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Mike's Travel Facts and Tips: Asian edition

Blogs 1-30

Mike's Travel Facts and Tips: Asian edition

Aleksandra Radic

Ah, it's finally here and completed! Part three of my travel facts and tips.  So sit back, relax as you get ready to endure a fun journey or frightening one for some.  The countries included are the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia. 


1)  Let's begin with a gross, but sad truth.   There are elderly gringo men, a handful of them grandfathers, and even a few great grandfathers (not kidding) coming to the Philippines to hook up with Filipino mistresses and/or prostitutes half their age (lady boys included) or under-age which is simply awful.

2) If your going to Boracay Island or anywhere in the Philippines, get use to being greated by the locals as "sir" or "ma'am" (if travelling alone), or "ma'am sir" as one word if your travelling as a couple.  We commonly heard phrases like this,  "ma'am sir, buffet, massage?"

3) Not to much on politics, but the government of Philippines is corrupt without a doubt.  After more than a handful of conversations with the locals, the concluding fact is they do nothing for their people, and the poor suffer greatly.   In fact, they have had numerous devastating typhoons over the years and the government received International aid/funds. The locals who were suppose to receive aid/compensation never did.  This was told to us by many disappointed locals on Boracay island who have relatives and friends who reside on the islands that were plummeted.  

4) Many of the local men look very discontent, a little scary and ready to burst at any moment.  Poverty and corruptness are to blame.

5) A lot of the streets have no lights and are pitch black.   I don't care as I'm always aware of my surroundings (so I think I am), but as a female I can see how you may be concerned about your safety walking alone at night.  Take a cab!

6) Restaurants and even some street vendors sell grilled tuna steaks all over the island of Boracay.  Grilled tuna steaks go for the same price as the same portion of chicken.  Get your fish apron on Canadians!!!

7) If your travelling to Boracay, definitely consider using Southwest tours.  It's hassle free travel from the airport by bus, fast boat and taxi van.  Pure class service and cheap.

8) Fly into Kalibo not Caticlan from Manila.  It will save you a ton of cash if your trying to get to Boracay island from Manila. 

9) Filipinos love their iced tea.  Its advertised at almost all restaurants with your meal and some even offer all you can drink iced tea. 

10) Ever heard of Kao Pad? It was our favourite dish to eat for lunch and dinner served best at Smoke restaurant.  Chicken glazed in a light sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds, strips of mango, and scrambled egg over a bed of rice.  Sounds simple, but it's fantastic!  Give Smoke restaurant a go when in Boracay, and obviously a kao pad dish.

11) Philippines had more visible lady boys than Thailand.  Like I mean, there were heaps at the airport and on the islands.  A majority were prostituting and they charge more than a "real" lady (I had to ask a local to find out and apparently lady boys do very well income wise).  

12) Fetching a taxi in Manila? Prepare to get ripped off.   Trying to get a metered taxi was tough at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport.  Most foreign tourists are forced to fetch a set-fee taxi to a destination which is usually double or outrageously more than the cost of a metered taxi.  And waiting on a metered taxi to arrive can take hours, which is cumbersome.

13) It's not uncommon to experience domestic flight delays (especially true for afternoon or evening flights).  So prepare yourself mentally for a full day at the airports when travelling within the country.



14) You know a Thai island has gone to crap and lost it's natural beauty and lustre when there is way too many 711's, 7 mart, 7 day, or any 711 copycats.  If the previous is true, prepare yourself for gringo pricing.

15) Where are the Swede's? Before arriving, I had the impression  they are the number one tourist in Thailand.  I was wrong! The countries most popular tourists are Brits, Germans and Russians.

16) Avoid Ko Samui island at all costs.  It's one big dump!  Jacked food prices, a mega shopping mall, mega resorts, nothing to fancy about beaches.  You know an island has lost its touch (or gained trashy tourists) when it has trucks with megaphones advertising Japanese Nuru massages 24/7 all around the island.  Don't know what a nuru is? then google it!  

17) A large number of locals are obsessed with whitening their skin.  You can see this at all times during the day caked on faces and/or in white patchy blotches. This has to do with class as darker skin is affiliated with lower class amongst Thai's.

