Read time: 4 minutes (+2 minute if you read the Travel Hacks guide)
After making it back to Austin and knocking on several peices of wood, I can safely say that I never got robbed or sick. This is my greatest accomplishment from 10 weeks abroad. I'm not sure if anything other than luck played into that. I did maintain a list of tips that we've turned into a downloadable guide (thank you Tariq, for making this visually digestable).
You can view and download the PDF it here.
A couple of friends sent me a list of questions and I thought I'd share some of the answers. When people have asked similar questions in real life so far, I didn't know where to begin. I'm so scatterbrained. So to all the friends so far who got jumbled nonsense from me the past week, here you go!
What’s your new favorite dish?
Kaya Toast from Malaysia/Singapore. It’s a jam made out of coconut, sugar, eggs, and pandan between two slices of toast. You then crack two barely boiled eggs into a bowl and add soy sauce, salt, and pepper to taste. It’s basically deconstructed french toast because you dip the kaya toast into the egg and enjoy with strong coffee. I had never heard of it until I visited. I recreated it for my parents this past weekend and they loved it.
Did you ever have to poop in a hole?
No and thank god! I actually only saw that toilet once and it was in the old “preserved” part of Singapore in Little India. Okay, but in the deepest part of my heart, I’m aware that this is the “best” way to take care of business.
How was your marriage tested/changed since?
We’re very close now. It’s a type of close that is almost too close and can only be achieved by constant togetherness. We have quirks and inside jokes. There were plenty of frustrating moments that came with insomnia, trying to find a place, and being out of your comfort zone for weeks. I know how to cure myself/Tariq now though. Tariq knows that if I even whisper that I want to eat a certain thing, we better make sure and find it that day - even if it’s as obscure as enchiladas in Thailand. Tariq’s food cure is usually an apple tart/pie/crumble type of thing. Now, we can change each other's mood back to something tolerable within 30 minutes because anything longer is unbearable.
What did you miss the most? (points docked if you say family)
This is specific but I missed good conversation and food with friends. I could combat this by getting meals with new friends but it’s still didn’t keep me from missing the people in my life.
Most awe-inspiring moment?
Angkor Wat was a metaphysical experience for me. My chest tightened as soon as the sun hit the main gallery. I felt a really strong connection to that ancient civilization and was overcome with admiration at the detail and magnitude of the temple(s). This was also I place I knew NOTHING about before the trip. It was added to our last mid-trip. What happened to the Khmer people, the history behind its structure, the buddhist and hindu rulers, and it’s incomprehensible detail inspired me. It inspired me to seriously consider the impact we’re having on this planet. It also gave me a lot of anxiety … because of this core theme of “omg we’re running out of resources”, I barely want to have kids now. What kind of life are we promising them?
How much did you spend from country to country (not counting travel). Which country was the most expensive to spend time in?
Singapore is the most expensive country to both eat and stay in. Japan and Hong Kong come second. Overall, I didn’t change my eating habits regardless of which country I was in - I’m not fully a backpacker because I won’t rough it out too much. The budget ranged from $20-60/day for meals and accommodation depending on the country. The cheapest country was Cambodia. You’d get a delicious lok lak (beef curry with rice and an egg on top) and a latte for $3.
What’s your favorite picture?
Hard to narrow down but the “business babes” from Chiang Mai stole my heart. They were so precious with their temple outfits and their existence epitomized Thailand's hustle culture. I also love that picture because it was beautiful without any edits. It was a picturesque balance of color and culture. Those little girls know exactly what they’re doing.
My favorite thing to do on this trip was to offer to take pictures for strangers. Everyone struggles with selfies or group shots. I went out of my way and hurdle through language barriers to ask if they want me to take it for them. People always said yes. We're all trying to enjoy the experience and take in the same scenary. I love the sense of collectivism that came from it.
If you could do the whole trip over again what would you do differently?
I would add time in Vietnam; 8 days was not enough. I also wanted to visit Myanmar, and everyone we met was visiting themselves, but I made a choice to avoid that country. There is currently ethnic cleansing against their Muslim minority, the Rohingiya people. There was also a moment when we seriously considered Mount Everest Basecamp in Nepal but decided that trip is best done on it’s own.
What made you sad?
How doomed we are. I’m not a pessimist but this trip made it hard to ignore the irreversible damage we’ve inflicted on this planet. The severity of climate change is making me question how many children I want to bring onto Earth.
America is the only developed country I know where there are citizens who deny climate change. Even the underdeveloped countries we visited had signs and take SOME measures to combat our environmental footprint.
We talk about fuel efficiency and electric cars but we aren’t considering everything else in manufacturing that requires oil. Once we run out, we won’t be able to produce and harvest enough food to feed the world.
This trip gave me a lot of time to think about sexy topics like marine pollution, deforestation, air quality, and biodiversity.
Did you eat bugs?
Refer to chart below.
Did your taste in music change?
Everyone, everywhere is listening to the same music. Good music is a global unifier. It surprised me but there were several times I’d be sitting in a cafe and hear a song that I thought only I knew. I will say, everyone in Asia super digs song covers. They also listen to the EDM version of any song - sad or happy.
This wraps up the Asia series. Thanks for reading! You can view all the photos here.