Photo Credit: vonSchnauzer
Why is she carrying a backpack and not a stroller?- random tourist in Saigon

Since I've started traveling a few months ago, I can't help but secretly enjoy the varied reactions when people see me lugging a heavy backpack and walking down the backpacker's district. It's a mixture of curiosity, disbelief and confusion. What's an Asian doing backpacking in- Asia?

Here are some of my experiences and learnings so far while traveling around Asia:

Everywhere in Southeast Asia, the locals take me to be a local. They start talking to me in their language and they often get annoyed or disappointed when they realize that I'm not one of them.

Asian Travelers in Asia
Meet Venus, Zoey and Echo. Can you tell we're Asians?
There's absolutely no way you can tell fellow Asians apart unless you hear them talking.

To validate my first 2 points, If you try to buy anything in Asia, you will only be paying the local price (as opposed to the higher foreigner price) if you point at what you want and don't say a word. Works in most cases.

I've been aked for the menu or taken to be a receptionist by non-Asian tourists several times. My response is to smile and tell them in perfect English: I'm sorry, but I don't work here.

In Thailand, I saw a white couple trying to take a photo of themselves. Being the friendly tourist that I am, I approached them and offered to take their photo. Before I even finished talking, the guy cut me off and rudely said: No, Thank you! Never mind that I wasn't selling them any souvenirs or asking them for money.

SS backpacks

When people hear we're from the Philippines, they're usually taken aback to find out we're traveling for at least 6 months at a time. Then they ask: Is that a common thing to do for people in your country?

And upon learning we're Filipinos, there's one common reaction. They put their fists up, punch the air and shout in unison. PACQUIAO! But that's for another post: What it's Like to be a Filipino Traveling in Asia...

Do you agree with all these points? What are your experiences traveling around Asia?

Sole Sister Lois 

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23 Responses so far.

  1. i remember a spaniard na mayabang masyado sa siem reap, he can't believe i was backpacking too. yabang yabang di nman marunong mag-english.

  2. Claire says:

    Looking like a typical Pinay, I get mistaken to be a local wherever Asian country I go to. When Matt and I went to Malaysia, I didn't get the same service in the hotel like he did. Where they open doors and hold chairs for him, I am left to push open heavy doors and get condiments for my own, even if I ask waiters to get them for me. Only when I read Dave's blog did I know how Filipinos are seen in Malaysia. It's a sad thing, really, but I still had a great time and I would love to go back to Malaysia because of their amazing food. I find it harder to travel with my kiwi, because I become aware of little things they do to "white tourists". I have to always haggle for prices, getting the ire of the sellers in return because I deny them a few extra bucks, and fight off beggars who curse me in their native tongue :p Even in PH, tinderas in Greenhills hate me kasi di nila maloko si Matt :p Haha, gosh I love being an Asian in Asia :)

  3. Flipnomad says:

    use it to your advantage :-) i always play this game guess my nationality and get free beer game... hehe i always win... its hard for them to distinguish a filipino from our other nasian neighbors :-)

  4. carlajune says:

    That's right flip! I used it to my advantage. And it's really cool to see Filipinos in other places, makes you feel right at home :)

  5. Lois says:

    Hahahah... natawa naman ako kasi tinagalog mo pa. I've met my share of those din. And wherever we go, people are surprised to know that Filipinos speak good English.

  6. Lois says:

    Pero Spaniard talaga? Mukhang kinonquer ka niya ;-)

  7. Lois says:

    Hey Claire! I've heard of that kind of treatment of Pinoys in Malaysia, from Dave and other travelers. Thanks for sharing your personal experience as a lot of other Asian travelers can learn from that. And I share your sentiments, it's great to be an Asian traveler in Asia! Can't wait to meet up with you in Thailand soon.

  8. Lois says:

    Haha.. I tried this in India. A guy asked me, Where are you from? I responded: Guess. He got surprised with my question and got annoyed. It was too difficult for him I guess. I should ask for beer next time... ;-)

  9. Lois says:

    Hey Carla, we had different experiences when we saw other Filipinos on the road. Some ignored us and pretended they weren't Filipinos (with matching American accent). Others were very warm and welcomed us into their home. But wherever we go, we always tell people about our country and how beautiful it is...

  10. Steve says:

    This is really interesting to me. I've wondered what it would be like. I bet there are some pluses and minuses to this. As long as you don't let it annoy you, you'll get cheaper prices and maybe even less hassle.

    I ran into a large group of traveling South Koreans when I was in Vietnam. They insisted my friend and I get in a large group photo with them. I ended up in a photo surrounded by about twenty people outside a temple in Saigon.

  11. Claire says:

    Hey Lois, we're excited to catch up with you girls in Thailand too! Safe travels! *kisses*

  12. "im sorry, but i dont work here" in that english accent. taray!

    we miss your laugh btw. ;)

  13. We also got the Pacquiao comment when we were in Phuket when the guys from the waterski rental asked our nationalities and because of that we were able to get additional minutes and discounts. Cheers for Manny hahaha

  14. I agree with Flip Nomad use it to your advantage because you can get away with a few things like discounts. Although it does get freakin' is it impossible to think that Asians would want to travel different parts of Asia or that we actually can afford to? It's like saying that Europeans don't travel around Europe or Americans don't go cross-country and visit different states. Most of the time people are very welcoming and gracious but there are times that I feel like I'm still discriminated because I'm Filipino or Asian. Especially when I'm with a travel companion who is white. This is why it's important to evangelize and educate other travelers or locals. I'm glad you girls spread the good word about the Philippines.

  15. dong ho says:

    youll definitely be mistaken as Vietnamese. i remember my trip there and the people are really friendly. i didnt expected that as i thought they are just friendly to the westerners and europeans.

  16. Redshorts_1 says:

    I miss you both. It is a bit sad that you'd be in another city and I can't rendezvous with you in Thailand (there're too many limitations brought about by what my partner does for a living, kundi lang I'll spend 9 days on the road with you girls backpacking, guest sole sister even when travelling). Excited to see more adventures!

  17. Lois says:

    I can imagine you in that photo Steve, along with smiling Asians! You're right about the pluses and minuses. You just have to keep you cool especially while traveling. Thanks for dropping by!

  18. Lois says:

    Na imagine mo talaga? ahahahaha... I do pretty much shock them. I look like a Laos girl kasi.. I miss you guys ;-(

  19. Lois says:

    I agree, cheers for Manny. He has put us back on the map.

  20. Lois says:

    Hey Grace, thanks for sharing your experiences. Yeah, somehow it's hard for others to grasp how people from Asia, especially Philippines, can afford to go traveling for the long term. But it's great when people see that in a positive light. Hopefully we get to inspire more people to travel more- even on a budget!

  21. Lois says:

    Now that I'm in Laos, I really think that I must have been born here and switched at some point. I look so Laos! But I agree, people are friendly everywhere. Unless they're having a really bad day or feel they're getting screwed over. :-)

  22. Lois says:

    It's still possible Mami! We want to see you soon. And don't forget your guest post!

  23. kitiwiti says:

    Got a link to your blog from my friend sherlyn. Absolutely true on all counts! Never backpacked on a stretch before, but I've been to Vietnam, Cambodia, HK, Thailand -- and before each trip i try to learn the basics of their language. When they realize I'm not local, they smile in appreciation that I try to speak their language at least. It's always a blast!

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