Ben Leander Willgruber | Visual Designer and Writer

Strange things I’ve learned in Indochina | Part 1

Part 1 of my summer travel report. Read why you shouldn’t pet fish and mustn’t pet monkeys. Read why it’s hard to do laundry in Vietnam and many more of my travel fails. Of course, I also write about the trip in general and added tons of pictures!

What I’ve learned in Indochina so far:

  • A ping-pong show is no sports event.
  • My butt doesn’t fit in 4XL Thai underpants.
  • If the taxi driver isn’t feeling your destination, you might be left at the side of the road.
  • Even if I want to pet a monkey, I can’t. So sad.
  • Traffic lights are nothing but a mere illusion to make tourists feel more comfortable. (Same with crosswalks and speed limits)
  • If you try to pet a fish, it will most likely bite you. (If you’re as lucky as I am)
  • 90% air moisture means your laundry won’t dry in time.
  • If there’s one thing Thais love, it’s their leaders. Another thing: Putting up memorials to show everyone how much they love their leaders. Like so much.
  • You may enter a temple with short pants but you’re not getting anywhere near the King’s Palace.
  • Some believe Durian tastes like cheese, some say it tastes like vomit. I say it tastes like a plant that doesn’t want to be eaten. Ever.


I’m back and it sucks. It’s cold, it’s grey, there’s no sun. Dear, Game of Thrones, Winter isn’t coming, it’s here already. At least that’s how it feels. I got sick shortly after returning home. Whatever. There are also good aspects of being back home again (Or so I’ve been told).

Slums next to fancy quarters in Bangkok

I was in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia for the most part of October. To summarize the vacation, I’m very happy with it. I got to re-do summer and I’ve always been fascinated by Asia. After about 24 hours of traveling (train, plane, another plane, transfer to Bangkok and many hours of waiting), we got to Bangkok finally. First thought after arrival was: Wow, this place is dirty. The only word that might describe Bangkok a little better is dusty. It’s also a very chaotic city. And it felt really loud and busy. Compared to Bangkok my hometown seems like a My Little Pony stable. What I didn’t know at this point was that it was about to get much, much louder. But let’s stay in Thailand for a minute.

Street kitchen (very clean one!) at Tipsamai

After this initial disappointment, Bangkok became more and more charming, the more time I spent there. Beyond the layers of noise, dust, dirt and even more dust lies a fascinating and thrilling metropolis. Bangkok gives you a little bit of everything: typical Asian street markets, mystery meat sold on every corner, intriguing ladyboys, pulsating nightlife and a lot of culture and spirituality. Next to the riverside, there are beautiful temples, some of the most stunning ones I’ve seen over the course of the whole trip. You’re looking for a sitting Buddha? Check! Standing? Done! Lying down? Sure! Or fancy a black buddha? Well, I haven’t seen that one, but supposedly it exists too.

Garden at Wat Pho
Garden at Wat Pho
Kitten hangin low at Wat Arun

The best way to get from A to B is the Tuk-Tuk taxi. At first, I wasn’t sure, if I wanted to take a Tuk-Tuk. To put it mildly, most of them seem… unofficial. Also, they look incredibly dangerous as a Tuk-Tuk is a completely open vehicle without seatbelts. However, when we were stranded in the middle of nowhere, in desperate need of a restroom, we were really happy when a Tuk-Tuk driver appeared. Taking a Tuk-Tuk is a lot of fun. It’s like laying your faith into the hands of a total stranger while enjoying the airy breeze on the back seat. And did I mention that Tuk-Tuks sometimes have party lights?!

Tuk-Tuks in Bangkok

In Thailand, more than in any country I’ve previously visited, you should be cautious in where you put your money. Everyone knows you’re a tourist (OMG like so racist… right?) and some will try to deceive you. After hearing a LOT of stories from others, I was almost disappointed that no one tried to pull some tricks on me. But then I decided, that I wanted to see the Grand Palace. It was quite difficult to find a taxi or Tuk-Tuk to take us there. When we finally found a Tuk-Tuk driver, he told us that the Grand Palace was closed (lie). I told him that I knew this wasn’t true, so he said that it was closed now (lie) but will be open later (lie). Then he said that the Palace has closed altogether (lie) and that we can’t get inside anyway (technically true) He much rather wanted to take us someplace else… At that point, we got the hell outta there. Just a couple days prior, a couple we met on the road told us a very similar story. They never arrived at the Grand Palace.

