The thing I absolutely love about travel is that it’s a journey of self discovery. With each new situation I find myself in I either: a. learn something new about myself, b. learn something new about a different culture, or c. and in most cases – both.
Spending one year in Southeast Asia in 2011 was my first big leap out into the world and I found myself in more untamed situations than ever before. Each one of them was like a rite of passage and enabled me to understand the world and myself in a new way. These experiences ignited a fire in me that I have since been compelled to share with the world.
The following list is just the tip of the iceberg, but are things I would recommend all travelers add to their bucket lists (Southeast Asia edition).
Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.
- Witness a cremation ceremony in Bali, Indonesia
We were lucky enough to see this twice – once on the island Nusa Lembongan and again in Ubud on Bali. The Hindu ceremony is funeral ritual to send the person into the next life. The burning of the body is considered necessary to free the spirit from the body allowing it to then be reincarnated.
Observing the ritual as an outsider is widely accepted. It seems the entire community comes out to participate in the process whether it be to give an offering, play music, carry the elaborate coffin or just to watch.
- Drink cobra blood (and then eat the body) in North Vietnam
Locals will tell you drinking snake blood is good for everything: it can cure the common cold or even act as a natural aphrodisiac. In Lệ Mật village, just seven kilometers outside of Hanoi, we gave it a go.
We chose the live cobra and watched our waitress slice it down the center and cut out the beating heart which our friend had the honor of eating. She then squeezed the blood into one cup, the bile into another, mixed in some rice wine and served up shots. The shot of blood had a metallic taste and the bile was visually disturbing as it came out bright green, but overall they weren’t bad!
The body was served in a variety of dishes ranging from soup to fried bits and we ate it all. The worst tasting part of the whole night was the shot of whiskey from a jar that a giant cobra had been fermenting in for years!
- Sing solo karaoke in a Filipino’s living room (or at a KTV)
Sorry to say, but there is no getting out of this during a trip to the Philippines. It may be the national pass time and I recon every family owns a personal karaoke set up. The good news? No matter how tone deaf you may be, the locals will love and appreciate your performance.
When it was my turn for the very first time the only songs I could remember the words to were by Taylor Swift. Not even I knew my subconscious was a pop superstar. At some point after a few drinks Jordan and I even did a duet to Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow’s Cruisin. Yup. I’m not sure which of those self revelations to be more embarrassed about.
- Visit a school in Indonesia
Honestly, do it in any country. One of our most memorable experiences from an entire year in Asia was when we were invited to a local high school to give the students an opportunity to speak English with native speakers.
It all happened when we struck up a conversation with a friendly local while eating breakfast our first morning in Jakarta. The students were so excited to have us and asked hilarious questions like “Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend? Will you dance for us?” and more serious questions about our religion and our views on their culture.
We almost backed out at the last minute because we had just arrived in the country and weren’t sure if we should trust the man who invited us. I’m so glad we followed through because the whole day was a “restore your faith in humanity” experience. The dress I’m wearing in the photos belonged to the daughter of the teacher who invited us. 🙂
- Get harassed by macaque monkeys in Indonesia and/or Thailand
Cheeky bastards, pardon my language. They’re cute and funny when you see them sitting on a dumpster drinking the last few drops out of a Milo can or hanging from the thatched roof of a food vendor stealing bananas. Sure. It’s all fun and games until you become their target.
True story: while walking through a national park on Java, Indonesia a fairly large male macaque started circling around me hissing and showing his teeth. In self defense I chucked my two liter water bottle as hard as I could directly at him. It knocked him on his back, but what happened next was incredible. He effortlessly rolled up to a seated position, looked straight at me while twisting off the cap and then drank my water. Scary and hilarious.
Stayed tuned for 5 More Bucket List Experiences for the Untamed Traveler coming soon!