Traveling in Asia – What to Look Out For

June 7, 2011 by  
Filed under General Fun

Asia is a bewilderingly large continent, home to an incredible range of different cultures and languages. It not the easiest of places to get around, and even the most seasoned of travellers will come across some hurdle or other – though how high it’ll be is anyone’s guess. Here are 10 basic tips to see you through your trip with relative ease…

1. Learn the lingo

Although people on the Asian continent aren’t particularly snooty about whether or not you speak their native tongue, being able to communicate is always a bonus, and knowing the word for ‘please’, for example, could make all the difference in some situations.

2. Know your Asian countries

As we’ve already said, Asia contains more countries than any other continent, so learn about where you’re going and make sure you know which gestures and/or words denote respect and which denote derision. Don’t get it wrong, or you could find yourself in a heap of trouble.

3. Make sure you always carry US dollars

While currency exchanges will always recognise the American dollar, some hotels and tour operators in places like Cambodia and the poorer Asian countries won’t accept anything else.

4. Dip your toe in

If you are travelling around South East Asia, start off in Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore – these cities will gently ease you into Asian culture. For those in Asia for the first time, some degree of culture shock is inevitable. The language is completely alien, the food is often like nothing you’ve ever tried before and the manner of the people quite different to those we might be used to at home.

5. Go local

While you might at first feel out of your depth when it comes to eating out, make sure you dive right in. You can always refer to your guide book for help, and because Asian people are generally so friendly, they won’t mind you pointing out what the guy next to you is chowing down on, and it might even win you a bit of a giggle.

6. Know what’s in store

Asia can be a place of political and social unrest, so it’s crucial that you check out the news and contact your embassy, if necessary, for the latest travel advice.

7. Learn how to haggle

Every Asian community, urban or rural, revolves around a market. Most items will have a marked price, but that’s a mere formality. Be reasonable, find a happy medium and smile at all times. It’s considered in many places to be a snub if you don’t haggle, so give it a go – you’ll only get better, and it’s a lot of fun. Always remember that if you feel pressured, the vendor won’t mind if you walk away from the transaction.

8. Beware of scams

While Asia is rich in culture, breathtaking scenery and generous people, it’s also riddled with poverty, which can make people creative when it comes to a bit of a tourist scam. Keep your wits about you. While most scams are relatively harmless, having things stolen from you will certainly put a downer on things. It’s best to get covered before you go away, so for worldwide travel insurance moneysupermarket is the best place to look.

9. Don’t be afraid to break away from your itinerary

Don’t make rigid plans – you’ll meet people with great stories of where they’ve been, make friends with people you’ll want to travel around with, and may love somewhere you visit more than life itself. Before you go, make a general bucket list and make sure you leave plenty of room to ad lib.

10. Most of all – be patient

Traveling through most parts of Asia can be tricky and rough. The heat, the alien cultures and the language barriers can take their toll if you let them, so whenever the adverse happens, don’t rise to it. Saving face is an very important part of Asian culture, so losing control of your emotions could render you a fool in Asian eyes, and most of all, it won’t get you anywhere.

Unearthing Asia is a travel magazine focusing on Lifestyle, Culture and Attractions all over Asia. Don’t miss out on the best cheap maldives holidays ideas and inspirations in the region of Asia.

12 Must-Do Things in Bali

June 8, 2010 by  
Filed under Attractions, Exotic South East

From water-sports to shopping, the island of Bali has it all. Pamper yourself with a chocolate spa treatment before partying the night away at one of its trendiest nightspots, all this while squeezing a gourmet meal in between. Here are some of the must-do things in the Islands of God.

Photo credit – Sean McGrath

Photo credit – Sean McGrath

Hide Away

No trip to Bali is complete without experiencing the hillside tranquility of Ubud. Fresh off winning the prestigious Conde Nast Traveler Magazine award as the World’s Best City, the small hill-side town is now abuzz with tourism and renewed popularity. However, there are still spots to relax and unwind. Head to Dirty Duck Cafe (Warung Bebek Bengil) for a tasty serving of crispy, deep fried duck with mouth-watering sambal on the side. Various trekking and cycling tours are also available for you to take through the maze of never-ending terraced paddy fields.

Photo credit – Stella Blu

Photo credit – Stella Blu

Dress Up

When it comes to shopping in Bali, there is only one place for fashionable trendsetting locals who knows not to judge a book by its cover – Seminyak. This shopping area on the southern coast of Bali is filled with fashionable treasures waiting for you to unearth. BIASA is the undisputed queen of fashion, a chapel of cool selling classics for grown ups and a few flirty styles for the younger crowd too. Other local favorites are Paul Ropp, Papillion, Innuendo and Flamingo, which you can read further in our exploration of Seminyak.

Photo credit - Metal Marna

Photo credit - Metal Marna

Arts & Crafts

The arts and crafts scene in Bali is well developed and highly sought after in the international market. Numerous artists have made Bali their home, drawing from the colorful culture and charming island life Bali has to offer as their inspiration. Balinese wood carving is popular amongst tourists, and you can find some of the best in business at Tegallalang, Pujung and Sebatu. For elegant ceramics, Jenggala Ceramics in Jimbaran is the place to go. The spacious gallery, just 10 minutes away from the airport, offers world-class, locally made crockery at reasonable prices, in a wide range of designs.

