Each place I’ve been to has taught me some valuable lessons, here I share them for your future reference.
1. Never stand on the side of the road with a guidebook or map, you may as well paint a target on your back for tuk tuks and their hustlers
2. Never get the buffet breakfast at your hotel unless you are 110% sure of the price and quality
3. Learning and using the local language will get you further than using English
4. Watch out when eating string beans, green chillies will cleverly disguise themselves amongst the beans and they will wreak havoc in your mouth
5. Never buy gasoline from bottles on the side of the road, you may as well import crude oil from Iran for the same price
6. Always carry valuables including cash on you during all overnight transport
7. Never go barefoot when rock climbing
8. Never ask the price of something out of pure curiosity unless you want to practise saying ‘no’ in Thai for ten minutes
9. Always carry toilet paper on your person
10. Lone girls walking the streets at night will get asked if they want to purchase marijuana
Luang Nam Tha
11. Always carry a high powered torch during overnight treks to spot rare wildlife
12. Carry earplugs on Laos buses unless you enjoy listening to traditional Laos music at full blast for long periods of time
13. If you ask enough times, the bus driver will turn off the blaringly loud and irritating traditional Laos music
14. There is always a toilet nearby, any patch of dirt in the jungle is just as efficient as a western style sit down toilet (see lesson 9)
14. Always carry a high powered torch during cave exploration
15. Always get a receipt when paying for accommodation, tours and the like
16. Onitsuka tigers are not the most appropriate footwear for cave exploration
17. Always confirm AM or PM when booking transport
18. Never put anything in for laundry if you are concerned for the quality of the item when it is returned to you. If you love it, hand wash it yourself
19. Never pay for laundry until you receive it back to you dry and in good condition
20. Yoghurt can be retrieved from chained up fridges with the aid of a borrowed piece of creatively shaped wire
21. The brain of a chicken does taste exactly as you would expect it to
22. Chicken toe nails are not edible but make good toothpicks
23. Vietnamese people are VERY loud
24. Vietnamese people tend to push and shove in queues
25. According to the Vietnamese immigration officers, an additional 7 years and facial hair do render your passport photo questionable and you will receive deep stares and suspicious looks from them whilst confirming your signature
26. Vietnamese people have a strange way for writing sevens (7), that makes them look like threes (3). Menus need clarifying.
27. Always write agreed prices down before using a service. Possible scam: drivers agreeing to a ridiculously cheap price, then once you pay them expect more and wont let you get away without paying extra.
28. Facebook has been censored by the Vietnamese Government
29. You can still use Facebook by going to http://www.hidemyass.com or downloading a program called “Ultrasurf”
30. When staying at a hotel, do not assume that you are able to check out by the stated check out time after notifying the hotel of your departure date 24 hours prior as stipulated in the hotel regulations
31. Actually, just do not stay at the Elizabeth Hotel.
32. Dog meat is not as widely available as people make out
33. The fresh food markets in Hanoi either do not exist, shut down by the afternoon or are just no where near the central Hanoi Area or on any maps
34. Just because you pay to use a toilet, it does not mean that you will get a seat, toilet paper, fresh water to flush or a door.
Cat Ba Island
35. Unknown to the Vietnamese, mobile phones do not make good personal music playing devices
36. Vietnamese people like to sing
37. Vietnamese people love karaoke
38. Vietnamese festivals celebrating Ho Chi Minh last for seven days and include loud thumping doof-doof music from 6am to midnight
39. Cat meat accompanies dog meat on some Vietnamese menus
40. Dog meat looks cooked on the outside but looks raw on the inside
41. Cold weather really does make you depressed and makes you want to stay indoors
42. Electric blankets and hair dryers DO exist in South East Asia
43. no Matter how many signs you put in your toilet cubicle, I will still put toilet paper down a western style toilet
44. The sun really does make you happy and is a quick fix for depression
45. Mud baths really do make your skin feel amazing
Buon Ma Thout
46. You can still ride out into the mountains in Vietnam and meet people from your home turf
47. There is a place in Vietnam that you can go to where the locals don’t hassle you
48. Riding a motorcycle solo through Vietnam is not favoured much by “Easy Riders” but the children love it
49. Toboggans are the preferred mode of transport at some Vietnamese tourist attractions
50. 5 western adults can drink beer and get well fed with fresh and delicious seafood for under $10 total
51. Just because the sand dunes look nice, doesn’t mean they will act nice towards you
52. Just because it is a motorbike doesn’t mean it will go fast
Ho Chi Minh City
53. The Vietnamese live music scene consists of a seated area up front; the closest thing to moshing being head bobbing if you are lucky
54. Water theme parks are still really fun
55. High speed water slides also act as ass rapists
56. $6.25 is not an acceptable entrance fee for the Royal Palace
57. A school makes for a good prison
58. If you decide to trek from the Monkey Island side of the island to the Broken Heart side and you get to the water bottle, you have gone too far. It is not a trail marker, and will ‘lead’ you for another hour or so through dense jungle. Some guesswork required.
59. A wild python will not attack you if you pat it after it has just eaten
60. White crested eagles camouflage really well in high trees
61. Leeches can get into your shoes and socks without you even feeling them
62. Scooters do not travel in rivers well
63. Nearly every second person you come across outside a town centre has a basic knowledge of the mechanics of a scooter
64. If you happen to get water in the exhaust of a scooter, and you fail to get it started, unless you have someone there who knows what they are doing, try to let it dry out for a while and hope for the best
65. If you agree to buy a child food (which you assume would cost $3), you are agreeing to buy a child baby formula (which is now putting you $18 out of pocket)
66. Tuk tuk drivers are ruthless and even though you agreed to a full day of temple sightseeing, you basically have to pay extra to get anything more than 5 hours worth of service
67. Count every single bit of change you receive
68. In addtion to rule number 6, make sure the CASH is always on your PERSON as theives are professionals and will steal it from in front of your sleeping face.
69. There is a possibility for a fairly unconfident cyclist to ride a scooter fairly unconfidently!
70. You can still get Delhi Belly without stepping outside of Delhi airport
71. You know you have been in south east Asia for too long when you get presented with a normal shower and have no idea how to use it.
72. After two weeks of using a squat toilet, it will still be second nature to put toilet paper in a Western Style toilet
73. The rules associated with using a family’s personal western style toilet are so intimidating that unbelievably, a squat toilet is wished for.
74. If it’s pissing down with rain, do not rely solely on your Gore Tex jacket: splash out and buy a $3 umbrella.
75. Umbrellas can be used as weapons and are a great way of pushing through thick crowds
76. Darjeeling is a great place to escape from the heat of India (that you have not yet experienced)
77. When walking home in pitch black dark and driving rain make sure you go home the right way
78. Head torches can be used as street lamps in India when the power is out
79. Always get the front seet of a jeep
80. Bear in mind that when you ask to go to the City Center Mall that there are about 50 shopping malls with the name City or Centre in the vicinity
81. Trust rickshaw drivers, they know the streets better than you do
82. One way streets or bridges make good escape routes from vehicles
83. when booking accommodation make sure you are not on the ground floor or your room may leak