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The First Time Traveler's Guide to East Asia


Making your first trip to East or Southeast Asia? Wondering where to go?

Okay, I've spent significant time in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. I can weigh in on those places for you. I haven't been to Macau, Laos, Burma, the Philippines, North Korea, or Indonesia yet - of them, I've heard great things about the Philippines and Indonesia in particular, but I can't comment.

So, some thoughts about every country -

Japan - Still the crown jewel of Asia, Japan has something for everyone. There's ancient and hyper-modern culture mixed all together. There's amazing technology, high levels of development, basically nonexistent crime, ridiculously high standards of quality and hygiene, and the people are friendly and polite. English isn't widely spoken, but the Japanese take being good hosts seriously and you'll be fine in any major city. You can find quite literally anything here - amazing camping and mountains and forests and oceans, or hyper-developed space-age districts in cities.

The downside of Japan - It's fucking expensive. Like, really really expensive. I hate spending money on eating and sleeping - every dollar I put into basic "staying alive" stuff is less money to be invested in commerce or philanthropy, or learning, or having unique experiences that are more interesting than... well, eating and sleeping. Yet, eating and sleeping is brutally expensive here. If you're not a veteran traveler and don't have friends here, you'll be hard pressed to spend less than $100/day in Japan. If you slum it hard, you can maybe get down to $50/day. Everything's ridiculously expensive, ranging from 400% to 2,000% higher than still-developing countries in Asia.

hello there southeast asia

On Point B

hello there southeast asia i’ve only just arrived we’ve not met formally though i do hope we’ll be friends no pressure, i just wanted to introduce myself you may remember my parents who met you here some years ago how many i really couldn’t say and it has been quite some time don’t remember them? well, no matter take it from me, they’re nice enough people whom you once met or so they claim

southeast asia, i am wearing the same green shirt i wore in the americas i wear it not as a gesture of familiarity nor a token of goodwill but because i am a lackluster fellow who has not shopped for new clothes since coming to meet you i hope you won’t think ill of me

southeast asia i grew up with stories of you with slideshows of you glowing ghosts onscreen my parents young slim dark-haired smiling before temples fountains statues slides shown to guests after dinner as i played on the rug beside the sofa with my trucks

southeast asia my sister and i were the only kids we knew who ate with chopsticks thought it was exotic knew the old names of your countries siam peiking burma bombay when this was that for whatever reason

southeast asia will it mean anything to you anything at all if i say that before i left ohio left the americas i made pictures of you in my mind i cringe now at the poor likenesses and mourn that in them i made you only a sort of charicature of what i’d imagined of this of you of a continent as far from my own as can be imagined

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