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Old 07-07-2008, 09:58 PM   #1
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Question Tell me about SE Asian culture

Hello! So me and the boy have decided to try for a SE Asia trip around September, once a good air special comes up! No real itinerary yet, but hoping to see the wonderful foursome - Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos. It's the first time for both of us, and I have a ton of questions about what it's actually going to be like. I've been reading the boards, but I want a better feel of the experience!

So my questions are..... how are the locals towards foreigners? Did you find it chaotic or pretty smooth traveling within countries and between borders? How should women (and men) dress to not completely stand out? Any live music?
Have any necessary tips? Awesome stops we should NOT miss?

Tell me stories!!
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Old 07-09-2008, 07:02 PM   #2
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Really??
I thought there were plenty of tpers who have been here...............
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Old 07-09-2008, 07:51 PM   #3
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The Thai people are absolutely wonderful, so nice and so kind (except where the full moon party is). In Cambodia they can be a little overwhelming. Everyone there wants your money so they literally form a crowd around you. I've heard Vietnam is similar. I would suspect Laos to be more like Thailand.

My very favorite place in Thailand is Koh Phi Phi, the island off the southwest of the country. If you go, don't stay where the ferry lets you off. Go to Long Beach or somewhere near there. Krabi and Riley Beach are close and supposed to be pretty cool too - I got stuck at Kho Phi Phi and didn't make it to either though.

Obviously in Cambodia you'll want to see Angor Wat. It's fantastic but I thought one day was enough, unless you're really into ruins. It makes a long day but so worth it.

I didn't go to Laos but I'm sure someone else can add the details about the river everyone floats down. Apparently it's really beautiful, really popular and there are bars all along the way, so you just pull your tube over to the side to get your next beer, or whatever substance you are wanting to partake in.

Hope that's a bit helpful - I want to go back so badly - the food is unbelievable in Thailand
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Old 07-09-2008, 07:54 PM   #4
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I think most of them are very busy or on the road. You could pm directly livefreeordie or freespritz.

I'm preparing a big exam so I don't have much boards time, sorry. I'll do my best answering your questions.

how are the locals towards foreigners? It depends on the country and region. In the countryside, charming but the communication is difficult as they speak little to no english. In larger cities, only in Vietnam (Hanoi, Hue) have I found them to be harrassing. However, I heard they don't harrass as much people travelling in couple or groups.

Did you find it chaotic or pretty smooth traveling within countries and between borders? That's one tip I would give you : because domestic and international ground transport is so inefficient, you better count 10-15 days minimum in a country, in order to enjoy it. My bus trip from Laos to Vietnam lasted 24 hours for around 250 km! Vietnamese transport system is again the exception, as tourism is super organized. But then, so much that you basically can't visit on your own. Every attraction is organized in a tour.

How should women (and men) dress to not completely stand out? You can wear almost anything, beside short skirts.

Have any necessary tips? I brought with me moskito nest for... nothing ! All hostels, hotels, bungalows are already equiped with them. You need to take malaria pills though, and have a couple of vaccines.

Awesome stops we should NOT miss? Laos, Cambodia and northern Thailand's cultures are still almost untouched. I'd suggest you plan on integrating at least one stop away from the tourists hords to see the real SEA. Thailand's tourists spots are super for party, if that is what you are looking for.

I hope you'll love SE Asia as much as I did! If you have any more questions, and you don't get any more answers, I'll have more time next week.
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Old 07-09-2008, 08:11 PM   #5
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Sorry! I almost responded, but I've only ever been to Malaysia and Singapore. I had a mixed experience, which is to say wonderful. I had a nasty woman mock me for not speaking Malay (I learned please, thank you, and a mix of other things, btw) in a freaking rural area in the north, but generally people were nice. That five seconds of mockery still haunts me!!!!

And as far as clothes, I'll be honest, it's easier to dress conservatively in the kind of heat you'll be dealing with, and you're automatically shielding yourself from any cultural ugliness as a byproduct. And flowy clothing dries faster if you get caught in a one hour rain storm.

Definitely take your time with traveling because there's a lot of unspoilt beauty in the places you're interested in. And the journey is the adventure in SEA.

Eat WHATEVER you can get your hands on. Bone up on the "definitely don't"s like raw veggies or whatever else, but if it's not on your "definitely don't" list then put it on your "definitely do" list. There's amazingly bizarre and memorable things you'll be able to eat there that you won't even be allowed to THINK about eating anywhere else.

Oh, and as per my experience, ask questions. Be the stupidest, most inquisitive tourist ever. I ended up walking between countries alone in the middle of the night because I was an ass clown and didn't ask any questions about train stations. Just think of yourself as giving the locals a story to tell about the polite, but mentally handicapped foreigner they interacted with.

Everybody is SO NICE. And since you're not going to Malaysia you won't meet the one mean person I managed to find in the whole region.

