Remember the experience of landing in Southeast Asia for the first time? Stepping off the plane was like lifting a veil from your eyes that you never knew you were even wearing.
Well, that’s how it felt for us anyway the first time we landed in Bangkok.
The colours were brighter, the smells were sharper, and the sounds were clearer. Every sense seemed so much more in focus than it was back home.
Then we stepped onto the streets, and that’s where it hit us – Southeast Asia is as overwhelming as it is gorgeous, the very definition of sensory overload.
Everywhere we looked deals were being made over street carts and produce stands. Adults and children were selling everything from fruits and purses to shoes, bracelets, ribbons, insects and mystery seeds.
And everywhere we turned, there were beautiful smiles beaming back at us. Thailand is called “the Land of Smiles,” after all.
On that note, we’ve decided to create a nostalgia-inducing list of the things you’ll miss once you leave Southeast Asia.
We’re about to tell you that the things you first balked at will be some of the things that you’ll miss most once you’ve gone.
And that brings us to the first thing you’ll miss:
7 Things You’ll Miss When You Leave Southeast Asia
1. The haggling
You’ll never forget your first lesson in haggling; and how you got absolutely schooled by either a street dealer or a tuk-tuk driver.
The kicker was you didn’t know you’d been had until someone was nice enough to tell you the reason why the vendor was left smiling. (You also remember the first time you told someone else that they had also just been got. And the sweet realisation that came with it; that you’ve become a local.)
But from then on you were addicted to getting a good deal. Haggling is just a way of life in Southeast Asia.
In fact, if you don’t haggle, you’re most certainly paying a higher price than normal. Vendors expect you to bargain, which is why the first price they propose is always much more than they expect to get.
That’s why you build your haggling muscle.
Speaking of haggling, the prices in Southeast Asia just cannot be beaten.
2. Fruit! Fruit everywhere!
Fruit smoothies are usually a special $5 treat in most other countries; but in Southeast Asia at $0.70 a pop, they’re not only cheap, they’re a way of life.
You almost forget about why you loved sugar so much. Fruit is really all you need to satisfy your sweet tooth, and a blender is the only tool you need.
Also coconuts. Fresh coconuts every day!
3. The hostels and hotels
If there are hostels anywhere else in this world that are more gorgeous and scenic than those of Southeast Asia, people have yet to speak up about them.
Nowhere else can you combine the words “inexpensive” and “luxurious” like you can here. It’s insanity how beautiful the accommodations can be at the price they’re offered.
If you want an idea of the places you can stay, you can check them out here at Traveloka.
4. The prices
You can survive there on less than $20 a day, which is the average price of a standard meal in many western countries. Face it, you are going to desperately miss how cheap everything is.
Rooms for $10, street meals for $1, fancy sit down meals for $3, fruit smoothies for $0.70, and everything in between. Southeast Asia is wonderfully inexpensive.
And while we’re on the topic of food…
5. The geckos
No hostel would be complete without a family of geckos in the room. Their adorable little chirps are the sweet music you fall asleep to.
And they are the reason you wake up with less bug bites than normal, because for the whole night they’ve been kaaping guard over your bed and eating those pesky mosquitos.
6. The food
The food will probably be the number one most missed aspect of Southeast Asia once you leave. It is mouth-wateringly delicious.
All kinds; from pad thai to chicken massamam to pho to banh mi. Or the fact that you could order a plate of pad see eiw at a grill and you weren’t sure if it was an actual street stall or just someone’s home and they just happened to be grilling in their backyard.
But it was always amazing.
And the funny thing is that when you get back home, your friends will inevitably want to celebrate your homecoming with a visit to an Asian restaurant, which most likely make you turn up your nose in disappointment at both the quality and price. (Congratulations; your taste buds have been ruined for life.)
Night markets with piped-in frog croaks are just not a thing outside of Southeast Asia, and we’re all the lesser for it.
7. The chaos
You eventually come to love the fact that you have no idea what or whom you’re going to meet once you step outside your door, or where you might end up.
On the daily you’ll encounter scooters packed with 5 people, temples on every corner heady with incense and orange-clothed monks, divine food (even though you have no idea what you’re putting in your mouth), the tuk-tuk drivers who navigated the streets like they were in a video game, and just the genuine lack of safety regulations.
Which after a while start to make way more sense to you than all of the little laws you have to deal with back home. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, they don’t really care.
Isn’t that how life should be?
And in the end, if you’re lucky, you come to understand that what you at first considered “chaos” is actually just a tiny piece of the pattern of Southeast Asian life which is much bigger than you could ever comprehend.
It’s all a part of something much bigger than yourself, and you feel all the more lucky to have been a small part of that pattern for a blip in time.
Southeast Asia connects us to our inner selves.
It lets us know who we really are – how we respond to challenges, how we react to uncertainty, and how we cope in the face of the unknown.
When you leave, you’ll not only miss where you’ve been and the amazing locals that you’ve come to know, you’ll also have a better sense of where you’re going.
We can’t wait to return to this beautiful part of the world.