While it’s been almost a month since returning from Asia, I admit that I do miss it. Now back at home, most of my days are filled with nothing but a small, part-time job and many hours of boredom. Now you can see why I want to continue traveling in Asia, right?
Any case, those three weeks of traveling all over Japan and Taiwan were incredible, albeit a tad long. My experiences, of course, were so different compared to those whilst in Europe this past year. They were neither good nor bad- just different. And overall, I was just glad to be out of the house and being proactive with my time off during the summer.
That said, there are plenty of things that I love about Asia, as well as just as many ones that I don’t love as much. I have decided to compile a list of things I like (and dislike) about Asia based on my experiences there this summer. Hope you enjoy!
*NOTE* When I am talking about “Asia,” I am not referring to neither the entire continent nor all of the countries, but rather the places I’ve been to so far: China, Japan, and Taiwan. I know that saying “Asia” isn’t all-inclusive, but for the sake of this post, I’m short-handing it for facile purposes.
Let’s get on with it, shall we?
Five Things I Like About Asia
1. Things are cheaper. Generally speaking…while I can’t say that Japan is inexpensive (especially in big cities like Tokyo), China and Taiwan are much so. I was just in Taiwan this summer, and loved how almost everything– food, transportation, shopping– were relatively less expensive than the equivalents in the U.S. or Europe. Seriously, my family of four got a full breakfast once, loaded and all, for barely $6 USD…total! Even staying in a big city like Taipei, you can get stuff for a very good price. I can imagine how crazy cheap it must be in other places like Thailand or Cambodia!
2. Night markets. On the related topic of food, night markets are a must when traveling in Asia, especially Taiwan (it’s famous for them). Again, cheap *tasty* local dishes, as well as a place to meet and socialize with everyone, from locals to tourists alike. There’s also plenty of opportunities to shop, too, for clothes and whatnot. From the famous Shilin Night Market in Taipei to the Fengjia Night Market in Taichung (the largest one in the country), you need to see them all. True, it can get really crowded and hot, but the experiences of it all makes visiting night markets all the worthwhile.
3. Good service. It is not uncommon to hear foreigners say that service in Asia sucks. There is a bad rep for not-so-friendly service in China (which, I have to admit, is kinda true), but in Japan and Taiwan, service is far from being horrible. In fact, I found Japan’s hospitality to be so much better than what I got in the majority of Europe. I heard somewhere that the small, island nation has long perfected the art of good customer service, and I have to agree! From being super polite and patient to bowing at the end, the Japanese made my experience there nothing but wonderful. And while Taiwan’s service isn’t as sharp and poised as Japan’s, the natural friendliness from the locals are just as welcomed. 🙂
4. Nature is everywhere. I’m a sucker for landscapes, and Asia is full of unbelievably-gorgeous shots of lakes, oceans, mountains, and everything else you can imagine. Compared to the urban, desert-dry environment like Los Angeles, seeing the lush, green landscapes in Japan and Taiwan absolutely blew my mind. Places such as Guilin (China), Sun Moon Lake (Taiwan), or Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park (Japan) offer plenty of opportunities to explore and marvel at the wild beauty of Asia.
5. Good anime dubs. Now, this is a really personal one, and I’m sure some will not agree with me on the fact that countries in Asia (other than Japan, where anime originates) produce better anime dubs than in the Western hemisphere; I can remember watching English-dubbed anime as a kid, and notice how awkward the voice actors sounded. But, at least in Taiwan where I stayed for the summer, watching Chinese-dubbed anime on television sounded so much better- more natural and everything. From Pokémon to Doraemon to Atashin’chi (my latest obsession), watching dubbed anime made me feel like an *excited* kid again! 😀
Five Things I Dislike About Asia
1. The weather. Especially in the summer, weather in Asia is very hot. True, a bit of warmth is nice and all, but tack on humidity, and I’m out. Seriously, even when I’m sitting and doing nothing, I sweat! It’s horrible, too, because such heat makes it difficult to go out and explore, as it makes you lethargic. And don’t get me started on constantly feeling sticky…I don’t even bother taking hot showers, and instead opt for cold ones. Anything to get cool, really…
2. Overcrowding. This is an issue everywhere, but none is so apparent than in Asia, especially the big cities. Streets are narrow, and rules of the road don’t really apply here as much as in, say, the United States. Basically, when crossing the street, you’ll need to be prepared for anything: taxis, motorcycles, cyclists, other pedestrians, etc. I actually did pretty well surviving the traffic in Asia, with crossing roads and everything, but I can imagine how terrifying it might be to other non-locals. And the locals don’t give a fuck, too: whether they be driving like the devil or crossing the street without regards to the red light, they know what’s up. 😛
3. Language barriers. As a foreigner, especially, it can be difficult to navigate in Asia if you don’t know the language. Yes, many big cities like Tokyo, Taipei, and Beijing have bilingual street signs (one of them in English), but to communicate with the locals can be quite an event. Some of them will know and speak English, some will understand but can’t speak English, and others will have no idea what you’re talking about. That said, it can be very frustrating and even cause tensions between local and traveler. But making an effort to learn the basics of a language (“hello,” “can you help me?” “I don’t speak *insert language*”) can go a long way, so give it a try!
4. Things are not as cheap as you think. Definitely is counteractive to what I wrote in the beginning of this post, but it’s also true that Asia isn’t as dirt cheap as you might’ve imagined. True, items like food are generally inexpensive, but department stores and transportation can be a hit-or-a-miss, depending on where you go. If it’s to the local, outdoor shopping districts, then yes, they are cheaper than big-name clothing brands like H&M or Zara (they are everywhere). Train tickets, depending where you travel to, can be more or less pricey. I have also heard that buses are quite expensive in Japan. Overall, I would say that yes, things in Asia are generally cheaper than those in the U.S. and Europe, but not as crazy cheap as you thought it to be. That said, be careful not to overspend!
5. Squatting toilets. I assure you, these are the bane of every foreigner’s existence. Considering that we don’t really have squatting toilets in the U.S. and Europe (I actually used one in Italy, and that was surprising), we aren’t used to bending and crouching in an awkward position when taking a number 1 or number 2. I admit, I got used to it more or less while traveling throughout Asia, but at the end of the day, I much prefer the convenience of a sit-down toilet…and they’re less smelly, too!
All right, that’s it for now! If I think of more likes/dislikes about Asia, perhaps I will choose to do a second part to this list later on! Until then, take care. 🙂
— The Finicky Cynic
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