when you pass Asia you will fall from one surprise to the next. Mostly positive, but sometimes negative. The modern world traveler usually only talks about the positive side of Asia, especially visible on social media. The most beautiful places, the perfect insta photos and always those gooey pictures. Nice, but is that the reality?
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There are plenty of things in Asia that can't stand the daylight, and some (especially novice) travelers have to deal with a huge culture shock. Let's try to prepare you for the world trip of your life, where you will certainly end up in Asia, by warning you in advance! In this honest, (sometimes sarcastic) article I take a closer look at some of the horrific topics of Asia.
The following may not always be neatly worded, but this is how I have experienced it over the years. Don't you want to know what's so terrible about Asia? Then don't read any further (or take it with a grain of salt?).
Reasons why you absolutely DO NOT want to travel to Asia
Negotiate, haggle and haggle
Let's start with an easy one. The moment you take 1 step in somewhere with your white face, the prices have already gone upside down five times. In the beginning, negotiating is difficult, you are not familiar with the currency and you have no idea what it should cost at all. After a while you get a bit of how to deal with prices and haggling. You even think you're good at it and actually start to like it!
Still, you occasionally ask other travelers and local friends a check question, what did they pay for that souvenir or tour? And right there the misery begins† You've been screwed over and over again, after hard negotiations you still paid twice as much as that other traveler and even three times or more than the locals. Goddamnit† Then you step into each store or stall with your terror-face determined to do better next time. Unfortunately, this quickly seems like an impossible task.
It takes a lot of effort, and you really don't feel like doing this at all… You just want a price tag, pay and go, nice and Dutch. Not having the feeling that you are being screwed every time, which is actually quite nice. Write that on your stomach for the time being, because that is simply not going to happen in most Asian countries!
Smack, spit, spit and shit
This varies greatly by country, and I'm having a hard time not making this huge annoyance come across as a racist arrow of death, but I'm going to try it anyway. We are going to talk about a certain population group. You probably guessed it: the average Chinese tourist† Then you think that's not a problem because I am or am not going to China† UNFORTUNATELY! The Chinese economy has been booming for years and they are here to world to take over, starting in Asia itself. Everywhere you go in Asia nowadays, it is swarming with Chinese, and it will probably not decrease in the coming years.
Locals, hotel owners and other travelers are usually very annoyed to (the majority of) Chinese tourists, although they are less likely to show this out of respect. Yet they regularly let their opinion shine through, in a slightly more flexible way than we do Dutch people to do that.
Note: before I go any further I want to make it clear that I understand that the Chinese have a completely different culture, that the norms and values are different there and that their upbringing is not the way we are used to.
All nice and nice… But that dirty taste en ridiculous slurp from the table next to you when you're just having a nice meal, go-ver-damme! It's one of those standards annoyances in Asia† As a Dutch person you just really don't want that. Are you just enjoying your dessert? Then the smack is casually followed by a farmer so gross that your neck hairs stand on end.
Do you want to be able to enjoy your food in peace despite everything? Then go well prepared for your trip with a pair of good earplugs. Also useful if your neighbors are batting again in that 'oh so cosy' hostel with only a curtain in between.
Saying no is rude
Hello, do you know where I can find the nearest ATM?
A frequently asked question by travelers. People say 'Yes' wholeheartedly and then you try to find out where that ATM may not be. Not much comes out of them, so you just point in one direction and ask; †Is it this way?'† To which Mr. or Mrs. neatly answers with "Yes, yes, yes.". As a beginner you make the stupid mistake of believing it right away and 3 hours later you're still looking for that damn ATM in the middle of the jungle. Always ask the control question! Also point in one or two other directions and ask the same question† this way? Or that way? You will regularly notice that everyone says yes to everything and that you haven't really gotten any further.
Cause it's like this: in some countries in Asia it is rude to say no, especially to strangers. You will regularly notice that yes is said when actually no is meant. This does not only apply to questions about your route. Even in restaurants when you have the wrong meat on your plate, you will notice that it is impossible to exchange it with what you actually ordered. When you ask your hostel to arrange a taxi for your ride to the airport? No problem! People say 'Yes' wholeheartedly, but 9 times out of 10 this is not arranged. Did they promise you an on-the-go breakfast at 6am because you have to check out so early for your flight? Then let me tell you that you going to be hungry the next day. Don't mention it!
Comfort zones do not exist
Why are you standing up to me, and stop pushing† In Western countries, your comfort zone, your personal space, is respected. Usually this is half a meter to a meter away from you (especially now with corona) when they talk to you or stand next to you in a tram or public space. Just throw that whole thought overboard as long as you are in Asia. If you stand in line somewhere, you just don't feel his push your butt† In any case, it doesn't matter much.
That hand you suddenly feel on your shoulder, from the person behind you in line. You become light pushed forward and that, to your great surprise, that hand remains there indefinitely! Full of surprise and pent-up aggression you look back angrily to see what idiot puts it in his head to touch and push you, but then all of a sudden you get a friendly smile from an elderly female of 1 feet 50… Getting angry suddenly doesn't seem like an option, so just accept it…
And then there's public transport… What a party. In the tram or metro, so many people are squeezed in that you are surrounded by dirty sweaty armpits† You feel people leaning against you on all sides. They breathe the garlic air in your face and if you are unlucky do they bark their smokers cough in between for a while full in your face. Welcome to Asia!
The gigantic plastic problem in Asia
Finally, a slightly less sarcastic but an actual huge problem… There are really a lot of beautiful places in Asia. Nature wonders of the world, grottoes, waterfalls, jungles and bounty islands with the most beautiful beaches. That's why you go to Asia. That's what you want to see.
But when you arrive at idyllic destinations you've read so much about, only to find that it's littered with plastic bottles, bags and other filthy junk?
Then that hurts.
When you can hardly take a picture without all the junk in the foreground, it is frustrating. Not just for your photo, but just because you realize that people just really love the nature sucks without them seeming to notice.
The photo below proves once again in which world we live. This cute crab walked by during our breakfast at Canareef on the Maldives† She found a little house made of plastic, a sad sight if you ask me.
Ignorance and mentality
When you ask a random local why there is so much plastic If you are on the banks of the river, people in Indonesia will explain to you that it will rain hard again soon.
Sorry, WHAT??? On the one hand you want to laugh but deep down you just want to cry. You actually want to say; †Where do you think the river takes all that shit, you fucking idiot?' But reality kicks in and you realize they just don't know any better, or they just don't give a shit. Anyway, the massive plastic problem in some countries hit me hard, especially in Thailand and Indonesia.
And to give you an idea of the magnitude of the problem: I shot one of the most beautiful places in the world, the Rinjani volcano. Completely soiled, full of plastic and including rat infestation. You can see it in the photo and video below.
When you see this, you start thinking about all kinds of things during your trip through Asia. To clean it up, for example. But where is the education, waste management and government support? There is simply none, or too little. In the meantime, we put all our hopes on the Ocean cleanup project of the Dutchman Boyan Slat (click)Maybe that will help someday.
Until then, we must set a good example ourselves. Because yes… besides these (sometimes sarcastic) negatives of Asia, it is and remains my favorite continent to travel to.