Southeast Asia – Bests and Worsts – May 2014-April 2015

After spending 10.5 months backpacking all over Southeast Asia, we have had some great and some awful experiences.  As a lighter blog that comes off as (hopefully) funny rather than offensive – Kristi and I compiled a list of our Bests vs Worsts during our travel. Countries that we visited:
Indonesia – 30 Days
Singapore – 2 Days
Malaysia – 92 Days
Thailand – 60 Days
Vietnam – 87 Days
Cambodia – 25 Days
Laos – 27 Days

Here are the bests and worsts of Southeast Asia:

Lets start with the important stuff…
Best WiFi: Vietnam. Even though our last month sucked because the underwater cable was broken, VN is light years ahead of it’s SEA counterparts.
Worst WiFi: Laos.  Surprisingly enough, the south of Laos had better WiFi than anywhere we went in the north where it’s way more populated.  Sorry Laos but you lost a very important category.

Family Dinner in Dalat - Christmas 2014
Family Dinner in Dalat – Christmas 2014

Best Local Food we Ate: Sorry for the lack of pics but I can’t bring myself to be that asshole that takes pictures of every dish he eats regardless of the mediocre presentation.
Malaysia – Roti Canai – Hands down we ate more roti canai than we did rice and noodles.  This dish is cheap and you can eat it plain or dip it in curry, dahl, or any other sauce you can get your hands on.
Thailand – Penang Curry Chicken – Sabai Sabai – Chiang Mai.  Oddly enough, the lady who made the best Thai food that we ate is from Laos.  The Penang curry here is phenomenal.
Indonesia – Mee Goreng.  Indonesia was quite boring but in their defence, we weren’t overly adventurous at the start of our trip.  Plus this was a long time ago and I can’t even remember eating anything that wasn’t rice or noodles.
Cambodia – Lok Lak.  Options in Cambodia are slim and the western options were way better but lok lak was a solid local dish that I ate a few times a week.
Laos – Special Sticky Rice Dessert – Mrs Sai restaurant – Don Det – We only came across this dish at this one restaurant and it blows Laos food out of the water.  Kristi just drooled on my keyboard when she was proofreading this.
Vietnam – Coconut Pau – I can’t for the life of me remember the local name for this but take the normal pau that they make and remove the pork.  Then replace it with coconut and Vietnamese tears of happiness and you have this amazing bun.
Singapore – Stingray –  We didn’t eat much in Singapore so the BBQd stringray is really only competing with a quesadilla, a pasta dish and a hot dog.  We were there during a holiday and should probably consider returning one day when we have money.

Worst Food we Ate:
Indonesia – Chicken Burger – Gili Air – It may have only been a little more than $2 and I didn’t even taste it but it was by far the most depressing meal I have ever seen.  Kristi was given this “burger” that was lettuce, tomato, onion, two deep fried thin slices of chicken salami and 9 pounds of mayo.  That’ll teach her not to order rice.
Vietnam – Street Pho Ga – Ho Chi Minh City – The price of $1 should have been a big alarm but the truth about Vietnam is anyone who can cook a good bowl of Pho lives in North America.  Even a few expats said we have better Pho at home.  This particular one stood out as awful because it was chicken soup in a pork broth and the most random chunks of chicken.  I think I had a liver and a beak in mine.
Malaysia – Famous Fish Soup – Kuala Lumpur –  They served this piping hot soup with no utensils and I really hate eating with my hands.  This soup was basically one whole fish cut up and boiled in salt water and placed on my table as a cruel joke.
Thailand – Street Sushi – I threw up in my mouth a little as I typed this.  Eating sushi at a market in 30 degree weather at closing time isn’t one of my finer moments.  Surprisingly I didn’t get sick.
Cambodia – Pizza Baguette – Kratie – It was embarrassing that I was fooled into believing this would be good.  Over cooked bread, plastic cheese and ketchup would be a polite description of this Baguette of sadness.
Laos – Fried Noodles with vegetables – This was also Kristi’s dish. Why was it so bad? IT HAD MEAT IN IT!  Maybe the lady thought she wanted animals that eat vegetables.

Beating cobra heart mixed with bile and rice wine.  Good for man.
Beating cobra heart mixed with bile and rice wine. Good for man.

