17 Reasons You Know You Love Southeast Asia

By Mark Wiens 35 Comments
Chili peppers

Migration Mark has been in South East Asia since March of 2009 and has grown to love a few serious things but mostly the extraordinarily quirky things.

1. Chili Peppers…Please!

I grew up eating food with spice and sometimes with chili.  Throughout SE Asia however, I have nurtured my ever craving lust for the succulent seeded heat of chili peppers.

I simply can’t taste food unless there is an abundance of hot chilies involved in the meal.  In my month in Indonesia, I was able to come up with 9 mandatory foods to eat in Indonesia and every single dish would not be the same without a massive dollop of sambal chili sauce.

2. No Toilet Paper for Me…

Before coming to SE Asia the thought of spraying after “making a release” really sounded quite dreadful.  Now, I really don’t feel clean if I have to use Toilet Paper.  I much prefer the spray and shake method.  As I like to say, “a powerful spray, goes a loooong way.”

3. Rice, Rice, and Rice

You don’t normally get Kenyan style nyama choma in Asia, but anything with rice is splendidly satisfying.  Though I am 1/2 Chinese and grew up eating rice on the daily, my habitual rice eating has been reinforced.  Just like the locals I hung out with in Batad of the Philippines rice terraces, If I don’t eat rice 2-3 times a day I’m just not fully satisfied in life.

durian in thailand
The king of fruits

4. King of Fruits…Bow Down

The notorious durian fruit, also known as the “king of fruits” smells pretty far from appetizing.  In Malaysia I was able to tackle the durian fruit in the form of buffet and now I actually crave it from time to time.  It’s actually and surprisingly  quite delicious.


5. Squatting Potting

My thighs have become absurdly strong, and it’s surely not from the gym, it’s from squatting at so many roadside  locations.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I find myself squatting on top of regular toilets from time to time without thinking about it…weird.

sitting on a scooter
Have you had scooter butt?

6. Scooter Butt

As a first timer on a horse may need to walk afterward with a wide stance, so sitting on the back of a scooter too long creates scooter butt (sitting on the back of a moped for a long period of time).  However, there is hope, my butt has now become accustomed to scooter butt.

fish spa massage
Fish massage

7.  Massage?

In the United States I never dreamed of having a massage.  Here in SE Asia I have become used to either paying a humble 200 baht ($5), having a cute fish massage, or if I am sitting randomly on the roadside an old man might possibly come to lightly rub my shoulders.  If you’ve been in SE Asia for a while you can bet on this.  Warning though, at first it’s a little awkward.

Food in Thailand
Food in Thailand

8. Food Expenditure

If I have to dish out more than a dollar for a single meal or go to an established “sit down” restaurant, I immediately feel rather uncomfortable, strange, and just plain incompetent.  It seems my entire personality has evolved to really only relate to street food or hole in the wall eateries where I can spend less that a dollar.

Beauty in the Philippines
Beauty in the Philippines

9. Environmental Spectacles

The environmental beauty of SE Asia is incredible.  Hiking deadly volcanoes, climbing rice terraces from Mayoao to Batad, and pretending to be a millionaire on pristine beaches.  I haven’t even itched the surface of possibilities.

10. Heat Streak

If the temperature drops below 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.6 Celsius) I start to get goosebumps and shivers.  It’s peculiar, but I’m starting to realize why people sell goose down parkas roadside.

cooking thai food
Food is the reason!

11. Food-Tastic

I have said this time and time again and I could go on and on; the food in SE Asia is just unparalleled.  Where else can you expect and demand to eat Manchester United Burgers, Nasi Campur mystery buffets, Bangkok Boat Noodles, feast on fetus of Balut, and then get ultimately dirty in Seafood Dampa?

12. Natural Shirt Vent

In SE Asia numerous youth and men alike walk around with shirts cinched up just below the breast.  I too cannot resist walking around all day with my shirt pulled up halfway over my stomach to increase the airflow.  Note: I especially and would recommend doing this after heavy meals


13. Karaoke Singing

Most embarrassingly on the list, I find myself thinking even sometimes dreaming about karaoke and secretly hoping for more.

14.  Need to be Sweating

After attempting to jog in Manila, an orangutan trek in Sumatra, my try at conquering hot yoga, and then paired with avoiding the usage of an air conditioner, I have simply come to the conclusion that sweating is natural and feels right to me.

jeep riding in manila
Riding in Manila

15.  Diving Off Roads

Driving in Indonesia taught me a lot about pedestrians walking on the side of any street.

With little more than a micro second notice, pedestrians are forced to casually dive off the sidewalk or side of the road into pools of water or muddy basins as motorcycles or overloaded trucks zoom past with an intimidating breeze.

