50 things to expect in South East Asia – Part 4: Tourism


Arriving in Thailand on the first day of my travels, I had no idea what to expect.

But this is what I found, the Good, the Bad and the ugly.

Here’s 50 things you should expect in South East Asia!

Part 4: Tourism

Just a reminder, if you have travelled through South East Asia before, these posts might not be as interesting to you as it may be for someone contemplating backpacking through this part of the world. Still an interesting read and will definitely make you reminisce on the amazing adventures you had in South East Asia.

The Tourism industry in South East Asia is incredible. Everything is tailored purposely to make it easy and fun for all travellers visiting this part of the world. Everything from the common use of the English language to abundant Tourist Offices, being a tourist in S.E.A isn’t hard. But it’s not without its ugly side.

Tourist uses camera app – Its super effective.

31. Minibuses

– A budget traveller is not going to have a hard time finding cheap ways to get from city to city. Minibuses are bloody everywhere. If you want to make your way to any far destination by road, the cheapest and easiest way is usually a minibus.

Sadly they’re just not that comfortable. When your packed in like sardines and there’s simply no more seats but the driver, for some reason, wants to pick up his entire extended family, you wont enjoy it that much. But you’ll get used to it, and eventually you’ll develop the life long skill of able to sleep just about anywhere. It’s all part of the fun!

32. Tattoos

You go to South East Asia, you get a tattoo. Right? Yep, there are places to get a cheap tattoo in every major city and town. A lot of them are actually really good. I’ve watch a few friends get a really good tattoo for under $50, something that would have cost $300-$400 in the west. Obviously if your going to get a tattoo, be safe and sensible about it – what I’m saying is just don’t get a tattoo of a dancing banana on your butt when your drinking on Koh San Road in Bangkok, you know who you are.

Cheap or not, some of this stuff is great!

33. Cheap Electronics and Goods

So there’s a thing called ‘Sweat Shops’. Where poor kids and young adults work in unethical standards to make often cheap and poorly made goods. It’s quite a sad fact, but that’s the world at the moment.

With that aside, it’s nice to know that you can buy just about anything quite cheap in Asia. Most of the time you can find cheap knock-off headphones or shoes or brand-name clothing just about anywhere. You can get anything from tasers to paintball guns to a pet monkey. Many people come to South East Asia for the shopping – and most return home with a broken set of sub-par headphones or bent selfie-stick.

If you like to shop, check out Bangkok’s MBK mall, the biggest in Thailand. It has over 2,000 shops and services.

Tip: Make sure you check you can actually bring back home through customs. You don’t want to have to part with your fancy new samurai sword at the airport.

34. Anything from cheap to expensive

Another great characteristic of the tourism industry in South East Asia is that there’s something for every budget. Whether you’re looking for a 5 star hotel with a butler and helicopter or a $3 hostel, it’s here. A drink can cost anywhere from 20baht to 1000baht.

Tip: If you want to save money, buy booze at 7/11 rather than in a bar. It’s usually cheaper. Just don’t forget that you can’t buy alcohol later at night.

We found a five star restore, and crashed on their beach.

35. Terrible border crossings

Border crossings aren’t great in most parts of the world and South East Asia is no exception. The Poi Pet border between Thailand and Cambodia – nick-named ‘The Gates of Hell’ – is especially bad.

Heres a little story: When coming from the Thailand side, the bus driver drops you off just before the border at an ‘office’ where they as you to pay $45, $15 more than the visa cost, to get your visa expedited. This is in fact a scam, which I knew, but then the guys from this ‘office’ actually told me I could get on the bus on the other side if I didn’t pay it. The first time (head strong me), I stormed off and waited in lines for almost 3 hours as the sunset and the heat and humidity stayed strong. I ended up actually saving money catching a taxi the last 2 hours of the journey. Then second time, being the middle of the night, we decided to pay the extra fee. And you bet I was angry to find that it took the same amount of time as we had to wait in the same line anyways.

Border crossings suck.

Tip: Remember to check here for VISA requirements.

36. Tuk-Tuks

Border crossings might suck – but Tuk-Tuks are great – and definitely something to expect in South East Asia. When the driver isn’t trying to rip you off, these bad boys are a cheap and fun way of getting around. These little three-wheeled vehicles are actually a motorcycle pulling something like a cart. Ranging in size, they usually fit 4-6 people and leave you exposed to the outside world. They’re the preferred way for tourists to get around the cities and to local attractions. Every now and then you find yourself racing your mates in the other Tuk-Tuk or speeding up the wrong side of the road against oncoming traffic. Great fun.

Tip: When haggling for a price, act like you live in the country and catch a Tuk-Tuk all the time. Keep suggesting the same price except for haggling.

Long Tails – Tuk-Tuks of the sea – Koh Rong, Cambodia

37. The Scams!

Theres too many scams to list here, but check out Lifehack’s 17 scams in South East Asia until I manage to write a post listing them all. Make sure you know not to let a Tuk-Tuk driver take you to ‘his mates jewellery store’ and please don’t buy marijuana off that kid.

38. Poor Ethical Treatment of Animals

As I’ve said earlier, I choose not pay to ride elephants or take photos with Monkeys. And if we all do, maybe we can reduce the un-ethical treatment of these animals.

In Thailand there’s a practice called Phajaan (which translates to ‘the crush’) in which wild baby elephants are tortured to force them to let humans ride on their backs. If you want to leave more about this check out Expert Vagabond’s post about why you shouldn’t ride elephants in Thailand.

39. Poor Infrastructure

It’s quite clear that this part of the world lacks the infrastructure that is common in the West. You’ll see poor public transport systems (except for Bangkok’s metro, which is awesome), minimal waste collection and disposal and plumbing that leaves a lot to be desired.

It’s important to remember that in the future, with proper direction, these countries will be able to use the money generated from these booming tourist industries to build better infrastructure, we hope.

Until then, don’t let it stop you going to South East Asia, as it’s all part of the charm.

It’s all part of the charm!

40. Sex Tourism

Now i’ve touched on a few aspects of the Sex Tourism Industry in recent posts, which you can read about in Part 2 of this suite.

In a general sense, Sex Tourism is rife in South East Asia. As with other lower-income countries, there is a general model which is essentially cheap prostitution partnered with the possibility of a better quality of life for locals who find love (possibly) and marriage and move to a western country. Few over a decade this trade has grown out of comparatively wealthy single men (and maybe women, I don’t know) from western countries coming to these parts of the world looking for sex and love. It’s everywhere, from the ‘go-go’ bars (a bar with prostitutes) to cross racial match-making. It’s no secret that you will see (typically older) men from all over, walking the streets with (typically younger looking) asian women.

Now who’s to say this is necessarily a bad thing. In some parts of the world it can be hard to find love past a certain age, and this part of the whole picture can make a lot of lonely people out there very happy.

But at the same time, with (generally) western men bringing massive amounts money into the sex trades of these countries year after year, it is the responsibility of these men to make sure the ethical treatment of the employees of this industry.

Continue to Part 5 down the bottom.

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