Packing List For South East Asia
Less is Best
When packing for backpacking less is absolutely more. Most countries in South East Asia will have plenty of anything you forgot to pack, for a fraction of the cost it is here. Shopping in Asia is easy, cheap, and fun.
Cheap clothing will be everywhere you travel. Be prepared to negotiate, usually the real price is half of what they offer it for. It's up to you whether you want to dress like a tourist in the loose fitting drop-waist tribal pants. I try not to wear anything a local would be caught dead in. Packing wise, it's good to bring a few items.
Pick up a light-weight rain jacket from REI, or target. I brought my Marmot jacket, and it saved me from the torrential downpours at the beginning of monsoon season. Bring enough socks and underwear to make you feel comfortable, but you will have chances to wash them. I'll go over this in another section, but I always bring a small container of Dr. Bronner's Soap every time I travel, and I will hand wash my socks, bathing suit and undies in the guest room sink.
Bring a pair of shorts, a few t-shirts or tank tops (make sure some of your shirts have sleeves, in some countries it's frowned upon to not cover shoulders.)
Also, make sure you have a temple appropriate outfit. For men, this can be long light-weight pants and shoulder covering t-shirt. For women, it can be the same, or a long dress or skirt. You can also bring a shawl to cover your shoulders. You will remove your shoes when you enter any temple. Make sure your temple outfit doesn't wrinkle easily. I saw temple tourist couture as mostly loose fitting button up shirts and long skirts, but those button up shirts are impossible to keep in wearable condition.
If you plan on trekking bring hiking boots, it will be the biggest pain to lug around, but you'll need to be comfortable in the Burmese wilderness. Also, pack a pair or two of trekking socks. You can pick them up at REI. Otherwise, sandals are your friend. Be forewarned, most places require you to take your shoes off before entering, and it's very possible that your sandals will get stolen. I got in the habit of taking mine off and putting them into my backpack rather than leaving them outside after three of my travelling companions had theirs swiped.
That's all you need. Bring a bathing suit, but buy the sarong in Asia and anything you require will be less than ten dollars.
Also, men if you go to Myanmar buy a longyi. It will be quite possibly your only chance to wear a skirt, and they are more comfortable than you could imagine.
1 light weight rain jacket: ___
6 pairs of socks: ___
7 pairs of underwear: ___
1 bathing suit: ___
1 pair of shorts: ___
1 light weight pair of long pants or long skirt: ___
1 long sleeve shirt (lightweight, wrinkle resistant): ___
1 pair of sandals, heavy duty or flip flops: ___
1 pair of hiking boots: ___
Get ready to have a new perspective on what's clean. Asia is hot and sweaty, and the showers are like little trickles of rainwater teasing you. The public restrooms can be anything from state-of-the-art shimmering porcelain, to a hole in the ground behind your restaurant.
If you forget anything, you can stop by a 711 or a pharmacy to pick these up, but it's better to be prepared. Make sure you bring a toothbrush, toothpaste, a small bottle of shampoo and conditioner. I said this previously, but bring a small bottle of Dr. Bronner's Soap. It is magical, all natural, and can be used on seriously anything. Make sure you try it out before your trip. Some people say it irritates their bodies, but I've never had an issue. You can use it to wash your clothes, as well.
Make sure to grab a good travel towel, you never know what quality your hostel will have and how much it will cost. I also recommend bringing a small packet of baby wipes for times you don't have access to a shower. Bring a small roll of toilet paper, you never know when you'll need it. I cannot tell you how many times I was glad I brought nail clippers, and tweezers... it's the little things. Bring a thing of hand sanitizer. Most places do not have soap.
Soap (Dr. Bronners): ___
Travel Towel: ___
Nail Clippers: ___
Baby wipes: ___
Hand Sanitizer: ___
Toilet Paper: ___
Medicine Kit, Sun and Bug Protection
Malaria is a real concern, bring plenty of bug spray. I bought a highly concentrated 100% DEET from REI and mixed it into spray bottles of other bug sprays. I chose not to take malaria pill because of the odd side-effects people have reported. I can't encourage you one way or another, but protect yourself regardless. You can still get Dengue fever even if you're protected from Malaria. I did not bring a mosquito net and I didn't need one.
As for medicine, it's good to come prepared but don't weigh down your pack with it. Everything you need can be bought at the local pharmacy. I brought Neosporin and a few bandaids.