18) Careful when buying face or body wash in the stores as almost all contain whitening.  If you don't want to kiss your tan away real fast or end up looking like Michael Jackson, read all cream labels or just ask one of the employees.

19) Moped/Scooter rentals are dirt cheap.  At 150-200 baht a day ($3-$4) it's a great option to tour the islands.

20) If your using the local taxi's, always remind them to turn on the meter.  However, on the islands taxi's work on a set-fee of 100-150 baht ($2-$3) in one direction  and are usually pick-up trucks filled in the back with other passengers (up to 8).

21) The well known full-moon party of Koh Phangan is a party for EDM kids, fake hippy kids as I refer to them.  Come on now, joke is over flower power, coke and MDMA using, florescent clothed, trip funded by parent's money kids.  Hippy? thing again.  Look up what the true definition of a hippy was and is. 

22) Thai coffee is really delicious as the expert Aleksandra (my better half) refers to it as.  It contains condensed milk which I am unable to try due to my severe case of lactose intolerance. Bummer!

23) In general, there are lots of tourist trap restaurants catering to gringo pricing typically in heavy gringo traffic areas.  Try wandering off the beaten path and you will find much better food for a fraction of the cost as we came to learn about real quickly.

24) Some Thai islands are still untouched with the tourism boom and inflated food prices.  Koh Chang island (our favourite Thai island) is no longer a secret, and it too will erode, become over crowded and over built in the near future (hopefully not, please!).

25) Surprisingly in tourist areas not a lot of Thai's employed in the service industry speak English well or at all.  

26) When in Bangkok, it is worth visiting Koh San road, but don't dare stay at a hotel on the street or near it if you plan on sleeping.

27) Fancy eating scorpions on a stick? How about snake? Maggots, beetles, roaches? No problem protein addicts.  There is plenty waiting for you in Koh San road.

28) Its not unusual to see tourists with huge band-aids and gashes or burn marks on their bodies throughout Thailand.  

29) There are more lady boys per capita on the islands than in the cities like Bangkok.

30) Domestic transportation is cheap! Book flights in advance.  Bus and ferry tickets can be purchased closer to the date without price inflations.

31) If diving is your thing go check out the island of Ko Tao.  You can get certified for much less and its legit.

32) The majority of locals and tourists coming to Thailand have a tattoo. You can get a traditional bamboo needled tattoo if that's your thing.

33) MSG is "Phong Churot" in Thai. It finds its way into a lot of cooking via on it's own, fish sauce, soy sauce and flavoured powders like Ros Dee and Knorr stock cubes.

34) Aleksandra and I officially came to Thailand and left ten pounds heavier.  The food is delicious, but you have to question is all that MSG really good for you? 

35) Customer service sucks big time in Thailand.  So don't expect North American standards at all you Westerners.  

36) Thailand contains the largest amount of Burmese residents outside of Burma.  Many Thai locals treat Burmese people lower than themselves.  It's common for the Burmese in Thailand to receive nightly curfews (sounds ridiculous but it's true) and lower wages compared to a Thai local doing the same job.

37) Ever fancy a magic mushroom shake? Well it's offered in Thailand a lot of places and its suppose to put you on cloud nine and give you a psychedelic experience.  

38) A drug called ya ba or "ice" is a real problem in Thailand.  It literally means madness or crazy drug and contains amphetamine and caffeine.  Just ask one of the EDM fake hippy kids and they will tell you all about the experience.

39) The Thai mafia is presently spread throughout Thailand.  It came to our attention many of the crimes committed by Thai thugs on tourists use Burmese people living in Thailand as scapegoats.  Awful! 

40) Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand is the countries most popular, respected and advertised being.  His face is on billboards, stickers in cabs, and you would think he's a man in his 40's from the photos.  But, really he's 80 years old and no photos are shown of him past his prime.   Sadly, his health is deteriorating.

41) If your planning on staying in budget accommodations, then get use to taking a cold shower as hot water is a luxury and non-existent.

42) Aside from no hot water, its rather common to have a lack of toilet paper in budget accommodations.  Also, we found the same to be true in some restaurants.  So don't feel embarrassed packing a roll or some tissues in your purse or a bag.  Many expats do it all the time!

