There are a few things I wish I was aware of before coming to Asia that would have been helpful, so for all those who feel inspired to tramp around Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, here are some pointers you might not see in Lonely Planet:
- Electric Outlets: There is an ingenious system here whereupon an outlet will fit both A and C types, so I have never had to use a converter whilst in Asia (but its 220 not 110, not an issue for most AD-DC converters)
- Packing: If in doubt, leave it at home is a good rule of thumb. Most everything is cheaper over here, so don't stock up on sleeping liners or bug spray &c &c in the West. In Vientaine, Laos, we met a pair of South Korean backpackers doing the whole trip with little school bags, they asked, "Why do all Westerners carry such big bags?" And its true, its crazy to see white people carrying a huge bag on their backs with a smaller bag in front, its silly and unnecessary. These South Koreans did the whole trip with 1 pair of pants, 1 pair of shorts, 2 t-shirts, toiletries, and a digital camera. What else do you need?
- Lonely Planet guide: If you are coming to Asia to see a lot of white people and hang out in tourist traps, follow the Lonely Planet word for word, along with the other 10,000 tourists doing the same. We recommend getting lost and asking around to locals and experienced travelers.
- Money!: I was asked, "Do I bring traveler's checks, ATM card, &c &c to get by?" Quick answer, ATM card is the only thing we have used here, especially in Thailand where ATMs are everywhere. In Laos, ATMs were more sparse, but then banks could use your ATM card to withdraw funds, for a price. Note, its also nice to have a $100 USD bill tucked away somewhere, just in case.
- Volunteering / Teaching English: If you want to volunteer or teach English, no worries mate, figure it out when you get here. When you find a city or town that suits your soul, you can have a job teaching English in less than 3 days, it is not rare to even be approached on the street to teach. For volunteering, I recommend Burmese Volunteer Program if you want to live in Thailand and work with refugees.
Also, check out this list published by the guy at vagabonding.com, he traveled through Africa and South East Asia with a big digital video camera plus tripod and laptop, here is what he says about clothing:
He did his trip back in 2003 and carried ancient technology like an external floppy drive.
I balance out my big electronics rig with a minimalist clothing kit:
- 3 collared shirts
- 1 pair pants
- 1 swimsuit/shorts
- two pair socks
- two pair underwear
- one packable rain jacket
- one pair shower sandals
- one pair hiking shoes
- one pair sport sandals
I wash clothes in hotel room sinks every few days. And I wear the same stuff over and over and over. Which doesn't bother me too much – it's not like I'm in one place long enough for anyone to notice.