Ciprofloxacin is a god-send when you have the stomach-flu. It will clean you out, and make you feel all new. I don't recommend Immodium, but some Pepto Bismol always made me feel a bit better. Prevention is better than treatment. Take care of yourself. Order only what you feel comfortable with, and use hand sanitizer, I spent a week sick in Myanmar, and only after you've had explosive diarrhea on a 12 hour bus ride can you truly say you've lived.
The sun preys on those who are unprepared for it's ungodly wrath. Bring tons of sunscreen and a hat.
For women, make sure you bring enough feminine products to last for your entire trip. Tampons are hard to come by. Also, pack enough birth control and consider bringing emergency contraception, even if you think that won't be an issue. Also, bring something like Monistat to cure yeast infections. I know, no one likes talking about it. You're going to be living in some questionable conditions and that's truly the last thing you want to deal with. Prepare for the worst.
Band aids (a few): ___
2 Bottles of Bug Spray: ___
100% Deet: ___
2 Bottles of Sunscreen (SPF 30 or above): ___
Birth Control: ___
Emergency Contraception (optional): ___
Period Products: ___
Books, Books, Books
Books are the bane of every backpacker. You need them for the long bus rides, and the hot sleepless nights, but one or two can double the weight of your backpack. Bring a guide. Lonely Planet's Southeast Asia on a Shoestring is a classic for a reason. Everyone else will have it, and I highly recommend not going solely by it's recommendations, but when you're in Cambodia at 11 at night with no place to sleep and no internet, a guide book is indispensable for getting you to a safe location and where you need to go.
If you are stopping in Thailand, there are plenty of knock-off book stores. In fact, everywhere I went, there were vendors selling many of the same books. Hostels usually have book-exchanges but expect 10 Danielle Steele books for every Herman Hesse book you find.
I recommend picking up one book about the place you're about to visit, and a novel you've been dying to read, and that's it. If you want more books, you'll have to find them there. Anything more than 3 books is death, trust me.
Last time, I did this trip I did something I was wholeheartedly against. I brought a Kindle Fire. Keeping it safe was surprisingly easy, and charging it wasn't as difficult as I had anticipated either. It's about a pound and I was able to keep 20 books on it. So, if you're an avid reader like I am, think about it. I still prefer the feel of a real book in my hand, but the Kindle also moonlights as a movie watching device and a small laptop. It was pretty indispensable on this last trip.
Also, do not forget a little notebook with plenty of pens. You will need to fill out many a travel form, so bring plenty of writing utensils. Notebooks, are not only helpful for journaling, but for getting your new travel friends contact information. It's also good to write down addresses to show to cab drivers.
novel (x2, optional): ___
kindle (optional): ___
little journal: ___
Pens x5: ___
Bring a camera. Take a piece of paper, write your email address on it. Take a picture of it and save it as your first photo. That way, if it's found by someone honorable they can return it. I also brought my Iphone for internet, music and pictures. I slipped a label on the back with my email address. Label your electronics, if you lose them they'll at least have a chance to get back to you.
I brought a portable speaker for my Ipod, and it was killer. We started dance parties where none had ever been seen. Consider it.
Bring batteries for anything that needs it, and consider an extra memory card for your camera. Also, don't forget headphones if you're bringing an Ipod.
Leave the laptop at home, unless you need it to write. It's not necessary.
Camera (labelled): __
Camera charger: ___
Iphone or Ipod (labelled): ___
Iphone charger: ___
Portable Speaker (optional...very optional): ___
The Last Little Bits
You're almost done. The backpack should still be light on your back, and ready to go. Here's the place for the little things that don't fit neatly into their own categories.
One, is a little backpack. You will not always want to carry your big backpack around. A little light-weight one is essential for day excursions.
Bring a lock for hostel lockers.
Bring 2 or 3 copies of your passport, store them in separate locations.
Bring extra passport sized photos of yourself. You my need them for certain visas.
Here's hardware you can consider bringing for unforeseen necessities: wine opener, bottle opener, scissors, duct tape (small roll), fork, knife, spoon, real knife, rope, trash bags, and ziplock baggies.
I also recommend you bring a roll-up tote bag for laundry during the trip and extra space for souvenirs when you're leaving.
Copies of passport: ___
Passport Photos: ___
Wine Opener/Bottle Opener: ___
Duct Tape (small roll):___
Real Knife: ___
Trash bags: ___
Ziplock baggies: ___
Rollup Tote Bag: ___
That's what I've brought on my travels, and have found useful. Once again, there are very few items you can't pick up there. So, don't sweat it too much. If you're on the fence don't bring it. I welcome comments below, especially critiques from fellow travelers.
Have a blast, and be sure to check out my other travelling hubs. Safe travels!