Best Place to Live and Travel – South America or South East Asia? Part 2

If you’re not sure where “part 2” came from, check out “part 1” that was posted last week.  I was going to write about potential business opportunities in this section but fact is I’ve never even considered working a “job” whilst I’ve been living abroad so who am I to discuss such matters?

TIME ZONES

Time zones. I thought I would get used to the different time zone that South East Asia has to but I was wrong. Conducting business online is almost entirely dependent on the western world, and almost entirely devoid of eastern world intervention. Fortunately for me, I’m in the habit of being out of bed in the early hours of the morning. Nevertheless, in this instance, South America offers the advantage in my opinion.

DRINKING AND PARTYING

Okay, so I mentioned about the fact that in South East Asia, folks are more “primed” to standing around a table with a bottle in their hand than they are to getting down and dirty on the dance floor. And that’s certainly not the case in South America, where it’s party atmosphere all night long every night of the week!

Mind you, here in the Philippines there is something of a different type of drinking culture. I often go for breakfast/ lunch (brunch) around 9.30am. Just across the road from where I live there’s a place where they enjoy karaoke. I mean, it’s basically an old (very old) 30 inch television with a very old-fashioned karaoke machine hooked up. Well, regularly at 9.30 in the morning there will be Filipinos enjoying a singsong whilst also enjoying a good drink. My sort of lifestyle that is! How about the more reserved activities such as going to wine bars or to cafes where they serve beer? Well, the wine is terrific in South America, so that part of the world wins hands down there too! In Malaysia, the prices of wine are shockingly high, so best not to even go there.  I hear that cocktails are better and much cheaper (on the whole) in South East Asia than in South America.

Beer – not much of a range here in South East Asia – it’s pretty much run of the mill. Here’s a brief list of the most popular beers in South East Asia:

Philippines – San Miguel. Really affordable!

Malaysia – Heineken, Carlsberg, Tiger, Anchor, Tsing Tau. Fairly costly.

Thailand – Singha, Chang, Leo. Affordable.

Vietnam – Heineken and Tiger are popular.

Indonesia – Bintang.

I found a list of beer prices around the world if you are interested.

http://www.pintprice.com/

Note that Panama and the Philippines are top ten for being the cheapest countries. Guadeloupe and Singapore are top ten for being the most expensive countries for beer – Singapore in the top five!

FOOD

So far, my experience of food in the Philippines has been poor to say the least (keep in mind that I’m vegetarian, but I do eat fish sometimes since fish dishes abound in South East Asia). I thought that the Philippines would have really great food, but so far I’ve been proven truly wrong. There’s an abundance of fast food joints here, that’s for sure but even that tastes odd in my opinion. I mean, I’m partial to French fries but all the French fries here have a really strange oily flavor. The pizza is generally pretty poor too, other than in the much more expensive places.

The supermarkets in the Philippines are good however. You will find a fairly wide range of goods there and the prices are fairly reasonable too.

Food in Malaysia on the other hand is WOW! Stunning! Beautiful! Perfection on a plate! Until I came to live in Malaysia, I’d never heard anything about the food here, and I now wonder why. It’s incredible! Go eat out in the middle of the night with your friends. Sit under the stars and lap up the atmosphere of the place. Enjoy the aroma of freshly stir-fried seafood and freshly-cut chilli padi. If you like prawns (shrimps) be sure to try LAKSA – it’s amazing! Oh, and the price? You can eat out for less than a couple of USD. It’s so affordable!

Thailand. When I was in Thailand I was not overly impressed by the food, but then, that’s possibly because I was located much of the time in the more touristy areas. You see Thai food on television regularly and it looks really good.

The food in South America, although quite a bit more costly than in South East Asia (other than Singapore which is insanely priced for pretty much everything!) is said to be very delicious. No matter what you are looking for, be that a thick juicy steak or some fantastically fresh and tasty seafood, you can get it in South America!

TRANSPORTATION

Public transport in Malaysia (other than in the major cities) sucks! There are taxis of course but they are expensive.

Public transport in the Philippines on the other hand is very good. Taxis are cheap, and taxi tricycles (motorcycles with a little side carriage) are plentiful and also very affordable.

In Thailand there are generally plenty of taxis and there are the well renowned tuk-tuk’s. One thing to note, if you are going to visit Bangkok, be prepared for something of a hair-raising joy ride to your accommodation. I’ve never been as frightened in my life as I was when being driven in and around Bangkok in a taxi – the drivers are nuts! The amount of accidents I saw within a week – well, what can I say?

Singapore – public transport in this part of the world is very well developed indeed. No real need to possess a car if you live in Singapore.

Vietnam – buses are the main form of transport within the cities and are very cheap. To travel between cities though, it’s advisable not to take public buses. Apparently, this is the form of transport where most tourists lose their lives. Book yourself on one of the private (air conditioned) buses.

In South America, buses are by far the most popular form of public transportation, and arguably the only form of public transportation. In fact, traveling between countries should also be done by bus. Best to get used to the idea of riding the bus on a regular basis then.

