Disclaimer: The views expressed in this regret-filled blog are mine alone.
You may be super happy that you brought a travel clothesline… But I never used mine.
Or the duct tape… Or the travel sewing kit. Or the super glue.
A Tiny Backpack
Encouraged by all the stories of SE Asia packing (It’s always warm so you carry fewer clothes!) I ditched my awesome Eagle Creek roller bag with zip-away backpack straps and put everything in this CamelBak to avoid luggage fees. I ended up buying a 2nd backpack in Vietnam and checking a bag anyways. The luggage fees were usually $10.
Growing up in the mid-west, I cannot fathom wearing short sleeves for 3 months and never wanting something warmer. So, of course I packed my fleece jacket, in case it got chilly in the mountains or on a boat during my travels. Now I realize that a long sleeve wicking shirt under my Patagonia windbreaker would have been plenty. (The coldest place we went, Sapa, Vietnam is also famous for $15 knock-off North Face jackets in case I had needed a warmer layer.)
I arrived to SE Asia at the tail end of rainy season but my lovely Marmot raincoat was basically worthless for 2 reasons. 1- When it rained, it down poured and it the rain would sluice down my jacket and soak me from the waist down. At least my top half was dry, right? 2- Nope. It is intensely hot and humid so even with my pit-zips opened, there is so much sweat inside the jacket that I’m wet anyways. Next time, I’ll bring an umbrella.
SE Asian food is so great. Street cart skewers, giant Vietnamese omelets, spring rolls with shrimps. With a bit of careful eating (no uncooked veggies, only bottled water, no spicy food) I was happily able to avoid any stomach ailments and didn’t need the Gas-X, Cipro or rehydration salts I brought. Even if I needed those things, I could have purchased them at any local Pharmacy. PS- I chose not to risk eating these yummy-looking Popsicles.
I used a few Bandaids but haven’t touched anything else in my kit. As with the medications, anything I needed would have been easily purchased at the local shops.
I did my research & took 3 different adapters but most outlets work with 2-prong US plugs and 2-pin Euro plugs. I did end up using the 2-pin adapter a few times just to get through the stiffer doors over the outlets.
Silk sleep sheet
A small bundle, just bigger than my fist- I figured that the sleep sheet would be perfect for hostels where you had to rent bedding or weren’t sure about the cleanliness of the sheets. But all of the hostels provided bedding (usually no top sheet) and usually towels too. Could have left this at home.
The heat and intense humidity turned my t-shirts into stretched out, damp messes. I could wear my wicking tanks 3-4 days in a row, but the cotton t-shirts were always slightly damp. I also would have brought fewer tank tops since I couldn’t wear them any day I might be going to a temple where covering shoulders & knees is required.
Sink Plug and Laundry Soap
I planned on washing my essentials in the hostel sinks but soon realized that the humidity prevented my things from drying in a timely manner. Besides, laundry service was $1.5/Kilo and my t-shirts would come back from the dryer their normal shape & smelling good to boot! Additionally, many local women make a living off of tourist laundry.
REI talked me into this purchase: a bandana that absorbed water and cooled you as it evaporated. Unfortunately, there is little evaporation happening during Cambodian heat waves. It was soggy and useless.
Wish I had some Vitamin C/Airborne. More wicking t-shirts. My mesh sided baseball cap. Hair conditioner.
I WAS GLAD THAT I BROUGHT:
So happy to have my Patagonia Hoodini! It’s the perfect layer for early morning bike rides or drizzly evenings.
I used these things almost everyday.
A pen! My ipad mini with a keyboard case. Wi-Fi. (Apps: TrailWallet, Agoda for booking rooms, Ulmon maps, FB, Postagram, Instagram, Podcasts… (Y’all should be binge listening to Serial) and e-books).
A collapsable water bottle. A quick dry bandana. My Patagonia Atom shoulder bag. (It was so handy that Kate bought one when she got home!). My Sherpani zip-close wallet on a strap that my passport fits into. A dry bag/compression sack. My Chaco sandals. Headbands by Jessie. (Ps- please note that my hair was only this shiny and soft when I stayed in Bangkok with Bryan who had Pantene and amazing water pressure! Thanks!)
I was super happy for an old pair of cut-off leggings that were soft & lightweight. I often wore them to bed in the hostels and always wore them under my skirt at the temples. Multiple kinds of sunscreen: Neutragena 70spf face stick and 50spf face lotion. Bug spray. Polarized sunglasses. A Timex watch with a light up face & an alarm. Sleep mask & earplugs are essential for hostel dorms. My headlamp. I ate all my granola bars and fruit leathers! My Lumix LX7 did a fantastic job at being smaller, lighter and cheaper than my Canon 60D but still taking post-worthy photos. (My 1 wicking t-shirt got a lot of air time!)