After some time, a few near perishing occasions, and learning to open my eyes wider by paying attention, it is now easy and somewhat enjoyable for me to avoid oncoming or sometimes incoming traffic.

16.  Human Hordes

As with motorways, hordes of people will inevitably be “in your way” when walking anywhere.  Swag surfin, booty shaking, or simply patience, are invaluable when dealing with massive crowds.  Soon you become accustomed and enjoy the variety and mixture of random humanity.

school in rural philippines
Helping Others

17.  Opportunity to Help Others

From assisting in the charity projects of In Search of Sanuk, building houses with hope, being immersed in Payatas, and hanging out at the Bali house of life, there is not much better value than helping others with the secret recipe for 100% guaranteed happiness.  Spending time and hanging out with others will put a smile on everyone, inside and out.

I’ve learned quite a few things since taking up migrationology, some things can be a little awkward until you remember, Nothing Is Awkward in Southeast Asia, loosen up and enjoy.

Please suggest any other reasons of how you know you love Southeast Asia, or ask me any questions.

35 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • David

    10 years ago

    Also the fact that they worship caucasians lol

  • Junel

    11 years ago

    Hey Mark!

    I am trying to know more about on how to back pack,my first though was in Sg and Malaysia:and im checking out if i can go far more in SE asia say Thailand Cambodia Vietnam and or Laos.
    I came across your page and saw your article that Coron Palawan made you feel like a millionare and one of the best places you’ve been!
    So i made a realization that i need to go there first since im in Philippines now.
    (i’ve been around Phillipines but not yet in Sagada and Coron)

    Nice article..helpful!

    come back to Philippines soon and i hope to see you in our visit to Bangkok!

    Junel Jumao-as

    • Mark Wiens

      11 years ago

      Hey Junel, great to hear from you and glad you also love to backpack. The Philippines is still one of my favorite countries, it’s so beautiful, and Palawan has some of the nicest beaches I’ve ever seen. All the best!

  • Mas Dino

    12 years ago

    Hi Mark! Been following your eatingthaifood website since earlier this year & have just now taken the time to take a look at this site. As much as I love reading about your posts on finding awesome Thai food, I really enjoy reading about your traveling adventures too! I’m from Brunei so reading this post makes me feel proud to be South-East Asian. 🙂 I’m glad you’ve enjoyed your time in this part of the part world. Hahaha and you have nailed pretty much everything from the squatting toilets to super cheap but amazing street food. And… you LOVE durian?! That’s cool, man. Real cool. As Giore Lee posted, Penang really does have the best durian. (Ok maybe I’m a little biased cos my mom’s from the there hehehe). But hey, have you been to Brunei before?

    • Mark Wiens

      12 years ago

      Hey Mas,
      Thanks for the comment and I appreciate you taking the time to look at my blogs! Yes, I have been to Brunei. About 1.5 years ago, I visited Kota Kinabalu and then took a short trip, only 1 day over to Brunei. Didn’t get to do too much, but I was able to see Bandar and had a chance to eat Ambuyat! I really enjoyed visiting. Do you live in Bandar?
      I’m hoping to go back to Penang on a durian trip soon!

    • Mas Dino

      12 years ago

      Yup! I live in Bandar. Drop me a line if you ever feel like coming back. I’d be happy to show you around. 🙂
      Ahh that’s nice! The durian place is a little far from town. My mom says it’s like maybe 2 hours away? But it’s worth the trip! 🙂 But maybe you’ve been there? It offers an all-you-can-eat durian buffet! I wanna go back to Penang so badly. I miss the food as much as I miss the street food from Bangkok. Speaking of which..! I am going back to BKK in May! So I am looking through your eatingthaifood blog and guide with the utmost scrutiny!

  • giore lee

    13 years ago

    hi Mark,
    sounds like you like to eat durian so much, if you have chance to come to Malaysia again, i suggest you should go to Penang Island and try the local durian, which the durian is originally fall from the Penang durian tree, it`s size is smaller and rounded than Thai durian, but the taste sure can bring you fly to the “paradise” 🙂 once you put it into your month, it is the best durian in the Malaysia and i dare to say it is also the best “durian” in the world, after that i bet you will not go anywhere else for durian again :).


    • Mark Wiens

      13 years ago

      It sounds irresistible! Thanks so much for the advice and when I visit Penang next time I will surely look out for the amazing little durians!

  • Randall

    14 years ago

    I have read this article before but loved it this time as well.

    Have you mastered the art of squatting? It always amazes me that Filipinos can just take a rest anywhere they want just by squatting down. Thier feet flat on the ground. It is one of my goals to be able to do that! Sorry, I have too much weight on me right now but working on it.