43) If bugs, geckos or anything with legs or shiny shells make you squeamish, then Thailand will be a nightmare for you on a budget or at all.  Geckos, heck I love those little guys!  They would be in our bedroom and are great because they eat the mosquitoes and other small bugs.  But, large 3-4 inch roaches in the bedroom I had a hard time getting use to.   

44) Budget travel bathrooms sometimes means no dividers with the shower and the toilet; its one big area.  So expect a wet floor at the sink and toilet seat after every shower.



45) Guys don't be surprised when asked by locals in Bali if you need any Valium, Xanax, Viagra or magic mushroom.  You get use to it, as there seems to be a market for it, especially for Australian male tourists.

46) Taxi's are by far the most annoying we have experienced in our travels, especially in Seminyak, Bali.  They are constantly honking (at gringo walking tourists), stopping to ask you if you need transport (taxi), honking, more honking, you get my drift.  

47) Don't even bother with taxi's as they huge scam artists.  They set the fees because there is no meter.  Uber is available in Bali and we used it extensively.  It will cost less than a 1/4 of what the set-fee taxi's charge.  If you don't want to use Uber they even have an app where you can set up a ride on a moped/scooter taxi.

48) If you are a vegan or vegetarian you are going to love Bali. Raw foods, green smoothies, vegan wraps/bowls and raw vegan desserts are the thing when in Bali.

49) The largest Muslim "population" worldwide by country is in Indonesia.  Probably a shock to you Westerners who don't get to travel much (or watch only Western news) and come to realize an Asian country like Indonesia is almost three times more densely populated with Muslims than any Arab country.

50) Seminyak, Bali would not be my first choice for referring anyone interested in visiting Bali.  Remember I told you about all those locals asking about if you need drugs? Those annoying taxi drivers? Well, it's all in Seminyak.  It's over crowded with tourists, gringo pricing and it's nice for visiting and seeing over the course of a few days due to the numerous options for food, cafes, and a few cool lounges on the beach.

51) Canggu is the up and coming place to visit when on Bali island.  It's only 15 minutes or less away from Seminyak.  You get more of the local experience with still all the glory of excellent cafes, restaurants, bars, lounges and a beach scene (catering more to surfers) at a fraction of the cost of Seminyak.

52) Bali is full of the coolest modern, antique furniture and a combo of the two .  I wish I could ship everything from Bali back home to decorate my place without any steep shipping costs.  Too bad!

52) We were really impressed with the quantity and quality of cafe's throughout Bali.

53) When in Indonesia you need to try local food at a warung.  It's typically a family owned restaurant offering local eats at local prices.  Try the nasi (meaning rice) gorang or campur.

54) Balinesians (the people of Bali) are by majority very superstitious and Hindu's by religion.  You will see in the front of people's homes, restaurants, in cars on the dash, etc., what they call offerings (a nicely decorated box with a distinct arrangement of flowers, piece of bread/cracker, and more). The locals build offerings to keep themselves safe from evil spirits. 

55) Ulawatu, Bali is like Ubud, but with a beach.  You will have the chance to roam and walk freely with hundreds of monkeys both in Ulawatu and Ubud.

56) Dragon fruit is cheaper than buying an apple, by a lot!  The reverse would be true in Canada. 

57) On a budget and you want to shop? maybe not in Bali.  Clothing prices were not cheap in the stores, especially in Seminyak. Even the markets in Ubud were pricey. Thailand and Sri Lanka were much cheaper.

58) Accommodations in Indonesia are the cheapest to date for our travels.  You can get a 4 star hotel room (if that's your fancy) for $30-$45 a night in Bali with breakfast included for two.

59) Budget accommodations or homestays on the Gili islands typically use only cold "salt" water for their showers.  

60) If you plan on visiting Bali, it would be a shame if you didn't make it to the Gili islands.  You can set-up a return shuttle van including a fast boat for cheap from anywhere on Bali.  You won't find any motorized vehicles or dogs on the islands.  It's also one of the greatest spots in Asia to go diving and snorkelling due to the size of the coral reef which begins immediately off the shore.