- It’s not as hard as you think
Sure if you don’t speak the language, you’ll have to play charades sometimes. You won’t always be able to read the street or shop signs and you might not be able to have the great conversations with the local people you meet along the way that you would like to. But there are plenty of ways to orientate yourself even when you don’t speak the language or even recognize the characters, and learning a few basic phrases (Hello, Thank You, What is your name, How much does it cost, How are you, etc.) in the local language along with a smile and a good attitude will go a long way for positive interactions with the people around you.If the idea of eating in Asia worries you, for better or worse, it’s pretty easy to get a taste of home just about everywhere. Pizza, banana pancakes, hamburgers, pasta and the like (or at least renditions of them) are pretty easy to find most places. And of course the chains – McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Subway, Starbucks, and more – can be found aplenty in just about every country. You won’t starve, so don’t let the food situation scare you off.
But really, do try the street pad thai, the interesting pancake/lettuce/hot dog/chili concoction or the goods from the dumpling lady on the corner instead. They’re not full of poison danger. They’re full of awesome.
- Not all the buses are chicken buses
In Nepal you may well find yourself sitting on the rooftop of a bus (if you want to – it’s certainly never compulsory) with a goat or two, or you may experience a train journey from the luggage rack along with 20 of your closest friends if you’ve taken the general seating class without a reservation in India. But just as possibly, you could instead ride the very luxurious 2AC class, with nice beds and air-conditioning, and only four people per cabin. The choice is yours. Choose your own adventure!In some places you can indeed choose between a chicken bus, or you can opt for one with chairs so large and cushy you might think you’re back home in your favorite recliner watching the game. In fact, you practically could watch the game. Some of these buses come with your own personal video monitor with TV shows, current movies, even a video game system with an actual controller. If you get chilly, don’t worry – just open up the arm rest and pull out your comforter!!
Certainly the public transportation systems in Japan, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong will blow your mind with their cleanliness, efficiency, and usefulness. So yes, there are definitely chicken buses or rooftop rides with goats possible in Asia. But you’ll often have options if you’re not up for it.
- Sometimes, everything you do is fascinating to others
One of the simultaneously most endearing and strangest things of traveling in Asia as a person of “foreign” appearance is that, well, you look a little different from the people around you. And some countries that have only relatively recently opened up to tourism or just simply don’t see a lot of tourists may be especially interested in looking at you – sometimes quite blatantly and unabashedly.If you travel for a while in one of these places, it’s pretty likely that you’ll end up having someone’s cell phone camera snapping a picture of you as you do something absolutely mundane or maybe asked to take a picture with mom and dad, grandma and the baby (in your arms of course). And don’t be shocked if a line forms behind them so others can have their turn! While it may seem strange, especially when you’re not doing anything interesting at all, just consider you are probably just as interested in taking pictures of them doing things that they consider everyday mundane activities, which is probably equally baffling (and awkward?) to them.
Whether it’s you or them behind the camera lens, try to make it a fun connection and it can be a good cultural exchange for everyone – with or without words!