Yes you all see my pictures of beautiful views, beautiful sunsets and me with a cocktail in hand on Facebook and Instagram and yes Asia is an amazing place. I love backpacking and for an Essex girl I am pretty low maintenance, but there are a few things that make this idyllic location and amazing time I am having a little less exciting. Things travellers like to call ‘First world problems’.
Here I will introduce you to the less glamorous side of backpacking.
1. Poorly tummy / Sickness / Fever (Yes both ends) – It is so common in
Asia that it is perfectly acceptable to discuss this with complete strangers. So why shouldn’t I put it on my blog. Who doesn’t love being ill when they are away from home in an unfamiliar place. Everybody, that’s who. Luckily the pharmacies and doctors in Asia are usually very good. You can find a medical centre in most towns, and purchase antibiotics over the counter. Make sure you Google the ingredients if you have an allergy. A few Pharmacist have take my ‘No Penicillin’ as ‘Ok you want Penicillin’. That would not have ended well!
2. Heat – Yes it can be too hot. 42 degrees is TOO hot. Sweat, Swollen hands and feet. Drinking loads of water, you then have to wee loads in lovely public toilets with no toilet roll. I give thanks for all the little packs of tissues my mum made me pack and for bum guns. Yes bum guns, one of Asia’s greatest inventions, a little squirt hose that sprays out clean what water when and where you need it.
3. Cold – Cold, I hear you cry! But some of the aircon systems in these places are ridiculous. Waking up at 5am shivering is not great when there is no blanket to be found.
4. Delays – Ah everyone loves sitting in a dark, smelly bus station for 4 hours, and don’t forget how fun it is to sit on a plane for 3 hours before it even takes off. Asia time: Add an hour and a half to your departure time and this should be the time your chosen mode of transport will actually leave.
5. Jet lag – Coming to Asia, you will not be able to sleep until 4am. Great, you are thinking, ‘I can party all night’. Correct, but then you will not be able to get up until 4pm the next day. This is not so great if you have a long uncomfortable bus journey. Going from the UK to US you will need to go to bed at 7pm and then wake up at 4am. What is open at 4am? Nothing! Even Time Square in NYC. That was a fun morning in the rain, hunting for pancakes. It takes me a good week to get over jet lag. It is evil.
6. Carrying the backpack. A backpacker complaining about carrying a backpack. Yep 14kg, (yes I do need it all) is pretty horrendous in 38 degree heat or a monsoon. When the directions on the website say 10 minute walk, multiply it by 2.5 and that is the quickest anyone has ever got there. On Gili T I refused to get a horse and cart as they were being overloaded so we walked around for an hour in the heat on dirt roads until we finally found the hostel. But at least we did not hurt the ponies.
7. Noisy dorm mates – Yes maybe I have been guilty of this a few times, but do you really need to Skype your mother at 6am in the dorm when 11 other people are trying to sleep? Oh and don’t forget my first night when I went to the toilet at 2am to find two backpackers getting down and dirty in the cubical next door. Well at least they didn’t do it in the bunk I suppose. I have been seeing some hostels not allowing over 35s to stay there. Now I am panicking. I only have four years left. Surely they should restrict the other end as well. 21-38 would be perfect.
8. Mosquito / Bugs – In Koh Lanta I practically used a whole bottle of bug
spray in a day but they still got me. I slept with a mosquito net but they still got me. I will tell you why they got me. They got me in the shower. They came up through the stinky drain and got me while I was shaving my arm pits. Have they no shame? Of course you can reduce the risk of getting bitten but with a Dengue fever poster on every toilet door, you cannot help but worry. You also have a whole array of other creepy crawlies. Lovely Fire ants and other things that want to bite you.
9. Injuries – Wearing flip flops and bikinis all the time leaves you body exposed to danger. In England I would have jeans or leggings to protect my skin but here you encounter stubbed toes, cut knees, bruises and do not forget falling off scooters. Don’t worry, I am far too scared to ride one, but that doesn’t stop me being run over by the crazy people that do chose to ride them!
10. Sunburn – I wear Sun Protection Factor 3o, how do i still get burned? Because it sweats off and rubs off on your clothing and bags that is why. You can apply suncream all you like but the sun will still get you. Dealing with sun burn when you have to sleep in a hot, sweaty, sandy dorm bed is not the greatest experience and it is even better when it becomes sun stroke. You have to walk a mile, in the heat to buy a bottle of water. Awesome. Wear Suncream people.
10.1. Saying Good Bye – Backpacking, you meet so many wonderful people from all over the world. Some of them you spend 24 hours a day with for a week, become best friends and then, BAM, they have to leave to go to another country. You may be able to meet up with them at a later date, but when you are away from your friends and family, you start to rely on this people and saying Good Bye to them,or even just see you in a few weeks, sucks.
Of course none of these things bothers me looking at the bigger picture. I think if anything, it just makes me laugh and appreciate life and travelling that little bit more.
After all if the above things are all I have to worry about, then life is good, right?