How to pack for Southeast Asia

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In Southeast Asia, women should cover from shoulders to knees when not at the beach, pool or gym.

To me, packing light is the secret to a great trip. But you need to bring the right things — and only the right things — when you pack light.

In predominantly Buddhist and Muslim Southeast Asia, you need to be even more careful to ensure you pack correctly. I wrote this Pack smart for Southeast Asia article for SilkWinds, the inflight magazine for Singapore Airlines’ regional wing, Silk Air.

It gives tips on essentials to bring on a trip to Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Viet Nam and Laos, and why; tips for bringing electronics to humid countries; plus guidance on what type of bag to put all your stuff in depending on how you plan to travel.

As far as clothing goes, you need to avoid the skimpy stuff. The outfit above would cause embarrassment to most Southeast Asian Buddhists and Muslims walking by (though it makes for a nice photo in the early morning light in Chiang Mai, Thailand). It’s ok to expose your shoulders at the pool or the beach, and you could probably get away with it at the gym, but an outfit like this is not appropriate for the street. Even if this outfit was culturally appropriate, it isn’t weather appropriate — you’ll want the cooling properties of a loose shirt which both blocks the sun and brings in the breeze.

Want more packing tips? See What to pack: Essentials for a safari (especially for Namibia), with more writing to come.

Here’s two of my favourite items:

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My favourite packing “cubes”, which I can stuff quite a lot in, and then carry everything I need for a 6-month trip (except my electronics) in a 40 L duffle bag

I’m a big fan of packing “cubes” and stuff sacks, like these. This picture is from a hotel room in Gili T, Indonesia, and is holding all the clothes I brought for my six-month trip to Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand (minus the clothes I was wearing for the photo, of course). These two stuff sacks take up about a third of the 40 L duffle bag I usually travel with.

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Crocs’ Patricia II sandals — comfortable, waterproof, and great for all day walks and dancing into the night too

I wear these lightweight and waterproof Crocs shoes 90% of my time travelling: they’re great for the pool, beach, town, walking all day (I’ve worn these shoes to explore the rough grounds of Angkor, and even climbed a mountain in China in them when our itinerary got changed at the last minute), plus they’re fine to wear with a dress. And they are easily washed in the shower.  I own three pairs of these babies, because they’re no longer available in stores, just online.

What essential items are always in your bag? Have any packing tips to share? Any specific packing questions I can help with?

What do you think? Your comments are most welcome.

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