3 Tips for Traveling to Southeast Asia

Getting ready for your Southeast Asian vacation?  Ooo, exciting!  Before you book and pack, check out these tips to save some frustration.

Check the Weather

Did you know that many places here have a distinct rainy season?  And a hot(ter) season?  This is not really the case for Kuala Lumpur, but it is for many of the surrounding areas.

You’ve been warned.  Plan accordingly.  Yes, you may get some sweet deals at certain times of the year.  But you should definitely consider the trade off.  Will nonstop rain dampen your plans?  (Hehe)  Can you take the heat?  Our guide in Cambodia mentioned that he has seen plenty of people come at the hottest time of the year and spend about an hour seeing Angkor Wat before sheltering in their hotel room for the rest of the trip.  That’s not what you want.

Also, besides heat and rain, there is another important season for you to consider.  I’m talking about burning season.  The haze is real.   Haze makes the air really crappy to breathe.  It also can impede your sightseeing.  Literally.  Because things are harder to see.

For us, peak haze time is usually August and September.  This potentially differs in other countries.  I’m not going to try to publish an exhaustive list here.  But it’s probably worth a Google.

Wear Slip on Shoes

You know how sometimes you have to take off your shoes at that one friend’s house?  (I’m probably that friend.)  That is the case here.  For like everything.

Temples.  Some restaurants.  Some stores.  Private homes.

Some destinations are more shoe removal rife than others, but it comes up.  A lot.

After the first few times, retying those laces gets old.  Really old.  Even worse?  Having to help kids with shoes over and over.

I strongly recommend choosing sandals and sneakers that slip on.  Birkenstocks are still my fave for walking comfort and easy slip-on-ability.  I’ve been told that the plastic ones are a great travel option because they can double as shower and beach shoes.  (Also cheaper.)  But I can’t personally vouch for them.   I also don’t have a preferred slip on sneak, but Zappos literally has thousands of them.

Save yourself the hassle.  Go slip on.  Or at least convert your shoes with some stretchy laces.  (Does anyone else get 50 Instagram ads for these a day?  Just me?)

Bring tissues and be ready to squat

This isn’t at some quaint local place. It’s at a mall. Some just prefer them.

Ah, toilets.  For the most part, bathrooms are totally fine.  But they can be, ah, different.

Enter the squat toilet!  It’s like mandatory squatting without your squatty potty assist.

Don’t be scared.  You’ll be fine.  Chances are that you may not need to use one.  Most places here do have both options.  But there could be times when the squat is the only option.  Just be prepared.

First, know that the toilet experience will be wet.  Instead of toilet paper, toilets are accompanied by a sprayer (hand bidet) situation if they are fancy.  A bucket of water with a dipper if they are not.  Possibly as a courtesy to others (or maybe because spraying water is fun), the bathroom will be well hosed down.

If you don’t see toilet paper in your stall, fear not!  You may have just missed it.  Many bathrooms have a large roll of toilet paper outside the stalls somewhere on the way in to the bathroom.  Check there first.  Still nothing?

Well, that’s why you have the tissues.  Of course, there is always the sprayer, but if you want some dryness, it’s a good thing you came prepared.

What are your top tips for travel to this region?  Do squat toilets terrify you?  Anyone planning a trip this way?

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