A weekly ode to the joys of moaning about your holiday, by Tim Roxborogh
"Any advice about Southeast Asia?" As a big fan and former resident of that neck of the woods I get asked this quite a lot. And every time, especially if it's a youngish guy doing the asking, I tell them the same thing: "Don't, whatever you do, hire a motorbike!"
After the first person I gave that warning to came back with grazes all over their arms, I've taken to expanding the motorbike line to also include gems like: "Remember my words when you're there; may they ring in your ears when you're thinking how cheap and fun it will be to hire one. Well, it won't be so much fun when you're all bloodied and can't go swimming and it's 35 degrees!"
Fatherly advice when you're not someone's father and you're roughly the same age doesn't, evidently, carry much weight. I'm not sure anyone I've told not to hire a motorbike while holidaying in Southeast Asia hasn't not hired one. Indeed, for some young Western men, it seems you can't have a Southeast Asian holiday without hiring a motorbike. It's like some sort of almightily misguided male-pride vacation rite of passage.
But here's the real point: not only is it far more dangerous to hire one than most tourists realise (approximately 80 road deaths per day in Thailand), it's also completely unnecessary in these lands of tuk-tuks and cheap cabs. The anecdotal stat when I was in Laos a few years back was that 30 per cent of all Western males who hired motorbikes were involved in some sort of accident. The situation got so dire that for a time most Westerners found they simply weren't allowed to hire them. Good.
Because whether it's Laos or Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia, the roads and the drivers are completely different from much of the West. And even the best roads on the planet don't tend to be a great mix with alcohol. Quite why so many travellers are riding motorbikes in conjunction with what seems to be their real priority - drinking in bars - will always be beyond me.
Hotels Who Charge Laundry By The Item
People make fun of me for wearing sweatbands when I'm in the tropics, but if I'm exploring on foot and it's hot, I find a sweatband on my wrist to be functional as well as fashionable. And if I'm doing something like a jungle hike I'll even bust out a headband, much to the alarm of almost everyone. Again, functional and fashionable.
Unfortunately there is one downside. On a couple of occasions I've dropped a smallish bag of laundry off at a hotel reception, clearly still thinking it's 2010 in Vietnam or Cambodia, where laundry was always charged by weight. Turns out the rest of the world sees things differently.
The most awkward experience was being in Bali and seeing the lady take my bag of worn undies, sweatbands, socks, T-shirts etc, tip it upside down and start counting the number of sweaty items in front of everyone. Even mid-range hotels can sometimes charge a fortune for itemised laundry with the most heart-stopping bill being one I got for $90 in the Solomon Islands.
The thing is, sweatbands are shockingly never specifically mentioned in hotel laundry lists. Can you believe it! They also weigh next to nothing and take up hardly any space.
But I guess they're getting counted as "underpants". If you're a fellow admirer of Bjorn Borg/John McEnroe wrist and head garments, don't get caught out.
Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's The Two, Coast Soul on Coast and writes theRoxboroghReport.com.