ACCOMODATION

Accommodation in the western world, no matter whether it’s rented or it’s bought, has become tremendously expensive. I used to live in central England, in a town called Rugby. I had a small (very, very small) rented place right in the center of town. Sure, it had a pleasant view of a church and it was ideally located in that it was close to shops etc. But it cost 450 UK pounds ($720 USD) a month. One small bedroom. The kitchen was part of the living room and the whole place was teeny. I relocated to Malaysia and for 300 UK pounds ($485 USD) per month I get a place situated in a pleasant area of Kuching which is ten times as big. No joke either – ten times as big!

Generally throughout southeast Asia you are looking at a very affordable accommodation bill each month. And if you want to stay longer term in a hotel, they will often be prepared to do a good deal with you. If you are moving around a lot and you have friends in various locations, you may wish to stay with them to keep the cost of accommodation extremely affordable. How about checking out the hostel scene? As a regular traveler the hostel scene I can say that it is a great way to get to know fellow travelers and generally have a really fun time. Plus, it’s much more affordable than staying in fancy hotels. Mind you, if you like your own privacy, then hostels are not going to be right for you.

Accommodation in South American countries tends to be a bit more costly than South East Asia, but again, if you are traveling around a lot and you have friends in a few cities in this part of the world then you may try to hook up with them. If your an extrovert who likes meeting new people staying in hostels might be your best bet. They are cheap and cheerful providing you do not mind sharing all the time. Hostels are the best way to get a feel for a place because you meet fellow travelers, which in turn can help you to meet more local people too.

FINAL POINTS

As I think (hope) is clear from the articles, whether you have a preference for the South American lifestyle or for the South East Asian way of life is a personal choice that you have to make for yourself. The proximity of South America to Canada and the United States may be the deciding factor for you. The main reason I came to live in South East Asia rather than South America was because I met my girlfriend of the time online and she was located in Kuching, Malaysia. Oddly enough, even though it can take me a while to get used to a new place and new customs and a new way of life, as soon as I arrived in Kuching, I really felt at home.

Another factor which is a major for many people is about friendships and the ability to communicate. Now let me explain this a little more because unless you’ve experienced this, you will possibly not quite get it. In South East Asia I’ve heard many times from white ex-pats that they struggle and suffer from the inability to get on the same level as the locals. There’s a major communication break-down that really is – over the longer term – difficult to deal with because you can feel really isolated at times (particularly if the relationship with your beloved is a bit on the rocky side – I’m talking from quite a bit of experience here!).

For me, there’s been two ways of dealing with this issue. One is that I work online and I have my own blog and I communicate regularly with westerners. Okay, so it’s not face to face, but it is still functional and it certainly helps to alleviate the sense of isolation. The other is that whilst I was in Malaysia, I made friends with a number of guys who were business “types”. I don’t say that to boast or anything. It’s just that these sort of guys are often western educated or they’ve spent time in the west so they are familiar with western culture, habits and with humor too. With many groups of Asian people I’ve found that once you get to know one guy in “the group” it’s much easier to get to know quite a few others.

Where South America differs is that the people from that part of the world are naturally friendly – much more so on average than are Asians (no disrespect intended!).  It is just a cultural extrovert vs introvert thing. So, if this is particularly important to you and your peace of mind, if I were you I would choose South America over South East Asia almost every day of the week! Having said all this though, the girls in the Philippines tend to be friendly, but then – there is something of an ulterior motive involved here ;-)

One of the things that admittedly attracted me to life in South East Asia is that it’s very laid back in many respects in comparison to the western world which is filling up with red tape rules and regulations to a ridiculous level. I find that to be tremendously tiring. In the western world, if you sneeze in the wrong direction these days, you’re in trouble. Now, I did say that South East Asia is very laid back but if you’ve ever been to Singapore then it’s entirely the opposite! Nevertheless, all the other countries around here are pretty chill about most things.

You’ve got to be somewhat aware of religious practices however. Malaysia for example is Muslim-dominated and there are certain things that are not acceptable to do in public in Malaysia which would be relatively okay in the west. What’s more, do keep in mind that if you speak out in public against most of the governments in South East Asia, then you could either be in trouble, or you could end up being unceremoniously “dumped” out of the country and told never to come back again! I suspect that to be exactly the same in South America. After all, the corruption levels in that part of the world are extraordinarily high, and although most of these countries (if not all) claim to be democratic, many of them are not.

With respect to being “laid back” the same can be said about South America as is said about South East Asia. If you need a break from the incessant rules and regulations and red tape of western world, then either South America or South East Asia as a destination will offer a terrific respite!

I think that covers most bases that I wish to cover. I hope you found this to be informative and helpful. Perhaps you are considering spending some time in either South America or South East Asia, or maybe even both. If so, I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Should you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment, or if it’s of a more private nature feel free to get in touch by email. Wishing you all the very best!

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