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Surprises When Traveling In Asia

Discussion in 'Asia' started by amelia88, Apr 19, 2016.

  1. amelia88

    amelia88 Active Member

    I'm wondering about some things that may have taken you by surprise when you've traveled in different parts of Asia.

    I would say that one thing which struck me by surprise was how hot and humid Japanese summers are. I wasn't expecting it to be as hot as it was - I knew that a lot of other Asian countries closer to the equator were super humid year round, but I just didn't expect Japan to be like that at all!

    Another thing that took me by surprise (and this has been in basically all Asian countries I've traveled to) are the prevalence of squat toilets. I had never used one before visiting Malaysia, and in some places you simply don't have the option of a western style toilet.

    What about you? Any surprises that caught you off guard?
  2. Corzhens

    Corzhens Active Member

    That squat toilet surprised me when we were in Beijing. We entered a KFC outlet for an afternoon snack to rest our taste buds from Chinese food. Before we left the place, I went to the rest room and was really in a quandary because I had no idea how to use that toilet. I even went back to my husband to ask him about it. Sometimes you have to read some orientation notes about a place so you wouldn't be surprised. I have a photo of that squat toilet but I couldn't upload it. Sorry about that.
  3. Miya

    Miya Active Member

    +1 for squat toilets. I live in Japan and they are still pretty common. Some places only have squat toilets so I have no choice but to use them. It's such a pain.

    Another thing that surprises me is the traffic law and how lenient they are on it... cyclists can ride on the streets but they must always be on the left side because car drivers will only look to the side they're turning. What?! That's so dangerous! And car drivers can run through red lights if the walking sign for the pedestrian hasn't turned green yet? That's awful. The police don't seem to ever give out tickets for traffic violations...
    amelia88 likes this.
  4. Myrr

    Myrr Member

    I had the same reaction the first time I saw a squat toilet. Although my country belongs in Asia, it is very westernized and the toilets used here are American standard. You can just imagine my shock when I went to Singapore and used the restroom inside a mall. There was this little porcelain thing embedded in the ground. There was nothing to sit on. I didn't know how to use it. HA!HA!HA!

    One thing that surprised me more about Singapore is that, even though it's urbanized, there's no traffic at all. And everywhere in that country is very clean.
  5. Valerie

    Valerie Active Member

    Haha, my experience with the squat toilet was one in the same. I was being a tourist at a Japanese temple in Kamakura when my bladder decided to be a bother. I waited in line for 15 minutes, got to the stall, opened the door, and the first thing that popped into my head was, "How do I use this thing?!" So I zipped back up my shorts and figured my bladder could wait. I've come a long way since then!

    The other thing that surprises me in Asia is the amount of people who use an umbrella for everything from little drips of rain to UV protection. At the same time, no one in Japan seems to like sunglasses very much.
  6. amelia88

    amelia88 Active Member

    Yes! The traffic laws! I remember on vacation in Vietnam I would see people driving around with sruff literally piled up on the back of their motorcycle and no one would bat an eyelid - and I also saw babies (probably around 1 year olds actually) sandwiched in between their mom and dad on motorbikes - no safety gear, just hoping for the best! That scared me!
  7. Valerie

    Valerie Active Member

    I had to learn the traffic laws in Japan for commuting to school... Imagine my shock when the instructor said that bicycles and cars are the same. You more or less have the same insurance, the same rules and regulations, and the same rights. I was slightly shocked.

    Another surprise would be what Asians eat. I'm not talking the cultural dishes that everyone can automatically name off the top of their head. I'm talking the disgusting concoctions little old ladies brew up in the middle of the night like dried fish over gelatinous animal remains or raw horse and cow tongue. I'm always shocked in the morning by an advertisement that features raw fish guts in a lovely bowl. Apparently, it's the poor-man's sashimi.
  8. Coco

    Coco Active Member

    Ooh, the squat toilets! I guess it's better than no toilets at all. Lol. I came from an Asian country as well but we don't have squat toilets in the city. Or actually any place I've been in here. I would say that it still exists maybe in very rural areas like provinces. But it's not as rampant though since we have gone to several provinces and most gasoline stations have the usual toilets, but yeah, they're still not as clean.:/

    I guess another surprise for me is the slurping of noodles in Japan and China. I think it's a way of showing appreciation for the food and it's also a way of saying "This is delicious." But you get used to it after you have frequented quite a lot of restaurants. Besides, slurping noodles is fun in itself as well! Lol.

