Realities of our trip #5.. The downside of Asia

Rubbish everywhere, tourists everywhere, the sell… that is the reality of travelling in South East Asia. We thought Central America was bad for rubbish but that was nothing compared to here. You may see our photos and think ‘wow that place looks amazing’, and for the most part it is. What we haven’t shown is the large amounts of rubbish everywhere, bus loads of tourists and “buy something lady”.

Beautiful Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. Unfortunately the bay is full of rubbish, mostly plastic bags and bottles. The water is also too dirty to swim in. A consequence of too many tourists boats and not enough care for the environment. This is a big problem in Vietnam.

South East Asia is a backpackers paradise, it has cheap food and accommodation as well as beautiful sites. It is also a must visit place for large buses of tourists from various countries around the world. It makes seeing many of the sites really hard work, it is loud and crowded even in what is meant to be low season. The people in the buses travel in swarms, unsure of where to go but are directed loudly by a megaphone and a small flag… Even in a cave…

There are also sadly many tourists that don’t respect the rules, they throw rubbish, climb over off-limit sites and attempt to kill people with extremely large selfie sticks. Many travellers are also quite narcissistic and spend more times looking at themselves on a cellphone trying to get a perfect selfie than at the actual monument they have paid to see.

We  have been physically pushed in queues so others can get to the front, physically stopped so people can get the ‘perfect’ photo, Ali was even kicked out of the way so someone could pose on a rock.  We have also been laughed at and photographed by various tourists. I have nearly been spat on (it is a common habit of a number of foreign tourist) and I have had a bottle of water stolen from my seat on a bus as a bunch of women rummaged through our things…. Ali tried to tell them off but they just laughed… Like who does that?! We have defiantly had our moments of culture shock! I think we are too polite for our own good here, but we are getting tougher.


The rubbish has to be the most distressing thing about South East Asia. It is not like home where we are taught to put all rubbish in the bin, where we will get a fine for littering. It is just not in our psyche to throw a plastic bottle into a river but it is very common practice here. I know people have a lot more to worry about than rubbish but it is only going to get worse and it is ruining some very beautiful places. It is also hard swimming in the sea as you end up wading through plastic bags. It also doesn’t help that everything comes wrapped in plastic. We also have to buy a large amounts of bottled water as many places don’t offer anywhere to fill up drink bottles. As it is so hot here we are going through 2x 1.5 litre bottles per day… it sucks but it is better than getting sick.

Vietnam has been the worst place for rubbish. Everywhere we have gone has been dirty. The mountains of Sapa, Ha Long Bay, Phong Nha caves. You name it, it is covered in rubbish. In Sapa it is particularly bad as there is no rubbish removal in the more rural villages. Amongst the beautiful rice fields there is an endless supply of plastic bottles and chips packages.

There is also generally quite a lot of rubbish in the streets and many people throw left over food into the streets… the result is rats.. I was using a bathroom the other day and a giant rat ran straight past me… I am getting use to it now though.

Piles of rubbish on one of the beautiful beaches of Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam
One of the many bottles of water we have purchased, it is so hot here!!

“Hey!! buy something”, “buy something lady”, “tuktuk”, “taxi”, “ohhhh why??”… times this by 10,000 and you will realise that ‘the sell’ never stops here. No matter where you go someone wants your money. We are as they say “walking wallets”. Generally once you say no they leave you alone but sometimes they will follow you down the road for a kilometre or physically grab you desperate for a sale. This has sometimes turned us into horrible people.. I am pretty sure I told the hundredth tuktuk driver after a stressful night who wouldn’t let up to piss off. The worse are the children sellers, it is sad watching small children selling junky tourist trinkets when they should be in school.

The reality is that when you research South East Asia you see all the glorious sights and they are amazing and worth seeing. However, keep in mind not all is what is seems on Instagram.

Rubbish just thrown into the forest in Sapa, Vietnam. A familiar site in Asia.

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