Monkeys at Phi Phi Islands

After more big city adventures, we took a break in Phuket and went swimming, surfing and diving for a couple of days. We even got to see monkeys on the beach! And white sand! Everyone reading this is probably starting to hate me a little bit for telling stories of FUCKING TURQUOISE water, so I’ll stop here. Okay, maybe a quick pic.

Phi Phi Island / Bamboo Island

Moving on, we flew to Hanoi (Vietnam) with a flight ticket cheaper than a glass of wine in Ryanair. When I got there, my first thoughts were: Wow, this is loud. And tiny. And oh my god, I think this car just hit me a little! Yes, Hanoi is even busier than Bangkok. A major difference between Thailand and Vietnam is that only in Vietnam people honk. Like all the time. Every driver honks whenever they get to a crossing or pass another car. Sounds like a lot? It is.


We were so happy when we finally arrived at our hotel in the old town of Hanoi. How cool is a hotel directly in the old town? What we didn’t know at this point was that ‘old’ first and foremost describes the construction of the roads. Everything was so small! The roads were not meant for modern cars, I can guarantee that. It’s tricky to figure out how cars, bikes, mopeds and pedestrians can share one road. I just hoped that I didn’t run out of luck from not dying in a Tuk-Tuk yet. But (Spoiler!) nothing happened again although I was almost hit multiple times.

Night view of Hoi An

After being a little bit overwhelmed, we went a little further into the more modern parts of Hanoi. Then, the city was beautiful. There was enough space for me to walk without endangering my existence and large parts of the city even were traffic-free at night. I only had one problem left: It was time to do laundry. I already washed a shirt by hand in Bangkok, but Vietnam’s climate is way moister. As these countries are super-cheap, we wanted to do the laundry at our hotel. How much can that cost when a full meal with drinks costs under 5 euros?!

(Guesses now)

It was…

70 euros per person! I shit you not and yes, you heard me correctly. Not 17. 70!

So, we skipped doing any laundry (that sounds wrong). But we did in our next city and paid about 20 euros for two people…

You can find part 2 of the travel report by clicking here.

Suggested further reading:
7 things I’ve learned in Thailand
Photos of Thailand
Photos of Vietnam (Hanoi)

29 thoughts on “Strange things I’ve learned in Indochina | Part 1

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  13. The \”What I\’ve learned\” opening part is fantastic! It gives the reader some interesting knowledge and drags them in further to take a read. 4XL underpants were too small? That is quite hilarious!

    \”I just hoped that I didn’t run out of look from not dying in a Tuk-Tuk yet.\” I think you meant \”luck\”. Just a typo I noticed.

    1. Hey 🙂 Thanks for the feedback! Doesn\’t matter how often I read a post, there are always typos left.

      I asked the store-owner two times if he had any larger shorts, he grabbed the 4XL (from storage because apparently my body is weird and no one needs those lol) – and he was pissed when I said I wouldn\’t fit in them^^

      1. That reminded me of that time when I was visiting a country in which English is not the main language. It was probably 15+ years ago, so this might not happen in today\’s day and age… I witnessed two females talking about size differences. They were confused that XS was smaller than S. They only associated X with L, so they thought the X stood for bigger/ more than. I giggled.

  14. Bangkok ist eine Stadt die man liebt oder nicht. Finde ich. Meine Stadt ist sie leider nicht. Dennoch gibt es einiges zu sehen, auch das Nachtleben kann sehr interessant sein. Für mich war da eine ziemliche Umstellung sei es essen kultur oder Verkehr. Dennoch war es eine Reise wert. Alleine das tuk tuk fahren ist sehr abenteuerlich. Persönlich hat mir vietnam und Kambodscha am besten gefallen. Dennoch kann ich es nur weiter empfehlen. Eine Stadt die jeder gesehen haben muss.

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