South East Asia has been a popular travel destination among vagabond backpackers and culture vultures even since before Leonardo Di Caprio made it look intriguing in “The Beach”.
Fluorescent turquoise waters, endless pristine beaches and cheap food and drank. (yep, you got it, ‘drank’ – I went there all right, it just felt so… right.)
From Angkor Wat, and some of the world’s most beautiful temple complexes, to river tubing in Vang Vieng and wild “full moon” parties on the islands of Thailand; South East Asia has activities to suit everyone.
With so much to offer, you can understand why so many travelers come here and wind up sticking around. They can sustain longer term vacation plans without having to spend even a third as much as they would during the same period in the west, but what are the signs of someone who has spent their fair share of time in South East Asia?
1. Crossing the road is no longer a mundane part of daily life, but a matter of life and death which you must approach strategically… “Okay, so, if I weave in and out of those six lanes of mopeds and then sprint through the last lane, I probably won’t get smushed by that truck” Wait for the cars and scooters to stop you say? You’ll be waiting there until the apocalypse.
2. You are in awe of how the seemingly frail local old ladies cross the road fearlessly, holding out their palms to halt oncoming traffic as if they were Moses parting the tides.
3. You have perfected the art of the squat toilet without: a: Peeing all over yourself b. Slipping and falling in someone else’s pee
4. You have so many bracelets and anklets that you have gathered at various markets that you make a jangling tune when you walk so people know that you are on the approach – sneaking quietly back into your hostel bed at night isn’t an option for you.
5. EVERYTHING must be haggled: Who do these guys think they’re playing? After the long and painful negotiations are over, you realise that the amount you were worried about being scammed out of was the equivalent to thirty cents.
6. You have become accustomed to taking off your flip flops at every building you enter (Hey, you’re polite! What else can you say?)
7. You have become accustomed to bowing to everyone you greet and thank. You catch yourself accidentally bowing to the Wal-Mart server when you return to the States and he looks at you like you’re on drugs.
8. You announce to your travel buddies it’s DEET time and they all nod in understanding of the breath holding and rapid ‘spray-without-inhaling’ strategy you must endure. You’ve all developed a DEET application strategy and share tips.
9. You’ve become accustomed to getting an electric shock pretty much every time you plug something in at your hostel. (“oooh that one was a bad one!”)
10. The amount of scars that you have on your legs from scrapes and mosquito bites make you look like a Vietnam war veteran.
11, Despite that stank, DEET is like gold. God bless DEET. Ode to DEET!
12. You’ve been to so many temples, you don’t remember which is which – they are all jumbled into one huge temple memory. Angkor Whaaat?
13. You’ve eaten a frog, or a spider, or some kind of fried insect because you wanted that cool “Look at me I’m a real fearless traveller eating an insect” photograph…. You spent the next 30 minutes puking it back up.
14. Walking into a toilet and finding a roll of toilet paper there is like finding the Holy Grail. You are so startled by it, you almost feel the need to shout your travel buddies over and show them. It’s like seeing a mirage.
15. You’ve mastered the art of the chopstick and are fiercely proud of this achievement. You contemplate whether it is an acceptable skill to add to your resume.
16. You have no apprehensions about eating the local street food. “Eww there’s a fly on that… never mind I can just flick it off…”
17. Your fashion style is “backpacker chic” – you have multiple Aladdin style trousers (with elephants on them of course) and shirts depicting the local beer. The all important question though: Are you a Singha or a Chang? No pressure…
18. You’re suspicious that everyone is trying to scam you.
19. Rabies is a very real worry. You kick yourself about risking death and passing on the vaccine just to save a hundred bucks every time you are pestered by a particularly menacing looking monkey or see a stray dog (ergo, a lot of the time). Then when you escape the situation without dying you rejoice about the $100 you saved.
20. The heat, the humidity, it’s just too much for your hair to handle so you’ve given up on it. You’ve learnt to embrace the Diana Ross style frizz. If Beyoncé can pull it off so can you.
21. You no longer look at monkeys as being cute little animals, but as the pesky thieves they are. Those big eyes won’t fool me!
22. You have incorporated daily massages into your routine as if they are a typical part of daily life. The thought of going back to a World where massages are just a treat on special occasions scares you… it scares you a lot.
23. Rice for breakfast is no longer a strange fate to endure but a typical part of your diet. You look forward to that tasty Beef Pho first thing when you wake up.
24. You are no longer surprised by the balancing acts performed on motorcycles. A family of five cramped up on a bike whilst balancing merchandise on their heads? So what, what’s the big deal?
25. You’ve adopted the South East Asian laid back approach to live. You no longer worry about possible dangers or things that could go wrong. In South East Asia you’re like Mr Chow. “But did you die?”
26. You’ve fallen in love with the place and cannot wait to return – The people, the food, the non-materialistic approach to life; there is just something magical about South East Asia. These are memories that will stick with you forever.