I Spent 5 Weeks in Asia after quitting my job — Here are some small observations
It’s well known that time is probably the most valuable asset to one’s life. It’s a theme that constantly recurs within our society, yet most people still seem to be endlessly busy, with their youth flying by. I was working as an analyst within a fast-growing startup — the pace was fast, and I basically lost my nights and weekends. A few major events happened in my life that served as the catalyst to my trip– I fell in love with a foreign student and she was going back to her home country, my grandfather’s health severely deteriorated over the past year, my grandmother who is in her 80s became his full time caretaker, and I turned 27 which made me feel like my 30s were staring right at me in the face and I should do something memorable before that.
So I left my job without another one lined up, booked tickets to travel over the course of 5 weeks, burned through my savings, and had the time of my life. The route that I took specifically was Shanghai, Xi’an, Bangkok, Mae Sot, Bangkok again, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh, and Manila.
While there are so many things I could have mentioned about each place, here are the small observations I’ve decided to share:
For some reason, the American fast food chains in China are way better than their original counterparts in America. As I’m writing this, the internet has blown up the past few days over Popeyes chicken sandwhich vs Chick-fil-A and I personally know that the Chicken McSpicy in China would blow them both out the water. China has their own web ecosystem now where apps like Wechat, Meituan, and Eleme are essential to everyday life. Whenever I had to make a purchase, I felt like the odd person out because everyone uses digital payments and I used physical cash like a caveman. I have a very strong feeling that there are a lot of western companies currently studying the Chinese app and services ecosystem because there are many ways that these apps are just flat out better than the existing American alternatives.
I would consider Shanghai a perfect stew. They blend a lot of cultural ingredients together that make the city amazing for tourism and travelers. There are historic Chinese districts, European buildings, and modern designed skyscrapers. There’s a beautiful river that runs through the middle of the city and amazing parks where people dance in the open, and walking street shopping districts. There’s even a marketplace where parents go to set up dates for their single children through flyers.
This place is famously known for it’s 8th wonder of the world and rightfully so. Aside from that, this city is very representative of China’s massive history and when you are here you can’t help but be in awe of the deep history as well as the efforts to maintain and represent it. It’s a three thousand year old city and through a lot China’s history it’s been the capital city. My grandparents also live here, and while that is not relevant to anyone else looking to travel to Xi’an, it is my favorite part.
Thailand is one of the top tourist destinations in the world and when you’re here it’s obvious why. For starters the people here are some of the nicest and most humble you will meet. They live by a mantra of “sabai sabai” which can be roughly translated to comfortable, chill, carefree.
While here I stayed near the BTS stops of Asoke, Thonglor, and Ekkamai which had a surprising amount of Japanese restaraunts, shopping centers, and spas. Lots of Japanese businesses opening up in Bangkok. Something that is unique to Bangkok is the number of mega malls and the effort spent designing them. In my opinion Bangkok is one of the top if not the top interior design centers in the world. Every mall is unique and if you are into architecture and interior design you can go there just to marvel at the job they’ve done.
Mae Sot —
This rural town in Thailand is my girlfriend’s hometown. It’s very reminiscent of the inlands of Hawaii with the unreal amounts of green. There’s also a lot of diversity here due to it being very close to the border for Burma. There’s an amazing rainforest café as well as natural hot springs within the forests. If you’re looking for a hidden gem of Thailand I highly recommend checking it out.
Being an Asian American who speaks both Chinese and English, this place is somewhere I could relocate to without hesitation. I love so many things about the city such as the biophilic designs, food, the diversity and warmth of the people. I was also lucky to be there for National Day and when I take their MRT I can’t help but draw comparisons to the terrible system that BART is.
Ho Chi Minh —
Vietnam is one of the most underrated countries of Asia. It’s unbelievably cheap, and the people are very nice as long as you are careful with your belongings. There’s a game they play called Alibaba where if you have your phone out while walking near the road you should be very careful as it might end up on Alibaba via the hands of a local motorcycle thief. Another thing I noticed about Vietnam is they have Crocs fever out there. A lot of people were wearing crocs and styling them with different charms — if you ever decide to go to Vietnam and want to fit in, get yourself a pair of Crocs and a few charms!
I love the warmth of Filipino people. I had Filipino friends from the bay area give a lot of information on the Philippines and even sent a driver to pick me up from the airport. When you are going from the airport into the city, you can’t help but notice one of the most beautiful skylines in the world. There’s a lot of real estate development going on in Manila and I expect opportunities will be abundant in the future. The customer service here is A1, which is something that will never go out of style. They’re always as polite as possible and even something as simple as waiting for your food at a restaurant they’ll constantly check in with you to let you know your order is being prepped and the ETA. Another thing to note is the Jeepneys — they’re essentially public busses that are made from older Jeeps but decorated very nicely.
After everything I’ve experienced on my trip, I would consider it one of the highlights of my youth. While I don’t recommend everyone just quit their jobs without another lined up, I do recommend traveling for an extended amount of time without having the need to check slack or emails sit in the back of your mind so you can fully absorb every moment around you. Being young and healthy is being a time billionaire, you don’t want to just have all your capital sitting in the bank. Treat yourself once in a while!
Thank you for taking the time to read all the way through. If you have your own travel stories to share, or want to further pick my brain on the locations I’ve been to, please do so — my private inbox is also always open for comments and opinions.