Photo credit – yummiec00kies

Photo credit – yummiec00kies

Surf’s Up

While Bali is no longer a frontier surfing destination, it still boasts some of the best surfing spots in the world. It has over 20 top quality breaks on the southwest and southeast coast of the island, and there are a wide range of breaks to cater all skill levels. Beginners can head to Kuta Beach to enroll at the various surfing schools available, while other areas, such as Uluwatu and Padang, offer world-class reef-breaks for those of higher skill level.

Photo credit - chee.hong

Photo credit - chee.hong

Dolphin Watch

Tourists can head towards Lovina, 3 hours north of Kuta, which is famed for their dolphin sight-seeing tours. These tours leave the main beaches each morning at dawn, with the price usually set at Rp75,000 per person. If you are in a group, chartering your own boat maybe a more worthwhile option.

Photo credit - ValerioVeo

Photo credit - ValerioVeo

Sip a Good Martini

For Bali’s best martini, drop into the legendary Naughty Nuri’s Warung on Jl Raya Sanggingan, a 10-minute drive west from the centre of Ubud. The classic chilled martini and margaritas are some of the best you’ll find on the island, and they also serve a mean pork ribs. The atmosphere is casual and relaxing, a perfect way to while away your afternoon after a tiring day.


Party Away

If partying is high on your list then the Kuta Beach area is where you want to go. Here, the party starts late at around midnight and goes on all night into the wee hours of the morning. Think noisy discotheques full of drunk tourists and locals, with various dance shows to draw in the crowd. Hulu Cafe prides itself as “the only real gay bar in Bali”, and has drag shows three times a week which can be quite fun. Casablance, Peanuts, Bounty Ship, M-Bar-Go and Sky Garden are a few of the numerous watering holes in the area ready to serve you whatever drinks you may want.


Pamper Yourself

As the bastion of luxury travel in South East Asia, Bali boasts some of the world’s best in the art of spa pampering. Kayumanis Private Villa & Spa offers the ultimate indulgence – a pampering of chocolate spa treatment. It combines traditional Balinese massage using chocolate oils, followed with a chocolate scrub, chocolate bath, chocolate facial and finally, a serving of chocolate ice cream to top it off at the end. Plenty other hotels and villas offers high-quality Balinese massage using special medicated oils to help you relax and unwind.

Photo credit - Metis

Photo credit - Metis

Eat Like a King

Bali is home to some of the finest restaurants in the region, offering high-end culinary treats mixed with the great island atmosphere and friendly face. Over the years, there have been a few mainstays, such as the legendary Ku De Ta, Sarong Bali, and Kafe Warisan (which is now revamped as Metis). The price is steep, but like they always said, you do get what you pay for.

Photo credit - Mr Wabu

Photo credit - Mr Wabu

Water Sports

Tanjong Benoa is Bali’s premier water-sports hub, with various activities available for you to choose from. Parasailing, snorkeling, jet-skis, wake-boarding and banana-boats are but a few of the choices available here. There are also white-water rafting operators further up north, near Ubud area, with the the Telagawajah and Ayung River being two of the most popular options.

Photo credit - Ilse Rejis and Jan-Noud Hutten

Photo credit - Ilse Rejis and Jan-Noud Hutten

Scuba Diving

There are quite a few scuba diving sites around Bali. Some of the popular ones are – wreck-divingat Tulamben in the east, the serene reefs around Menjangan Island, and drift diving off Nusa Penida in the south. For beginners there are also various dive centres affiliated with PADI and SSI offering introductory courses.

Photo credit - Flashpacking Life

Photo credit - Flashpacking Life

Climb Mount Agung

Mount Agung is the highest mountain on the island of Bali, which holds a huge spiritual significance to the people of the island and is home to the Temple of Besakih. There are three climbing routes up the mountain, and all are quite difficult and only suitable for the physically fit. The rewards however, are most definitely worth it, with some awe-inspiring views of the mountains across flat rubble plains. Getting a local guide is a must, with fees varying from USD40 to USD100 depending on how you arrange the guide, the route taken and the level of English expected of the guide.

Travel smarter! If your looking for the best deals on Bali hotel prices, head on to for a one-stop portal which allows you to compare prices from over 500 booking websites!

Unearthing Asia is a travel zine focusing on Lifestyle, Culture and Attractions all over Asia. Don’t miss out on the best last minutes holidays ideas and inspirations in the region of Asia, such as this list of top attractions in Ho Chi Minh City.

15 Tips for Living in a Foreign Country

March 12, 2009 by  
Filed under Culture, General Fun

You’ve packed your bags and said your farewell. You have a job, a work visa and a place to stay (or so you thought). Nothing left to do but board that big-old 747 and head towards the unknown!

Exhilarating. Daunting. A little bit of both. Photo credit - yetto.

Exhilarating. Daunting. A little bit of both. Photo credit - yetto.

