My love affair with Southeast Asia was one of those opposites-attract scenarios: uptight, punctual hipster meets chaotic-bordering-on-crazy. Although brief, it was intense: it reminded me the act of breaking my rules can be its own reward.
It certainly had its downsides, mostly of the insect variety: bedbugs, cockroaches, mosquitoes. Long bus rides, a lack of toilet paper, wet floors in bathrooms (why bother to stick a pipe in under the sink?), crushing humidity. But mostly, Southeast Asia kept me smiling–here’s why:
The street food: mango and sticky rice in Thailand, unidentified spicy goodness wrapped up in banana leaves in Bali, steaming bowls of pho (and pretty much everything else edible) in Vietnam
Spotting monkeys in the trees, even if I secretly hoped they wouldn’t get too close
Never having to wait for a red light: Southeast Asia traffic rewards those who dare
Fruit shakes: your choice of tropical fruit, from exotic passionfruit and dragonfruit and mango to tame-but-still-delicious pineapple or banana, mixed with ice and a healthy spoonful of sugar: all mixed together by a blender plugged into the street corner
The smell of clean clothes: handing over a sack of dirty, rumpled clothes and receiving a stack of carefully-folded, sweetly-smelling items the next day for the same price of one washing machine cycle in a Laundromat at home
The feeling as if you’ll never ever be able to get rid of all the sand lingering in your bag, your towel, in between your toes
Rock climbing the incredible limestone cliffs in Railay and Halong Bay: the satisfaction of reaching the top is heightened when you turn from the rock and see crystal-clear turquoise water stretching out before you
Sliding into the motorbike seat of your favorite street cart vendor and making your own dinner
From watching the man shimmy up the tree to cut one down with his machete to slurping the water straight out through a straw to cutting up the flesh for a snack, coconuts are the ultimate symbol of laid-back life in the tropics
Sunset over the sea (while sipping a pina colada, while lounging in the sand…
Hammocks, glorious hammocks
Being either barefoot or wearing flip-flops ALL THE TIME
Realizing that three square (and delicious) meals a day costs less than your morning latte in Melbourne
What are your favorite Southeast Asia travel joys?