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The Five Biggest Surprises You Will Experience in Asia

Guest blog post by Gemma and Campbell from Highlands2Hammocks

Backpacking Asia has become a right of passage for any and all adventurers and wanderlusters. The huge range of cultures, amazing sights, fascinating history, and beautiful landscape, all packed into one continent make it a truly incredible place to explore. Despite how popular a tourist destination it is, there are still a lot of surprises just waiting for you to discover when you set foot on this colourful continent.

These are the 5 things that will surprise you on your next trip to Asia.


How Safe it Actually Is

When we first explored Asia in 2014 and then returned again in 2019, we were shocked by just how accessible, safe and welcoming each country we visited was. With today’s media, it is quite easy to become sucked into the idea that the world is a big, scary place, however, what you will actually find is that no matter where we come from in this world, we are all pretty much the same.

The local people you will meet will welcome you into their house and home, ready to help you in any way they can. If you are ever stuck during your visit to Asia, or need advice on any problems you have, never underestimate the kindness of strangers.

During our trip to Lombok, Indonesia, our motorbike broke down, hours from our hotel. Luckily, this happened just as we entered a small village that was just starting to come to life in the morning light. As we stood at the side of the road, clueless on what to do, a local man approached us and asked in very broken English if we were okay. After explaining our problems, he motioned Campbell to jump on the bike and pushed him to the nearest garage with a bike of his own. As Campbell disappeared off into the distance, Gemma was welcomed into a local family’s house to chat and drink tea. The local garage managed to figure the bike out and jump-started the battery, which had gone dead. When Campbell offered them some money for their time, they simply laughed and waved it away.

The vast majority of people in this world all want to be kind and helpful. Don’t let the actions of a few poison your faith in humanity.


How Delicious the Food is

When you are travelling around the continent of Asia, one thing that will immediately grab your attention is the passion for good food. No matter where you go in Asia, the local restaurants, street markets and family businesses will fascinate you with how much they love food.

It is a huge and very important part of the culture here in Asia and one that is celebrated so passionately every single day. Take a walk along the local street market, soak up the bustle and joy of the people enjoying the delicious delicacies that the country has to offer.

If you are worried about getting food poisoning during your trip, our biggest tip is to simply avoid eating meat. Given how new you stomach will be to the conditions of storage of the food in Asia, you will not have the same resistance to stomach bugs that can be picked up from food in Asia, especially on meat. With so much flavour, variety and nutritional alternatives, we did not eat meat during our two month trip to Indonesia and still managed to enjoy the best that the country has to offer.



The Saddening Amount of Plastic Pollution

We have all read about the shocking effect plastic pollution is having on the planet, the size of the garbage patches that exist at sea and how we all contribute to it with our current lifestyle. During your trip to Asia, however, you will no doubt see first-hand the effect this plastic crisis is having on the planet. A shocking and truly disturbing experience indeed.

It is important to not treat this as a hopeless, negative experience, however, and instead take from it a little bit of inspiration. With the current movement across the globe, including the development of alternative products and materials, as well as the shift of the public mindset, all hope is not lost. We can all play our part in reducing the amount of waste we all produce, which in time will lead to an eventual reversal of the plastic crisis we experience today.

Some simple swaps we can make to reduce your single-use plastic consumption during your trip are:

  • Carry a reusable bag with you at all times
  • Carry cutlery with you for street market dinners
  • Bring a reusable metal straw for drinks
  • Carry solid soap and shampoo bars (which also make flying easier as you
    have no liquids)
  • Use a water filter bottle like Water-to-Go instead of purchasing expensive, single-use water bottles.


The Vast Range of Cultures


Although Asia is a huge continent to travel, you will be surprised by the wide range of cultures you will experience in each and every country you visit. Ancient and proud cultures exist all across Asia, some of which have blended to create their own, unique culture over the centuries.


As you travel the continent, you are going to experience micro-communities in each country, celebrated with unique foods, traditions and even simple habits of the locals. In Kuala Lumpur alone,
you can take a trip around the world and experience traditions from Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism, all in one morning. Each a unique and beautiful experience to have.



How Easy it is to Get Around


Despite the vast size of the continent and range of dialects, it involves, Asia is actually a very easy place to get around, especially with today’s technologies to help along the way. Whether you are travelling between countries by bus or plane, or simply trying to get to a local temple for a ceremony, you will not find it too difficult to find a way there.

Although you will visit locations where there is no spoken English, communicating to the locals can still be done with a little patience and a lot of hand signals. Once again, the kindness of the locals will make your trip an enjoyable and memorable experience as you explore Asia.

So what did you think of your trip to Asia? Were there any other surprises, tales from a local or delicacies or traditions that you loved?

Let us know in the comment section below and share your stories with other backpackers and adventurers.



Author Bio


Gemma and Campbell are two Scots on the run from a 9-5 lifestyle.


After years of planning, they finally quit their jobs and set out to find their place in this beautiful world. Currently living in Australia, they are travelling in a camper van and touring the epic Australian coastlines, which shows just how much they love adventure travel.


Read more about their journey around Asia on their blog – highlands2hammocks.co.uk

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