Contributed by Liam Austen
For new travellers, Asia seems to be the hotspot. There’s such a wide range of beautiful locations in the continent that tourists flock to see them all year after year, but there’s also plenty of things to look out for on your travels. Here are just seven things to be aware of during your Asian holidays.
The Eccentric Cuisine
When you’re travelling through Asia, you’re definitely likely to be sampling some delectable food. From India through to Japan there’s an abundance of coveted dishes that are popular with locals and tourists alike, but there’s also some stranger options that’ll either leave you disgusted or intrigued.
The Secret Traveller lists some of Asia’s stranger meals you might encounter – expect to see fried tarantulas on street stalls in Cambodia, and gizzard soup in Japanese. But the weirdest (and maybe most stomach-churning) dish you’re able to try is balut in the Philippines – anyone for a fertilized duck egg?
How Affordable Food Is
You’ll quickly find that throughout the majority of Asia, there’s an abundance of food that won’t break the bank. Street food is always a popular (and sensible) option, with that in Thailand and Vietnam being known as some of the world’s best.
There isn’t any reason to be weary of trying street food, either. It’s incredibly popular with tourists and locals alike, and it’s upon stalls that you’ll likely find some of the countries’ most popular (and tasty) dishes.
The Variety of Cuisines
You may be mistaken into thinking that throughout Asia, all of the food will taste the same. It’s a common misconception made by travellers, but you’ll be surprised at how much cuisines differentiate between countries.
Sure, certain cultures bleed into each other – take Bangkok’s Chinatown, for example – but you cannot get more opposite than a traditional Indian curry in the south of Asia, to the wriggling and very much alive dish of sannakji in South Korea. Make sure you prepare your palate for an incredible range of flavours.
Do you know how to haggle? You’re going to have to when travelling in Asia, as the marketplaces are busy and vendors are looking to make as much money as possible. Again, if you stand out as a tourist, these vendors are likely to hike their prices up as you won’t be aware of how much things should really cost.
The Planet D has published an essential guide that will help you haggle prices back down to normal. Essentially, you’ll need to approach vendors with a smile and a friendly demeanor, as they’ll appreciate this and be more willing to negotiate with you. Bad attitudes are commonly frowned upon throughout Asia, so don’t lose your temper.
On the positive side of things, you may be surprised at just how welcoming and friendly the locals are in Asia. In nearly every country residents are always looking to help tourists in every way, even going so far as to open up their homes to those needing a place to stay – it’s also the perfect opportunity to try some homemade cuisine.
Consider visiting the Indian city of Kerala, where homestays have become increasingly popular in recent years. It’s here where you’ll be able to stay in special homes opened by families, who will also join you and tell you stories of their lives and culture.
The Abundance of Alcohol
Although some parts of Asia could be considered strict in terms of alcohol consumption, you’ll be surprised at how popular it is in certain areas. Take Cambodia, where people are actually encouraged to drink as it pays taxes that effectively pays the salaries of teachers, doctors and civil servants.
There’s also the national drink of Japan – sake is a fermented rice drink, referred to as a wine but being as potent as a typical spirit. It’s often consumed alongside food, especially spicier dishes, so expect to be sipping it as you tuck into some traditional sushi.
The Sheer Beauty of it All
Regardless of where you choose to visit in Asia, you’ll be overcome by just how beautiful each and every part of it is. Whether you’re immersing yourself in the bustle of a big and booming city such as Tokyo or Delhi, or traversing secret spots such as China’s mountainside towns and Thailand’s secluded coves, you’ll fall in love instantly.
If you’re looking for a beach holiday, Asia can offer the best. If you’re a fond hiker, Asia also does that best. Travelling through the continent will offer such a diverse range of experiences and new foods, all of which are unparalleled by anywhere else in the world, that you’ll find it hard to leave.