Living in a foreign country can be an experience both exhilarating an daunting. And if you’re heading to a developing country, that view would tend to skew towards the negative. Malaria? Kidnappers? Dengue? Just a few of the many things you need to beware of! Here are some tips to help you enjoy your stay on your quest to experience the world.


Keep your passport safe at all times! Photo credit - leon~.

Keep your passport safe at all times! Photo credit - leon~.

1. Plan and Budget

Prepare a well-laid plan before you embark on your travel journey. How long will you be staying? What will you be doing? Where else will you be traveling, and when? How much will you be spending? This helps you keep to your budget, and you’ll be less likely to run out of money during your stay.

2. Prepare an Information Card

Have a small note card with your personal information, along with your address, phone and country of origin, and have it with you at all times. Just in case you get too drunk, or passed out from tiredness having explored too much too soon.

3. Keep Your Passport Safe, and Your Permit with You

When you’re abroad, your passport is the single most important document that you must not lose. Keep it safe at home. Don’t carry it around. Your working permit however, is another thing altogether. Keep that with you at all times, as some countries can be quite strict when requesting for identifications.

4. Talk to a Doctor

Several developing countries may have various diseases, viruses and infections that may not be present in your home country. Talk to your doctor and find out whatever extra precautions and information that you may need. Get injections ahead of time and make sure you are protected.

5. Know Your Food & Drinks

Plenty of developing countries serves delicacies that may just be your newest favorite food. But take extra measures when embarking on these culinary adventures. Don’t take things for granted. The tap water in most developing countries are not drinkable.

Getting Around

Always good to have a map with you. Photo credit - Ed Yourdon.

Always good to have a map with you. Photo credit - Ed Yourdon.

6. Local Numbers

One of the first things you should find out when reaching a new country is the local numbers for emergency (police and or hospital) and information. Find out as well the number of your country’s embassy and its (usually) toll-free help line.

7. Get a Map

One of the first things you need in a foreign country. Ask around when you are lost and in need of direction, but keep a map with you to confirm the direction. Some locals may not be able to speak English and help you out, and some others may just not bother!

8. Learn the Language

Basic courtesy. Try to have a general knowledge of the local language, after all, you are planning to stay here for a good few months. Pick up a rough guide book or grab a listening CD. Practicing with the locals is also a great way to get to know them better.

9. Befriend a Local

Local knowledge and help are absolutely invaluable to foreigners living in a foreign country. Better yet, the locals can help you get the best deals for room and board, show you the unique places to visit, the tastiest restaurants and many more. Incidentally, the easiest way to befriend a local is to simply find room for rent, as opposed to a whole house. You’ll most likely find a local family with an extra unwanted room. Or you can try staying in the student hostels as well.

10. Local Cultures

It pays to know a local who can guide you in the know-how of the country. You can find out what are the local cultures and traditions that you should know before you end up offending some of the locals, or even worse, getting in trouble with the authorities. In Dubai for example, it is forbidden to hold hands between couple. In some states in Malaysia, kissing (and even pecking) in public is not allowed. These extreme restrictions are few and rare in between, but you should know about them before hand.

11. Religious Taboo

Similar to above, you should find out as much as you can about the major religious taboos that exists in the country you are visiting. In India for example, slaughtering a cow is forbidden, because of their religious belief which holds cows as sacred. In Indonesia, Malaysia and many other Muslim countries, you should refrain from sharing that beef jerky with your host – it’s most probably not Halal.

And Finally…

You're gonna stand out. Better get used to it. Photo credit - televiseus.

You're gonna stand out. Better get used to it. Photo credit - televiseus.

12. Keep an Open Mind

You’re about to stay in a brand new country for a good few months. So don’t balk at the local cultures or traditions and stubbornly keep to the way you do things. There is a reason the locals does it their way, and you’re most probably better off following suit. Be adventurous, but be wary as well.

13. Soak Up the Pressure/Limelight

As a foreigner, you’re (most probably) going to stick out like a sore thumb. This may put you at ease, or give you untold misery. Brush off these gawking stares as simple curiosity. Just as you are intrigued by this foreign land and culture, thats how they feel about the 6-feet tall blonde-haired monstrosity that is you.

14. Keep in Touch

Update your blog, upload your photos, call back home regularly to just let your family and friends know how you are doing. Share with them what trip or activities you are planning to do, and let them know that you’ll be getting back in touch in the next day or two. That way, they will know to expect your call, and can raise the appropriate alarms should that call doesn’t get through.

15. Get-Out-of-Jail Card

Just in case things didn’t turn out for the better, ensure you are able to get back home if you suddenly need to. This can be in the form of an emergency fund stashes away, or an open air-ticket back home, or even a distant relative staying nearby that can bail you out from whatever it is you have gotten yourself into.

About the Author. Nikolas Tjhin. Freelance graphic artist and travel fanatic. Twiter-addict and social media novice. Adventure budget traveler and stay home weekend worker. Before working on Unearthing Asia, Nik’s journeyman career has seen him do work for various creative studios in Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Singapore and Jakarta. Now that he’s settled down for the time being, he’s focusing his efforts on Unearthing Asia.