(Just kidding. I know people are people everywhere, nice and not. But my liberal hippie-ness gives me a knee jerk assumption that locals in developing countries are all nice.)
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Old 07-09-2008, 08:22 PM   #6
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thailand is so easy, so many people rely on tourist dollars they often go above and beyond with service. tuk tuks etc will try to rip you off left right and center, but generally the people are trustworthy and speak alot of english. just make sure not to wear anything reveling when you visit temples, otherwise knee length shorts and singlet tops are fine- most backpackers girls walk around like that with no problems.

cambodia is a bit different. poverty is a lil more in your face... people are alot more closer to begging at times, and can really hound you to buy something, it can geta bit much, but smile be polite and joke around back with them and its easy. getting around is reasonably easy, i hear alot of people go up or down the saigon river... it runs thru laos, cambodia and ends in vietnam.
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Old 07-10-2008, 02:18 PM   #7
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not sure how decisive you've gotten with destinations, but I think you should include indonesia and malaysia! I haven't been to peninsula malaysia in a long time, but Sabah and Sarawak are lovely. Kucing in Sarawak is a great city to use as a base and the nearby Mulu caves are incredible. In Sabah, there's Mt Kinabalu if you're into climbing (it's not a tough one, I did it when I was 11) or Turtle Island (I feel really bad that I can't remember the real name of this island! it starts with an S). basically you spend the day on a beautiful white sand beach under the palm trees, then spend the night sitting around playing cards and drinking, waiting for a turtle to come up onto the beach. when one does, you go watch it lay eggs, the guide takes the eggs to the turtle farm and buries them, then you go dig up the 'ready to hatch' turtles and release these incredibly cute baby turtles into the ocean. its pretty cool. Theres also a river (memory again, but I know freespiritz went there awhile ago) where you can see heaps of wildlife. Of course Brunei is also great for a few days too.
just realised I wasnt really answering any of your questions, but I figured I'd promote good ol Borneo a bit. if you have any more Q's on Brunei, Sabah, Sarawak or Indonesia, I used to live in Brunei and in Indonesia so feel free to PM me!
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Old 07-10-2008, 03:35 PM   #8
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Thanks so much for the great info!! It's just what I was looking for. You can only do so much research on destinations, but I want to hear what people have seen and come across. Everything helps.
DC Jessica I know exactly what you mean about one little bad experience haunting your trip! When I was working at the parks in Costa Rica this older guy walks right up to me through the restricted area I was watching, talks down to me says my opinion doesn't matter because I'm American, and we've already ruined his country and basically 'what the hell am I doing here'.
Anyways thank you, and if there are any more interesting stories or funny quirks about this area, give em' up!
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Old 07-12-2008, 01:29 AM   #9
 
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Default Beware You May decide to STAY

Beware You May decide to STAY!! I arrived back in 79 after living, working and traveling in Europe for two years and spending another 8 months in Nepal, India and Sri Lanka. In my mid 20s at the time I thought I'd most likely go back to the States eventually finish school, get a real job / career and keep on traveling when I had time to Latin & South America. BUT S.E Asia and especially the Philippines WOW what can I say, HOME SWEET HOME with nearby N.E Asia to work and save money. Now you can teach ESL for U$10+ / hour everywhere in S.E. Asia except Indonesia. Recently a Canadian who's based in Taiwan operating his own English School opened one on Boracay Island.

Go with an open mind and keep youir eyes open for opportunites like being at the right place at the right time; luckily my wife and I did and semi-retired at age 30. Life's been a BEACH ever since,
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Old 07-12-2008, 01:53 AM   #10
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That sounds amazing. I have seriously considered teaching English anywhere in Asia, but don't yet have any certifications. I would love to stay long term and make something like that happen!! Oh the possibilities
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Old 07-12-2008, 02:42 AM   #11
 
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Default Times Flies - Life is SHORT

Times Flies - Life is SHORT so GO FOR IT! You might be able to fake an ESL certificate or have one made in Asia with the proper letterhead etc., anyway that would be my first choice for Plan A. One piece of old advice about filling in one's resume when spending years of their life traveling , "on the road" was research colleges or universities or companies which have closed or went bankrupt sometime that would make sense with your age time frame and then include it in your resume when submitting applications. It's IMPOSSIBLE to check up on or verify since it no longer exists. So that's Plan B.

In some places or countries depending on the owner of the ESL School and your personal charisma you may be able to get the job withOUT such a certificate.

Plan C would be to find the cheapest most express offer on getting such a certificate. In my yahoogroup lifeinthephilippines on the Link page I have a list of ESL links or do a search for messages and you'll find it. GOOD LUCK and GO FOR IT!
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Old 07-22-2008, 02:16 AM   #12
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I have only been to Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia with my parents. The people are very friendly and many speak English well, so no problems with communicating. Regarding what to wear, you may want to go for light clothes since the place is pretty warm. People there are also very friendly and accommodating.
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Old 07-23-2008, 12:12 PM   #13
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I'm hoping for a SE Asia trip when I'm done with grad school, so keep us posted on how your trip goes! Also, I just noticed you're from Oregon I am in love with Oregon! I lived there my whole life until last year when I moved to Maryland for grad school and can't wait to go back
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