Best Drinking culture: Vietnam – These people are crazy.  They drink the worst concoctions of rice wine.  I drank a snake heart and bile.  I drank rice wine with bee larvae, and another with chopped off snake heads. If it has anything shaped like a dick, it’s “good for man”.   Not to mention you can sit on the corner of the street at a pop up bar and drink a glass of Bia Hoi (fresh beer) for 25 cents.
Worst Drinking Culture – Malaysia – Muslims don’t drink and they drive the price of booze up to discourage them from trying it.  Unless you’re on a duty free island, you’ll be lucky if you can buy a beer at the grocery store for less than $2.

Sleeper bus from SaPa to Hanoi with working WiFi!
Sleeper bus from SaPa to Hanoi with working WiFi!

Best Buses – Vietnam Tourist Bus – Vietnam has it figured out.  For the smallest of fees, these busses pick you up at your hotel and drive you to the next city and drop you off at your next hotel.  This is usually cheaper than taking the local bus once you factor in a taxi to and from the bus stations that are a few km outside of towns.  The tourist buses usually have wifi too.
Worst Buses – Laos – Seems like everyone has a Laos bus horror story.  They sell you a ticket for a VIP Bus and put you on a regular shitty bus that’s falling apart.  Our 9 hour overnight bus ride took 17 hours.  The buses here are also way overpriced.

Back of our TukTuk in Battambang Cambodia
Back of our TukTuk in Battambang Cambodia

Best Tuk Tuks – Cambodia – The Drivers are friendly and easy to negotiate with.  If you know how much something should cost, they smile and give in pretty quickly.  They also drive badass tuk tuks that latch on to the back of the motorcycles.
Worst Tuk tuks – Laos – These guys drive the shittiest of tuk tuks and want the most outrageous amounts for small distances. They’re rude and would rather take no money than negotiate with you.   I still get anxiety thinking about how much these guys dug into my budget.

Borneo Red Hot Chili Pepper
Borneo Red Hot Chili Pepper

Best Wildlife – Sukau – Borneo – Malaysia – We saw more wildlife here than all of the countries combined.  Orangutans, Crocodiles, Macaques, Langurs, Proboscis monkeys, hornbills and king fishers just to name some of the animals we saw.
Worst Wildlife – Vietnam – You don’t see much wildlife in Vietnam but I think that’s because if the Vietnamese can catch it, they eat it.

Petronas Towers - Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia
Petronas Towers – Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia

Most Livable Capital City – Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia –  KL has a cool blend of local and western and isn’t as busy as other capital cities.  Though the cost of alcohol is high, I think KL offers more than enough to keep me happy.
Least Livable Capital City – Vientiane – Laos – Slow internet makes me sad.. Sad isn’t the right word… Furious. Slow internet makes me furious.  56k would be a welcome upgrade here.

Lineup for famous cendul - Penang - Malaysia
Lineup for famous cendul – Penang – Malaysia

Favorite Place
Indonesia – Ubud – Easy here, central to everything and a cooler temperature, Ubud is a great little city in the heart of Bali.
Malaysia – Georgetown – Penang – Why? Food. That’s it.  The cheapest and most flavorful street food you will find.  I’m not a dessert guy but I could have cendol every day.  It’s also a cool heritage city with a lot to explore and see.
Thailand – Khao Sok National Park – Big lake with beautiful rolling hills and floating houses.  You can wake up to the sounds of the gibbons in the morning and step out of your cabin and jump in the lake.
Vietnam – Da Lat – Located up in the mountains north of Ho Chi Minh City, this town is cool, charming and the only place in Asia that appears to have a variety of vegetables.  The scenery here is a postcard photographers wet dream.
Cambodia – Siem Reap – I’m giving this city a small edge for one reason and one reason only.  Pub Street.  Not that I care so much about pub street but the best entertainment I’ve had on this trip was sitting on pub street drinking 50 cent beers and people watching.  You wouldn’t believe the weird ass people walking around here.
Laos – Don Det – As someone who doesn’t care about islands, Don Det is chill.  Relax in a hammock and enjoy a beer Lao or rent a bike for $1.25/day and ride around the island.  Though we skipped on it, if you want a menu item to be “happy” this can be arranged anywhere.

Hope you enjoyed this lighter blog about our favorite and least favorite things in Southeast Asia. I’m sure I could do more but I feel like this was good enough.

Thanks for reading!

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