    Another thing is how Japanese use mayonnaise in about every dish. Be it pancakes, pizza, bread or noodles! But I think Japanese mayonnaise is quite different from the mayonnaise we're used to.
  9. ellajanelle

    ellajanelle Member

    I came across the squat toilet only once. In the Philippines, we usually have regular toilets where you can seat on it while you pee or poo. So when I saw a squat toilet, I backed out of peeing (haha) 'cause I really had no idea how to pee in there! It was so weird and I imagined myself in an acrobatic position if I decided to pee in a squat toilet. =))
  10. GenevB

    GenevB New Member

    I always disliked those squat toilets and I've never gotten along with using them even though they are said to be healthier. I would also advise people to take care when they are engaging women in conversations, if they are ever visiting Thailand, as you might end up having a pretty big surprise, unfortunately it happened to me once.
  11. Novelangel

    Novelangel Member

    I too encountered the squat toilets in the airport in Tokyo while stopping over on my way to Manila. Completely befuddled, I simply kept on walking until I found a Western style toilet. Lucky for me, they had some. What surprised me about Manila was the large number of people who are totally unafraid to be pedestrians in that city. I swear some of those drivers get their licenses inside a bumper car ride. These drivers jockey for position, sometimes four or five vehicles abreast, while pedestrians simply and casually hold out a hand, palm politely down of course. Believe it or not, traffic actually stops while they stroll across the street. I was in that country for three weeks and in all that time I never witnessed a car accident, so apparently they all know what they are doing, but it sure looks frightening to an outsider such as I was.
    Myrr likes this.
  12. amelia88

    amelia88 Active Member

    I still couldn't do the slurping because I felt like I was being rude! Funny how we get things so ingrained in our heads that are "rude" in one culture but 100% acceptable (and even encouraged!) in others.

    The mayonnaise surprised me too. On pizzas and everything! And corn too was another surprising addition that I always saw on pizzas in Japan. Those are two ingredients I would have never associated with pizza before visiting Japan!
    Myrr likes this.
  13. Myrr

    Myrr Member

    Drivers here Manila can rival those competing in Nascar. (Joke!)

    Well, the city is really crowded so that's quite a normal occurrence here. And a lot of streets, especially the small ones do not have pedestrian lanes, and even if it did, some people just don't use them. The cross the street when they feel like it, anywhere they like. But of course, before crossing the street, we have to give a sign to the driver that we're about to cross, hence the hand/palm thing. We usually make a joke out of it here, that a person's palm is so powerful that it can stop a horde of vehicles. ;)
  14. Miya

    Miya Active Member

    That's because Japanese mayonnaise is more like a sauce, not a condiment. The taste is different and personally I prefer it to American mayonnaise.
    Myrr likes this.
  15. Myrr

    Myrr Member

    Oh yes! Japanese mayonnaise is great. I always buy Kewpie whenever I buy my groceries. It's richer, creamier, and it taste better than most mayonnaise. I also love the fact that they are also sold in small, easy to squeeze bottles. I always bring one in my travels. :)
  16. Novelangel

    Novelangel Member

    Yes!! I remember my Filipina friends making that very same joke to me while demonstrating the art of crossing the street. I ran like a frightened rabbit while they just casually walked across. All the drivers sat and patiently waited but they all had the same look on their faces... like, okay I'll wait. But when I can go again, I'm going to get there first. :) It was quite the experience for me.
    Myrr likes this.
  17. Miya

    Miya Active Member

    Agree! Kewpie is the best! Hands down my favorite mayonnaise. I use it for so many things. Unfortunately, it's relatively pricey in the U.S.. I remember getting it once when I was really craving it and it cost around $5 for a small bottle. In Japan, you can get a big bottle for 300 yen (less than $3).

    Another surprise in Japan -- they do not have central heating ANYWHERE. The winters are unbearable and I'm basically hibernating under the kotatsu 24/7.
    Myrr likes this.
  18. Myrr

    Myrr Member

    Hi @Miya.

    The same is true in Korea. They also do not have central heating. I think it's their way of conserving energy. It was the end of autumn when we went there, and the cold is already unbearable. Out on the streets, it's so cold, especially when the wind blows. You have to squint or close your eyes because the wind really hurts. When my friends and I want to get warm, we enter shops. They don't have heating, but at least it's warmer inside than outside.
  19. Novelangel

    Novelangel Member

    I was surprised to find out that most people in the Philippines don't have hot or cold running water. They have lukewarm water and that's what they bathe in, drink, wash clothing in...etc. A few have refrigerators and can cool their water that way, but most just use their water as is, at air temperature. I guess some of the more expensive hotels have hot and cold water, but while I was there I pretty much lived like the average person, which is something I will never regret as it was the best thing in the world to really experience the Philippines as a native would.