We had the privilege to travel to 8 South East Asian countries this past summer, and let us tell you, it was a completely life-changing trip!
Coming back home made us realize that some of the best experiences we had would only happen in Asia, like eating at food stalls, learning some deep culture and haggling skills, and always living life as an adventure. We miss Asia every day but these are the top things we miss about these wonderful countries!
1. Constant Learning
I suppose this generally happens everywhere when you travel, but in Southeast Asia, there was always something new to learn. There are new customs and traditions per country, new currencies, different forms of transportation, a few new words in each language, lifestyles all vary, fashions, food, and mannerisms are all something we learned and experience while traveling each and every country in Asia. And the best is, no one told us about it, we didn’t read about it but we experienced it first hand so we will always and forever remember these life lessons from Asia.
2. Pristine Beaches
Some of the best and most beautiful beaches we have ever seen are in Southeast Asia. Asia beaches were the epitome of paradise. With white, fine grain sand, turquoise blue waters, unbelievable archipelago, sunsets you can only dream of, and a fresh young coconut in hand, Southeast Asia beaches are like the ultimate postcard picture. You can’t get better than these beaches.
Suggested Tour: Private Guided Island Tour of Langkawi
3. A fresh coconut
As mentioned above, a day at the beach was never complete without a yummy coconut. In every place in Asia, we were able to get a fresh young coconut to finish off our day. Whether it was at the beach or at dinner, a coconut satisfied our thirst and cooled us off from the humid, hot sun. Coconut was a good idea every time!
4. Every day is an adventure
In Asia, every day had something new and something to amaze us. Whether we were trying new foods or riding a tuk-tuk or crossing the streets or even in bed (aka how I got stitches), every day never ceased to surprise us. There were never really any safety rules and regulations that were ever followed either. It was always an adventure whether we planned it or not, we always had the best time of our lives. We had to expect the unexpected and be prepared for anything. It kept us on our toes and we were always excited to see what was in store for us!
Suggested Tour: Angkor Region: 3-day Private Tour of Top Temples
5. Not knowing what you eat!
Again, every day was an adventure, especially with food. Whenever we ate food in Asia, we were never sure if we were eating beef, chicken, tofu, pork, or God knows what. We found ourselves questioning the meats quite often, but that’s the beauty of Southeast Asia. You aren’t here to eat burgers and pasta, so why not try whatever Asian cuisine you can!
6. Street food
YUM street food. Although we were a bit cautious with what we were eating, it was so tasty and so cheap. Delicious Pad Thai for $1.50 in Thailand? 2 Fresh grilled snappers with a side of veggies and rice in the Philippines for $3? It was a foodies dream world. We just watched out for how long the meats have been out, how many flies, and how bad it smelled, but otherwise we were golden! The best part of Asia is all the wonderful delicacies offered in street food. Street food is a culture itself, restaurants don’t even compare to how tasty street food stalls are!
7. VIP Mini Bus
What sounds and looks like heavenly transportation in all brochures, is quite the opposite and we nearly fell for it every time. But there was something so fun and enticing about these VIP experiences, despite the smelly sheets, no foot space, no A/C, and crazy wild drivers, we met some amazing travelers, drove through the amazing countryside of Asia, and slept in positions only contortionists could do. It’s safe to say that it may not be VIP, but it was definitely an adventure every time!
8. The way you look at the sky
It’s not the color of the sky, or the sunset, or all the clouds floating above you, it’s more of the feeling you get when you look up. When you look at the sky, you have no cares, no worries; it’s just nothing. You are in a state of utmost satisfaction with where you are in your life at this very moment. It’s wonderfully gratifying and you just can’t help but smile. I mean, you’re in Asia! Life is just too good.
9. Meeting new people
Asia is full of ex-pats, and there is nothing better than getting a few cheap beers and meeting new travelers while exploring Asia. It’s so cheap, easily accessible, and has tons of tourist attractions and parties that meeting people is pretty much handed to you. Everyone you meet traveling is there to see and explore Asia, so you already have a common ground! No matter what a person’s interests or likes are, we are all traveling Asia and we are always looking for others to travel with and have fun with.
10. Deep History and Rich Culture
Asia has had a horrible history, like the Vietnam War, Khmer Rouge Regime, The Killing Fields, etc., and has plenty of memorials and museums to teach us about their roots. There are unbelievable sites to teach us about their religions like Angkor Wat, Wat Pho, and The Royal Palace. These deep and dark histories and incredible sites are what shape their country’s cultures and traditions today.
11. Their Positive Outlook
The Philippines went through major devastation in 2013. The earthquake destroyed many homes, took lives, and the Filipinos were still so positive and optimistic. One Filipino told us “We have war, death, and natural disasters, but we also have our lives. We are alive, how much better can life be? We smile because we are still here.” It touched us on how grateful and positive people were even after devastation! It’s something you don’t find in America or in many other countries.
12. Cheap Beers and Horrible Hangovers
We remember opening a bottle of Chang in Thailand and the bottles had no alcohol percentage on them. Why? Because they are unregulated which means they are awesome! You can have 2 beers and feel totally drunk or 6 and feel nothing. But whether it was a Chang, a Beer Lao, San Miguel, or Angkor, you knew you were up for a good night, good company, and the most horrible hangovers you have ever woken up with. (That’s also a great reason for the coconuts!! No more hangovers, well…kind of!).
13. Southeast Asia is budget-friendly
Life is so beautifully simple in Asia. There is little opportunity in Asia to be spending lots of money. What can get you a nice meal in Europe, can get you a hotel room, breakfast, lunch, dinner, a few beers, and a souvenir t-shirt in Asia. Your money stretches really far in Asia and the best thing is the cheaper the cost of the country (and the stronger your dollar is), the more travel you are able to do!
Suggested Tour: Puerto Princesa: Honda Bay Island Hopping & Optional Massage
Every single Southeast Asian country has an abundance of markets and each was so unique and charming. You can find so many unique treasures at any market and bargain the heck out of it. Anything from shoes to iPhones to food to bags to jewelry to SIM cards, you will find them in Asian markets and for a good price too! While in Asia, you start to learn the art of haggling and it really changes your whole market experience.
Whether you are a good singer or not, karaoke is everywhere in Asia. At lunchtime or 3 am, you will hear some of the best and worst singers belt out their favorite tunes. The locals were much more into it, but it was always a fun way of entertaining your night. Karaoke was a feel-good activity and everyone had fun doing so.
16. Feeling famous
So many people tried to take some sneaky pictures of us all over Southeast Asia. We felt like celebrities! We have had several people ask to take pictures with us, pose with us, or just take them while we were eating, which was weird. But apparently, we were a big hit in Asia. It was really funny, we felt so exotic! We loved our 15 seconds of fame.
About the Authors: We are Jack and Jenn from Who Needs Maps. We are a long-distance couple, from America and Australia, so why not meet in the middle and use travel as an excuse! We are thrill seekers, food lovers, world travelers, adventure finders, misadventure attractors, and a fun-loving couple who just wants to explore the world together. We hope to inspire, inform and entertain people through our experiences and stories! Embrace the fun, enjoy the craziness, and let’s take on the world! Happy travels. You can follow our adventures here on our main website, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.