    Once again, I love the way you always include the food scened in your posts! Love the pictures of the market. Thanks

    • Mark Wiens

      14 years ago

      Thanks so much Randall. I have managed to be able to sit squatting, but I wouldn’t say too comfortable yet. Yah, all over Asia you see people just squatting to take a break. You’ve got to practice!

  • Mark Wiens

    14 years ago

    Hey Bytta,
    Thank you so much for checking out my website, and for learning how to swag surf!!! You just made me laugh pretty hard!

    All places are different and have different or unique ways of doing things. To me, this is what makes things interesting while traveling and what continually urges me to see new places. I’m fully with you, you have got to fully embrace, look for the positive, enjoy life, and try to have the best time anywhere you are.

    Thanks a lot!

  • Bytta@151DaysOff

    14 years ago

    Hi Mark,
    New fan here. Got your link from Untemplater.
    I gotta say I appreciate your genuine love for SE Asia. I was born and raised in Indonesia but have been spending the past 8 years in Australia. I’m sick of hearing people’s complaints about Asia; the weather, the traffic jam, the crowd, blegh! Of course it’s not the same, that’s the point of travelling! Duh! You have to embrace the craze and flavour of Asia if you want to have a great time there.

    Very funny and warm article. Love it!
    Oh and yes, I can never thank you enough for introducing me to Swag Surfin’ dance (swag and surf, from left to right, and move your arms, you got it :D). Hopefully that will alleviate my dork point when I’m rocking it in the club 😀

  • jacqueline

    14 years ago

    I am a Pilipino expat in Qatar and… you are making me miss Philippines! 🙁

  • Erik

    14 years ago

    Love the post, it’s all so true! I too am a HUGE fan of thailand street food or hole in the wall eateries. All the reasons you have here bring back memories of thailand. And I’m getting exited to be going back, I”m headed to bangkok next week. Haven’t tried ballut though, might have to give it a go.

    big fan of the blog too, keep up the good work.

    • Mark Wiens

      14 years ago

      I really appreciate the comment Erik,
      Yes, street food is amazing and Thailand is on top of its game. Have an awesome trip and eat well!

  • Kat

    14 years ago

    Revisiting this post after a long time. Haha, this is a lovely and hilarious post. Somehow I can imagine you squatting on the roadside after a sweaty jog, then an old man comes by to give you a massage. Thank you for sharing Mark. I would love to experience some of these myself. 🙂

    P.S. The soup in the balut isn’t pee, hehe. I don’t think the duck’s quite developed for that.

    • Mark Wiens

      14 years ago

      Haha, that’s a great picture you have in your mind. Hopefully one day I can perform that exact scenario!

  • aom

    14 years ago

    Really love this post, and can comfirm that you can see many things from SE Asian countries, especially in Thailand…^_^ I don’t how much you travel around this country, but please do it continuously. You’ll see many magnificent things here…culture, food, people, places, etc. Hey, Durian of Nonthaburi or Chantaburi Provinces, Thailand…is one of the best, I think…if possible, try it once.

    • Mark Wiens

      14 years ago

      Thanks for the advice Aom, glad you liked this post!

  • Mark Wiens

    14 years ago

    @Joel, dude, when it comes to feasting and partaking of munch we can easily call ourselves millionaires. There is always time for Indonesian grastronomic delights.

    @Frugal Expat, Thanks! Switching off the lights might be a great way to trick people into eating the fetus!

  • Frugal Expat

    14 years ago

    Hi Mark.. I like the way you explain about Balut! LOL!

    I knew few people who switch off the lights before gulping a balut!

  • Joel bruner

    14 years ago

    Pretending to be millionaires is where we succeed most 🙂 this is a beautiful article, I wish I could have feasted upon the Indonesian delights with you…. Luckily however I can share the spray with you daily after any and every meal of chilis for a one sok or less

  • Carmen

    14 years ago

    OK – I have to ask. What is fetus of Balut? I really had fun reading this.

    • Mark Wiens

      14 years ago

      Fetus of balut is a developed embryo egg, hard boiled into a Filipino street delicacy. One first cracks the shell at the top and drinks out the chicken soup (maybe it’s pee). The egg white is then eaten followed by the developed embryo or fetus. If there is enough vinegar and chili it can be quite delicious. Thanks for the comment, appreciate it!

  • Dragos Roua

    14 years ago

    Well, while some of them are a little bit awkward, I must say your reasons are pretty powerful. I loved Thailand, that I know, and it was because of the human interaction and diversity.

    Interesting take 🙂

  • AdventureRob

    14 years ago

    Ah you’ve just made me miss it that little bit more, nice article.