Ask Kate is my advice column for people who want to be badasses.
First, you are a badass! Anyone that has the chutzpah to run off to a foreign country alone is a true adventurer.
I just got back from six months in Asia, so I think I can help.
First, just expect and accept that you will probably get scammed. I don't know how, or where, but it will probably happen. In Thailand, I would try to friendly bargain at the local market and they would reply, "No discount! This is the Thai person price!" Yes, that means there are two prices for all goods and services: actual cost for locals, and elevated cost for us foreigners. I don't like to worry too much about a few dollars here or there, especially when I'm traveling to impoverished countries. I figure they need the money more than I do. So, don't worry your pretty little head about it! It's going to happen, just be smart, do your best, roll with the punches, and keep a smile on your face.
I spent most of my time in Southeast Asia in Phuket, Thailand where I house and cat sat for two months in a little bungalow near Kamala beach. I know you went to Rishikesh in India; consider Phuket the Thai version of Rishikesh. Very touristy, massages everywhere, and a collection of travelers from all over the world. I wouldn't get misty eyed if I never made it back there.
- Go to Bagan, Myanmar. To me, it looks like the most incredible collection of temples in the world.
- Consider checking out Penang, Malaysia. I loved it: off the beaten tourist path, artsy, lots of open air bars and incredible street food.
- Everyone I know and their dog seems to be going to Vietnam. It looks beautiful and I've heard it's beautifully chaotic. If you ask me, I'd go just for the pho and spring rolls.
- Bali is hedonistic and stunning. I felt like my soul clicked a little more into alignment at Prana Veda yoga retreat in north Bali.
- Shit got real in Java, my first visit to 'real' Asia. I learned that Indonesians don't do black coffee, squat toilets are super real, and in Java, I'm Kim K. My image is on the camera rolls of somewhere in the neighborhood of three hundred Indonesian phones. But I can die happy having gone on a motorbike adventure to see Borobudur, one of the most magical places I have ever visited in my life.
As a solo female traveler, I felt totally safe. I used Tinder and met some questionable fellows. I used the Couchsurfing app to meet some fantastic Russian friends. I had a drunk Balinese man knock on my window and whisper to me in Bahasa Indonesia at midnight, but nothing serious. Unless he was trying to whisper to me that he was having a heart attack, in which case I probably killed him because I was frozen in fear inside of my mosquito net.
Go, have fun, and meet people. Eat all the things, and don't worry for a moment about carbs. And if you happen to go to the Via Via shop in Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia, please pick me up a bottle of their rose essential oil. It's perfect.
kate the great
P.S. My dear friend and Indonesia traveling companion Daniel Dreifuss (the most incredible photographer I know) has just published a lovely coffee table photo book from his travels around Southeast Asia last year, entitled Frames from the Street: Southeast Asia.
A few of my snaps from Southeast Asia