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5 things to know before you go to Asia

Published May 23rd, 2014

Whether it’s your first trip or you’re a backpacking veteran, to quote the ubiquitous Thai t-shirt, Asia is “same, same but different”.  It’s a full-on collision of cultures the moment you touch down with an intoxicating appeal that draws travellers back for more. It’s familiar and unfamiliar at the same time; confounding and confusing, but always fun. From party islands to religious temples, and from historic monuments to towering meccas of consumerism, you are guaranteed to return home from an Asia holiday with a lot more than just Chang singlets, cheap cocktail hangovers and Bali/Bombay/Bhutan belly. Here’s 5 things to know before you go to Asia.



1. A scooter is not just a single-person vehicle.
No matter where you go in Southeast Asia, you’ll see whole families perched on the back of motorised two-wheel vehicles of all shapes and sizes plus the groceries, and the kitchen sink, and oh, what the heck - livestock and pets too. And all this with pedestrians, cows, cars, tuk-tuks and buses jostling for road space! But somehow it all works.



2. Remove your shoes in temples but don’t point with your feet.
Asian social etiquette is precise and laden with meaning. Pointing your chopsticks into your bowl of noodles or rice is akin to stabbing to death (China) or piercing your soul (Japan).  And eating with your left (unclean) hand is a no-no in India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh. As a general rule, be respectful and humble.



3. Use your common sense.
Would you ride a motorbike in Australia in thongs and without a helmet? Just because you can in Asia , doesn’t make it a good idea. If you don’t hold an Australian motorbike license, your travel insurer probably won’t cover any accidents that happen overseas either, so think before you act. And get travel insurance.



4. But, be open to new experiences.
Before we go all motivational poster on you, don’t be afraid to sample all that Asia has to offer. Eat the fried crickets. Use the squat toilet. Head off the beaten track. Get your barter on in the markets. Take public transport. Keep an open mind and an open itinerary and who knows what you could find?



5. Visit again. And often.
There’s so much to see and do in Asia, whether your travel style is backpacker or flashpacker. There’s way too much to cram into even an entire year spent travelling around this vast continent and all the islands. Our advice? Take bite-size chunks. Decide what type of holiday you want, where you want to go and what you want to do. Asia’s not going anywhere, but like a day-old curry, it tastes even better the next time you go there.


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Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.