I saw that Leo from Zenhabits is heading over to Thailand in June, so I thought that I’d put my thoughts on traveling in Asia in one spot. Since 2006, I’ve been living in Taiwan. In the beginning of 2008, I came back to Quebec, Canada to complete studies for a Master’s degree in mathematics. I’m leaving for Taiwan at the end of April 08.
1. Don’t drink the water in tropical countries
It’s best to stick with bottled or filtered water. Some hotels will filter all of their water, but it’s best to just drink bottled water. This is even true for Taiwan.
2. Don’t travel with a laptop
A laptop with the added weight burden is just unwieldy. Internet cafés are a dime a dozen in Asia. They have broadband internet and the cost is minimal.
3. Don’t stick your USB thumb drive in any computer
I picked up a virus in Thailand this way. It stayed with my computers for at least 6 months. It was the AdobeR.exe virus. It replicated itself across my systems and had fun. It nests itself in removable storage and is a bugger to remove. I was uploading photos at the time. It’s best to wait until you come home to do that.
4. Pack light
If you are going to a tropical or sub-tropical climate, it’s best to pack light. I travel with a functional backpack, an Osprey Atmos 35. It’s big enough to house my camera gear, a change of clothes and my toiletries. If you need anything else, it’s very easy to pick up cheap things in Asia. It’s easy to pick up a large bag in Taiwan to house all of the stuff you buy in Asia. There is nothing worse than being stuck with big luggages in sweltering 35C heat.
5. Avoid cotton clothes
Cotton clothes or denim clothes absorb moisture and just stay wet without any wicking. Jeans are heavy as hell and weigh a lot. Eliminating these from your baggage or backpack will save you pounds. I usually take functional clothes. All my layers, from my underwear to my outer layer dry extremely fast. No dampness is held in. It’s a good idea to go for insect repellent and UV protected clothing. You’ll be thankful once you arrive
6. Take a good pair of hiking boots
I’ve got Zamberlan Master GT RR boots. I’ve worn them comfortably in -30C and 35C+ weather without any problems. You’ll be walking a lot and thongs might be appealing on the beach, but in the city, through temples, you’ll want something protecting your feet.
7. Take a few good pair of socks
Spend a few dollars and get some thin liner socks with some thin tropical expedition socks. The liner socks will make sure that your feet stay dry. They’ll wick away the sweat and keep them dry in most environments. Nothing is worse than cotton socks.
8. Take a Lonely Planet Guide
When going to a new country, I find it’s best to just drag along your Lonely Planet guide. I’ve found cheap hostels and sights to see thanks to them. Even if sometimes the information is dated, it’s always filled with useful information.
9. Take a few extra memory cards
Instead of carrying a laptop, I carry a few extra memory cards for my camera. They are cheap and extremely lightweight compared to a laptop. With a few 8GB or 16GB, you’ll have enough storage to last you a few months, even if you take a thousand of photos each week.
10. Take an iPod and a paperback book
I’ve come to shun the video games and cumbersome multimedia gear when I travel abroad. I take my 160GB iPod Classic and a paperback book on flights. Even if you are busy, you’ll find that you’ll need the peace of mind of taking a little time away from traveling.
11. Use public transport
In most Asian cities, public transport is dirt cheap. In Thailand, it’s easy to travel between cities for just a few dollars thanks to the very efficient bus system. I’ve taken the bus to Ayutthaya, to Nathon Pathon and a few other towns in Thailand from Bangkok for 3$. You can go up to Chiang Mai with a bus for 20$.
I find it’s best to travel by bus in the country you are visiting, instead of using planes, because you never know how your plans will change once you arrive.
12. Be wary of the taxi mafia
In towns like Phucket, be wary of the taxi mafia. They will try to scam you when you arrive at the airport. That being said, this isn’t true for Bangkok. I’ve had the best time on motorcycle taxis in Bangkok and Ayutthaya. Leaving the airport, we paid 500BHT (13$) by taxi to drive to Ao Chalong where our hotel was located. Getting to the airport when we left cost us 85BHT (3$) by bus.
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