It’s a pretty nifty part of our planet that deserves at least one visit in our lifetime.
The nearest Southeast Asian airport from my house is in Manila, Philippines and it’s roughly fourteen hours away by plane. Due to its not-so-close distance from here, appropriate planning is necessary before embarking on vacation there.
Before booking a flight and leaving, there are some important questions that must be answered.
An assessment of who, what, where, when, and why is important before any such journey.
Based on previous experience, figuring out the “what” can be the steepest hill to climb. What exactly should you bring? More specifically, what sort of gear is most useful while wandering in a country like Cambodia or Vietnam?
My good friend Jack and I recently returned from a long backpacking trip in Southeast Asia. Based on our experiences we’ve discovered which items are imperative and need to be added to your packing list!
This isn’t a complete grocery list of every nook and cranny that we stowed in our luggage, but it’s a nice start for anyone in search of inspiration.
A money belt is a small pouch with an elastic band that you can wear under your shirt while out-and-about. I must admit that they take some getting used to, but after a while you start to feel naked without one. They are suitable for carrying passports, extra cash, or credit cards. I have a goldfish memory so I often would even put hostel room keys or bus tickets stashed away in mine as well. Thwarting a pickpocket or memory lapse goes a long way.
Try this: Raytix travel money belt
Besides entering temples or taking a bite out of some random meat on a stick at a market, you’ll probably frolic around water. Southeast Asia is replete with rivers and beaches so a dry-bag is necessary. Also, the weather can abruptly go from sunny to drizzly. I exclusively used a dry-bag in countries like Vietnam just to play it safe. Having your phone and personal items dry even when the world around you is sopping wet is a tiny joy that mustn’t be overlooked.
Try: Earth Pak Dry Bag
Even with a local SIM card, your phone’s battery will drain faster than rigatoni in a strainer. Well, maybe not yours but mine certainly did! The desire to take lots of cool pictures or videos was a probable culprit. In Southeast Asia odds are high that you’ll be outside for long periods of time and without access to outlets. The solution to this dilemma is to invest in a proper wireless portable charger. With this you can charge phones or any other devices that have a USB cord. This is an essential item to have on your trip.
What can make an afternoon of relaxing on some desolate beach in Krabi slightly more enjoyable? How can a pre-night out beer in your Airbnb or hostel become a pinch more energetic? Music, duh! When you’re out and about or at home, music a primary ingredient. A Bluetooth portable speaker tops putting your phone in a coffee mug or bowl to amplify its sound.
What my friend and I discovered during our trip to Asia was that every host (hostels, hotels, Airbnbs) provided us with towels. During the preparations for our trip I didn’t expect towels to be so readily available so I invested in two microfiber towels. I expected to utilize them more but in the end not so much. They still were handy for going to the beach because of their compact size so I think that one is ideal for a trip to Southeast Asia.
Throw away clothes:
In Southeast Asia you’re going to sweat, you’re going to get dirty, and you’re going to face the elements head-on. You’re going to forget a pair of flip-flops on a long-tail boat or get Pad Thai stains on your shirt. I recommend stocking up on second-hand clothes from Goodwill or bringing clothing that you’re ready to replace. If anything, you can buy clothes while on the road and often times at a strikingly good deal in a night market or vintage store. Jack and I bought sun hats within a few days of arriving then donated them to the travel gods once we left.
The three portable devices that I used on a daily basis were my iPhone, laptop, and e-reader. A laptop isn’t a necessary item to pack but it makes life substantially more convenient. I typically favor a physical book over a digital copy, except when I’m traveling. E-readers are light, compact, and store enough books for countless hours of literary binging.
Try: Nook e-reader
What was that random tuk-tuk driver’s name? What was the address of that quirky little corner bar? These are trivial details that perhaps you won’t bother to look up right after the journey, but fifteen years later you’ll love to have a scribble about them. The treasures from my experiences abroad have been the Moleskine notebooks that I carried during each trip. I highly recommend you take small breaks throughout the day to write about what’s happening. Your future self will be really thankful.
And the most important…
This is kind of a wild-card for this blog post but it’s worth mentioning. Besides carrying all the fancy and not so fancy gear that has been mentioned above, it’s very important to go to Southeast Asia with an open mind. You’re going to be surrounded by cultures and traditions that will seem odd or possibly incorrect to you. Unless you’ve been brushing up on the local language, you’re not going to understand what most locals try to say. Yes, many people do speak English in Southeast Asia, but many more won’t. Just take a deep breath, accept that you don’t have a clue and just smile it off. You came here to be out of your comfort zone, right? I learned that a smile can go a long way and that many menus in these countries will have pictures. If you see other customers eating something delicious, just point at that, too. All around you will be sounds and aromas that are foreign and previously unknown, so relax and embrace the experience!
Well, there you go. I can’t promise that this assortment of gear will ensure you a safe or fun time in Southeast Asia. Maybe none of this information will be of use to you and that’s totally ok! I used these items and they helped me a lot, so hopefully at least one of them will be valuable to you as well.
What am I missing here? If you’ve been to Southeast Asia and have some other items that have helped you then for sure I’d love to know about them.
Thanks for reading this blog, I hope you have a great day!