Visiting Southeast Asia is a top place for backpackers and those on a budget to visit. Accommodations are cheap, food is very affordable, and the culture is amazing. However, there are things you won’t expect that might give you a little culture shock. You might even be a little annoyed and wonder how in the world is this even allowed! Below are 9 weird things in Southeast Asia you might not expect.
Weird Things in Southeast Asia: Sidewalks
If you think sidewalks are places for people to walk on, think again. Visiting Southeast Asia, we found the purpose of sidewalks might be for anything but. They’re for parking motorcycles, food carts, and even cars. You will find motorcyclists driving on the sidewalk to avoid traffic or to get to another street and avoiding the one way street that would force them into a longer drive.
In the evenings you’ll find make-shift restaurants where someone has decided that that’s where they want to serve the food they cook in their food cart. They set up kid sized tables and chairs on the sidewalk and await their customers. IF you happen to get to walk on a sidewalk, consider yourself lucky. You’ll find yourself walking in the street more often than the sidewalk.
Weird Things in Southeast Asia: Bathrooms
When visiting Southeast Asia do not expect to find a public bathroom that measures up to your expectations. Bathrooms are hit and miss. For some reason having a clean bathroom is not a priority. Most are very small and dirty. There were multiple occasions where I just turned around and walked out. Also, if you’ve never used a toilet like the one below, get ready. It’s a new experience for most Westerners.
And if you think bathrooms are stocked with toilet paper, think again. When visiting Southeast Asia, carrying your own roll of toilet paper is a neccessity. But do NOT put the toilet paper in the toilet. Nope, toilet paper goes in the trash. Their septic systems just aren’t set up for all that toilet paper. Save yourself the embarrasment of causing a clogged toilet and just put it in the trash can.
Weird Things in Southeast Asia: Hotel rooms
Most hotel rooms in Southeast Asia are fairly small and odd shaped. You really never know what you’re going to get when you open that door. Of course you aren’t there to spend time in the room so don’t let it annoy you too much. But when you first walk into your room you might think “huh”? You might wonder “who designed this”?
You could be feeling like a tetris piece trying to fit yourself and your things in the room. Not all of them are small. The more you pay, the better the room and the more spacious it is. Thankfully with all the travel apps you will get to see what you’re booking before you get there so you’ll know what to expect when visiting Southeast Asia.
It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity
This list of 9 weird things in Southeast Asia is not in any particular order. However, if I had to rank it, this might be number one. It’s truly impossible to understand without being there exactly how hot it is in Southeast Asia. Not just the heat, the humidity. I’m from Texas. I’ve experienced a lot of humidity. But nothing can prepare you for the strangling humidity of Southeast Asia. Nothing.
If you think you’ll be prepared because you’ve lived in humid places, you’re wrong. It’s on a whole other level. You walk out of your air conditioned hotel and you immediately start dripping with sweat. Don’t bother fixing your hair. Just put it up and throw a hat on. Want to look cute in photos? It’s not happening. Unless the camera is far away. Maybe. You’ve been warned.
Weird Things in Southeast Asia: Traffic
When visiting Southeast Asia, the traffic might make your head spin a bit. There are SO. MANY. CARS. And motorcycles. You’ll wonder how in the world you get from one side of the street to the other without getting hit. Here’s the secret: you just go. That’s it. Just step into the street and start walking.
Of course take into consideration the amount of traffic coming and whether or not there’s a huge bus heading your direction but after that, just walk. The cars and motorcycles are NOT going to stop to let you cross. But, if you just start walking, they will slow down and/or stop. Most likely they’ll just slow down and go around you. Just act like you own that street and start walking across. I promise you will not die.
Weird Things in Southeast Asia: Want to buy a Souvenir?
When visiting Southeast Asia you will most definitely experience being bombarded by sellers. They all want you to buy what they’re selling and it can sometimes be a very unpleasant experience. Just walking on the street (or sidewalk if you’re lucky) past any seller will cause them to yell out at you, almost begging you, to buy their whatever they’re selling. I don’t blame them at all, they have to make a living. But it does get tiring.
IF you happen to show any interest in something, it will be worse. Once you show an interest they will work even harder to get you to make a purchase. It can be annoying. There are many things I really wanted to look at, and might have even bought, but didn’t because they do not leave you alone. It’s really hard to just look at things.
Weird Things in Southeast Asia: Restaurants
When you go to a restaurant and place your order, what usually happens next? Once the food is all ready (key word “all”), everyone gets their food, right? It doesn’t quite happen like that when visiting Southeast Asia. They bring out the food as it’s cooked. That means one person might get their food 20 minutes before someone else. It’s as if there is only one cook (highly likely) and they only cook one thing at a time. We found this common in all the countries we visited there. Don’t wait for your spouse or friend to get their food before eating yours. It will likely be cold by then. Just start eating. It’s just the way it is.
Weird Things in Southeast Asia: Plumbing
One thing we’ve all probably grown accustomed to and expect is for our plumbing in hotels to work and really, I don’t think that’s too much to ask. However, don’t expect that to be the case if you visit Southeast Asia. You might not have hot water and the front desk might just look at you wondering what you expect them to do about it.
Showers aren’t always properly built to allow the water to drain. Expect that the entire bathroom to flood. You won’t know until you get in there so don’t leave anything on the floor. The hotel bathroom below was really nice, however, when we used the shower the ENTIRE bathroom flooded with water because it just wasn’t properly built.
Also, Your toilet might very well be in with the shower. And if your shower doesn’t drain well, you’ll be walking through water just to use the toilet. Nothing like having your feet in ankle deep water while sitting on the toilet. Fun!
Weird Things in Southeast Asia: Beep Beep
When visiting Southeast Asia you will experience the wrath of the horn. There’s no avoiding it. They aren’t necessarily honking at you. At least not in a mean way. Usually it’s just a tap of the horn to warn you they’re coming. However, Vietnam is different. They honk at everyone and everything. And they don’t just tap the horn as a warning. They LAY on the horn. And it’s constant. It does not stop. Ever. It’s truly like nothing you will ever experience. You will hear the honking in your dreams. It’s crazy.
Final Thoughts on Weird Things in Southeast Asia
Visiting Southeast Asia really should be on everyone’s bucketlist. The culture is amazing to experience and the people are so warm and friendly. You might experience some culture shock but hopefully my list of 9 weird things in Southeast Asia prepares you a bit and lessens the shock. Besides, it’s not our culture, it’s theirs. We are just lucky enough to experience a small part of it, both the good and bad.