Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

Some things I learnt on my travels

These are a collection of things I learnt about myself, about others, or general things I observed on my travels through South East Asia, Bali and Australia.

Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Face the hole when using a squat toilet
  • Some people are self-absorbed and those same people are likely to have poor social skills — that’s ok
  • Other people will bring you so much joy, you’ll wonder how you functioned before they came into your life
  • Even if your dinner potentially had maggots in you wouldn’t change the experience of eating like a local
  • You’ll spend a lot of time wondering how many bombs still lie in Laos, long after you leave Laos
  • A sunset can be so beautiful that it makes you cry
  • You won’t miss home one bit
  • Vanity will annoy you
  • Others’ reliance on wi-fi will annoy you
  • Those are probably the only two things that will annoy you
  • Getting up at 5am doesn’t have to be a chore
  • You will learn to get yourself ready much quicker than you ever would at home
  • You can go a whole day without looking in the mirror and be fine with that
  • Forcing dim sum down while feeling nauseous was never going to be a good idea — still, you’ll always remember chucking your guts up on a street corner on Valentine’s Day 2017
  • You will lose count of the number of temples and pagodas you visit
  • You’ll sweat relentlessly, and sometimes kid yourself that you’re getting used to the heat
  • In time you’ll come to hate your clothes…it won’t take long
  • The bulk of weight and space in your backpack will be taken up by gifts
  • You will cry at the sight of your first Asian elephant
  • You’ll have a sense of humour failure twice: once due to lack of sleep, and twice due to being falsely stereotyped
  • Your new friends won’t care one bit what you look like in a bikini so don’t bother fretting over it
  • Birds don’t sing in the cities of South East Asia
  • Communism is absolutely bizarre
  • The Killing Fields near Ho Chi Minh City are so tranquil
  • Asian women want to have lighter coloured skin and use ‘whitening’ beauty products to achieve that
  • On several occasions you’ll smile to yourself feeling so lucky to be seeing such amazing places
  • Border crossings can be painless
  • Pad thai is just delicious
  • Usually you detest rushing but it’s something you’ll get used to and will come to embrace
  • During your travels you’ll achieve what you’ve spent months striving for: living in the present
  • Banh mi is superior to any other sandwich
  • Your usual impatience will waiver
  • Over 41 days you will only spend two nights along, and that’s all good
  • Buddhism will become a source of interest
  • Keeping a diary (or three) was a really good idea
  • Travelling will entail spending many, many hours on planes, buses, taxis, trains, and boats — you will almost always be uncomfortable on these journeys
  • You won’t see ‘dog’ on any menu
  • The locals are always friendly
  • Lunar New Year in Hoi An will be beautiful, and the indoor fireworks painful
  • Girls from Laos are so striking
  • You’ll come to find bartering really boring
  • It’s extremely difficult to find non-whitening sun cream in South East Asia
  • You will adore the night markets in Hoi An, Luang Prabang and Chaing Mai, and the souvenir market in Yangon
  • Your excitement over a cereal bar at breakfast is equivalent to a fellow traveller’s excitement over bacon at breakfast
  • Animals are treated very differently (read: badly)
  • You will name a gecko living in your hotel room. His name will be George
  • Never again can you imagine seeing so many consecutive sunrises and sunsets
  • In Bali you will be asked “how are you?” more times in a week than you will in the rest of your life
  • The travel pillow and liner sheet you were given will be put to good use
  • You won’t use the alarm clock you ordered especially for the travels. Not even once
  • Buy a better torch; one whose battery won’t have drained by the time you need to use it
  • The list of important dates you made careful note of will be pointless; they’re all in your head
  • The Mekong River is the 10th longest river in the world, and it’s beautiful
  • Aussies’ greeting of “How ya goin’?” doesn’t always require a response
  • Food poisoning is inevitable. It’ll pass within 24 hours but if you take Immodium it will stick around longer
  • You will feel humble after giving alms to monks in Luang Prabang
  • The ‘travel’ playlist on your iPod is excellent
  • Local mosquito repellent is far more effective than the European equivalent
  • Recycling barely exists across Asia
  • Locals reportedly wear face masks to prevent passing on illness to others, as opposed to the presumption of protecting themselves from pollution
  • (But pollution levels are disgusting)
  • After an overnight bus journey from Inle Lake to Bagan, you’ll burst into hysterical laughter at 4am over how bad a night’s sleep you had
  • Corruption in Vietnam is rife — who you know, not what you know, will get you places
  • The roads in Laos are in a bad condition…lucky you don’t get travel sick
  • Spritzing yourself with perfume at Hanoi and Yangon airports will help you feel more like a woman
  • Sydney is reportedly the second most expensive city for property prices in the world, after Hong Kong
  • Sweet food in Laos and Myanmar is delicious: street food pancakes, Chinese doughnuts, apple cake, mini coconut pancakes, tamarind discs…
  • Some of your favourite experiences will involve exercise: hiking up Nha Trang’s waterfall, climbing to the top of Luang Prabang’s waterfall, hiking to the top of Bai Tho Mountain to overlook Halong Bay at sunrise, kayaking in Halong Bay and Vang Vieng
  • There are too many zeros in Vietnamese dong, Indonesian rupiah and Burmese kyat
  • The stairs at Angkor Wat are so steep you’ll want to climb up them on your hands and knees
  • Driving from the hotel in Bali back to the airport, you’ll spot a rainbow coming straight up out of a cloud over the sea; so magical you’ll wonder whether you dreamt it

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