelling, including an extended solo journey through many countries in Asia.

I shared with her the seeds of my 2012 (or 2013) plans of visiting Southeast Asia. Her advice to me as we dined over Berkeley Thai curry (in her words, as best as I can remember):
  • Open an account with Schwab -- you'll be able to withdraw cash from any country without having to worry about ATM fees or currency conversion fees.
  • Get traveler's insurance. I got really bad food poisoning when I was in Singapore. Ironic, right? Considering how Singapore is supposed to be one of the cleanest cities in the world? I was in the hospital for one night and two days. That hospital visit would have cost me $300 if I didn't have insurance. Traveler's insurance also covers costs for things like lost luggage, interruptions in your travel (like having to take an emergency flight somewhere, or missing a connecting flight and having to check in a hotel), and medical emergencies. Just be sure to read the fine print. For example, it might say that they only cover medical costs as long as you don't do anything totally dangerous, like bungee jump.
  • You'll find Wi-Fi everywhere - especially in a lot of hostels. Bring your netbook. 
  • Don't be afraid to go to to SeA alone; you'll make friends along the way. I showed up from the United States not really set in travel dates or even destinations. I made those plans with the people I met along the way. It's cheaper and easier to map out your destinations as you go along, anyway.
  • Bring a book. I only brought one book when I started the trip, but I ended up reading 7 in total. Most hostels have a "take a book, leave a book" kind of thing. I had a lot of time to read on 3-, 5-, sometimes even 12-hour bus rides.
  • Try all the food. Sure, I got food poisoning early in the trip... but it never happened again after that, and I'm glad that I go to eat everything that I did. I've never had as good of food here as I had there (referring to the, for example, Thai and Cambodian cuisine in the United States). You figure, those street vendors sell just one dish all day every day -- they have perfected that dish. There's no way that these restaurants will be able to compare to those vendors!
  • Haggle prices for everything... but accept the fact that, as a tourist, you WILL be duped at least once on the trip. Prices are marked up for tourists sometimes 3x the price for locals. You might be able to slide and wriggle your way through some of these traps since you look Asian. In Thailand, there are temples that are free to enter for locals only. I walked right by security (Peggy is Chinese) while my White friends were stopped and asked to pay. However, I did pay $20 for a boat ride that should have only cost me $5. When I found out I got gypped, I was super upset for a little while... and then I got over it. This kind of thing happens. And what's $20 in the long run, anyway? ...especially when their prices are in reality cheap when compared to U.S. prices. 

1 comment:

  1. yay! I love the new blog April. From my experiences in Latin America, I can say that Peggy's tips translate pretty well across the oceans. Although I didn't find free WiFi, or any at all, as often as I liked in more rural areas of Lat.Am.. My friend Andrea is currently backparking around Latin America and shared this cool website for backpackers in case it help you: http://www.travelindependent.info/...Wishing you the best of travels!