Traveling is great and every day is an adventure. Just some of the adventures aren’t of the exotic or exciting type, rather they are the kind of adventures that come from hunting for things we miss from home.
What things do we miss from home?
These could be broken down into broad 2 categories: home comforts that anyone would miss from home, including friends and family, and things you expected you would be able to buy easily, but you can’t (or they’re stupidly expensive and we’re traveling on a budget).
We knew we were away for 6+ months, so expected having to replenish some things along the way. Some we expected we could easily buy, whereas other things we were hoping my parents would bring for us, when they joined us half way through the trip. Sad thing is, they had to cancel their trip, but that meant we weren’t going to get those things we’d asked for.
Things we thought we could buy
Here are some strange things that we were struggling to buy. Some things we now know you can find here, but we didn’t have a clue where to buy them from. Here are some examples:
- Nail file – it took me 2 months to find a nail file. We walked for days looking for one – I was so desperate. I finally found one at a Body Shop in Ho Chi Minh City. Seems the locals cut their nails, they never file them!
- Rooibos tea – although there are a number of expat shops in various countries who stock a wide range of imported teas, only in Hong Kong were we able to find rooibos tea.
- Contact lens solution – I couldn’t bring 6 months’ worth of daily contact lenses, so had to switch to monthly ones which require contact lens solutions. Every pharmacy I tried at, looked at me blankly. Granted, much of the explanation was in the form a mime and hand gestures, or showing them this photo. This resulted in them offering me eye drops. But my friend, Nancy, finally gave me the Vietnamese name for them (Google translate didn’t work on this one), and suggested I try an optician in the city, rather than pharmacy. Bingo!
- Non-drowsy allergy tablets – in Vietnam they will sell you allergy tablets that are supposedly non-drowsy, but they made me so tired and groggy, I googled them. They are in fact used as anti-anxiety and sleeping tablets. I have tried at many other pharmacies, but not been able to find the non-drowsy ones.
- Insect repellant machines – they don’t seem to exist here, but you do get some great natural, orange-oil flavoured insect repellants.
- Oral B Pulsar toothbrushes – there don’t seem to be any electronic type toothbrushes here.
- Shops like Boots / Clicks – they exist in Thailand (Boots) and Hong Kong (Watsons), but nothing like that in Vietnam. It can take a day of searching to find a few products as they are all sold by specialist shops.
- Tampons – one for the ladies. You can find them at some expat shops, but regular shops don’t stock them.
Home comforts & products we miss
We expected to miss some of these – we’re travelling after all. Some things you can get, it is just very expensive. Here’s the list:
- Bacon and sausages
- Fresh milk
- Watching sport on TV at home
- Friends and family
- Affordable wine
- Good single malt whisky
- Craft beer
- Proper thick cut chips
- Good gel nail technicians
- Soaking in a bath
- Internet shopping! Amazon next day delivery 🙂
- Rooibos tea
- My hairdresser who has been cutting my hair for 18 years
- My hair straightener
- Sparkling water. Available in Hong Kong, but very expensive, because it’s imported from Europe – seriously!
- Popping into the pub or market on the way back from work
- Being able to read (and understand) labels, signs and instructions!
- Steak and pies
- Proper queueing
- Quiet interactions between people
- Our own gadgets, including the dishwasher, Bose speaker system
- Chris Evans Breakfast show
- BBC catch up TV
- World foods: the variety we get in the UK: Indian, Thai, Sushi, American, Cafes, Mexican, South African, Italian etc.
- Shops selling western sized clothing.
Things we’ll miss about Asia when we’re back in the UK
- Vietnamese coffee
- Vietnamese fish sauce (most fish sauce in the UK is Thai fish sauce – and is much stronger in flavour)
- Extra-long chopsticks for cooking
- Listerine Mint mouth freshener strips
- Different types of rice products:
- fresh rice paper
- steamed rice paper
- fresh vermicelli rice noodles
- “Snake bite” – an ointment made from snake venom that is great for inflammation.
- Cheap massages
- Bicycles and motorbikes being safer urban modes of transport than in the UK
- Lack of road rage and anger
- Generosity and friendliness of ordinary people
- Affordable tailor made clothes
- Freshness of local ingredients
- Cheap, fresh prawns
- Street food (not the over-priced stuff masquerading as street food in the UK)
- Sunshine and heat
- Wearing shorts
- Swimming pools
- Make-do and innovative approach to life. Things are amended and fixed, not just thrown away and replaced.
- Paying with real paper money and having a wad of cash.
- Natural mosquito repellant
Things we won’t miss about Asia
- Humidity and sweating
- My unruly hair
- The terrible pavements
- Adults screeching like children
- Crazy driving and thinking you’ll die crossing a road
- Most taxis’ seatbelts don’t work
- The constant noise
- Lack of customer service
- Terrible gel nails and cowboy nail technicians
- Asian music & karaoke
- Sexism: women have to be superwomen while men drink coffee
- Not being able to flush toilet paper down the toilets
- Not being able to drink water straight from the tap
- Lack of hygiene and sanitation
- Lack of recycling and awareness of danger of plastics
We’re loving our travels though, and we’re not even half way through. Do follow the rest of our trip by subscribing to this blog: