Travelling Light

Ten Signs You Have Been Travelling In Asia Too Long

Travelling Light on Koh Lipe, Thailand

The water in Koh Lipe is an amazing colour!

Asia has many attractions for travellers – there are many low-cost destinations, it has a wide cultural and historical variety, and the climate is generally warm.

Can you spend too long in Asia? Here are some warning signs that you might be “going native”.

1. a) You always carry toilet paper, or

OK, so it might be some paper napkins, or wet wipes, but you have learned that public toilets don’t have toilet paper (and even in an expensive restaurant it’s a crap-shoot – as it were).

Even more telling, in its final form:

b) You have learned to do without toilet paper.

We will not go into detail. You know what we mean, if this is you.

2. You have made peace with the squat toilet.

Squat toilet

Squat toilet


Leaving aside the situations in which you find the squat toilet disgustingly filthy (which could also happen with a Western toilet), you can now “do your business” without getting your clothes or the cubicle covered in unmentionable.

3. You haggle fluently.

Phantip Market, Thongsala, Koh Phangan

Markets mean haggling.

In fact, you are slightly shocked when you find yourself in a fixed-price scenario – are they just saying the price is fixed because I have white skin, or do they mean it?

You know the names of all the numbers in multiple Asian languages, you can instantly divide the asking price by two, three, or four in your head, and you have mastered the disbelieving laugh with which to greet the asking price.

You are no longer irritated that the simple act of hopping in a tuk tuk (auto-rickshaw, motorbike taxi, etc) requires five to ten minutes of haggling, and often negotiating with three or four different drivers before you find someone who will take you somewhere for something you consider to be a reasonable price.

4. You know the active ingredient of the best antibiotic for each type of stomach bug.

You can buy antibiotics over the counter in most Asian countries, but you can’t trust the pharmacist to give you the right one, so you have to know what to ask for.

You’ve had enough stomach bugs by now that you can tell the difference between food poisoning (which is horrible, but generally blows over within 24 hours), and a bacterial infection (which may have milder symptoms, but can drag on for weeks or months if you don’t treat it.

5. You have mastered the art of brushing your teeth with bottled water.

So that you minimise the number of times you need to deploy #5.

Meat sitting in temperatures over 30 degrees C - it's enough to make you go vegetarian!

Meat sitting in temperatures over 30 degrees C – it’s enough to make you go vegetarian!

6. You no longer expect anything to be clean.

Restaurant tables will have been dusted, to remove any visible crumbs, but won’t have touched a damp cloth since the last time someone spilled a drink. Tablecloths? Only in the most expensive restaurants.

Floors are treated like sidewalks – swept, again to remove any visible rubbish. We saw the most amazing greasy dust collection when we moved a bed once – so bad, that we decided not to push the two single beds together at all, and just slept separately.

Sheets are not always washed between guests in hotels, hostels, and guesthouses. You are grateful when the hostel asks you to strip your own bed, because that means the previous occupant probably removed their sheets before you arrived.

Clothes will come back from the laundry with stains still on them – stains that vanish the first time you get to a place with a washing machine.

And there is rubbish everywhere. Sometimes they set it on fire. Next to the drying laundry.

7. You consider a hot shower (or proper bath) to be a luxury experience.

Sometimes we pay a bit more for a proper hotel, just to have a hot shower!

Sometimes we pay a bit more for a proper hotel, just to have a hot shower!

You are so used to washing yourself with a bucket and a scoop, or under cold water, that you are excited to have hot water falling on you in a gentle shower.

And a proper bath? Where you can lie down and soak in hot water until your core temperature rises? You can’t remember the last time you did that in a private bathroom.

8. You have let go of any concept of “breakfast food”.

Curry for breakfast? Stir-fry and rice for breakfast? Tapioca for breakfast? Cold rice balls for breakfast? You take it all in your stride.

9. You have adapted to the local version of tea, coffee and/or hot chocolate.

Hot Milo, Milo ais (iced Milo), and a Milo roti at Line Clear Restaurant, Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Hot Milo, Milo ais (iced Milo), and a Milo roti at Line Clear Restaurant, Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia

Black tea strong enough to strip paint? Coffee made with condensed milk AND sugar? Tea leaves boiled in milk? Super-sweet powdered 3-in-1 Nescafe with sugar and non-dairy creamer? Sweet drinking chocolate with condensed milk and sugar? No problem.

You’ll even consider paying the ridiculously inflated prices they charge when they have an espresso machine, just to get a proper espresso or cappuccino. Even though you could buy a whole meal for the same money.

10. You are no longer amazed or grossed out by the things people consider food.

You have seen deep-fried grasshoppers, entrail soup, goat curry, stir-fried dog, roasted pig eyeballs, stir-fried chicken feet, and so many other things that you really can’t be shocked any more.

You may even have eaten a few of them.

How many of these signs do you see in yourself already?

Now, we are well aware that there are actually more than ten signs, so go ahead, post a comment below. What have we missed from our list?