Since returning from my three-month backpacking trip to South America, the post that gave my take on what to bring and what not to bring has consistently been one of the most visited on my blog. I hope my new packing list for Asia, once again with the benefit of hindsight, is equally helpful…
This time around it was a shorter trip, 31 days, I wasn’t travelling into winter weather, and I wasn’t going hiking, which all helped! On the other hand, it was still another tricky one as I was combining completely different countries, climates and trip types. I was starting off on the north island of New Zealand, which would see the coldest temperatures of around 13-14 degrees and where I would be driving around with my friend in a flashy BMW Z4. Then on to Sydney and Melbourne, where I’d be living the city life in museums, shopping malls and bars. The second half of my trip would take place over in Asia, bussing up and down the west coast of Malaysia before ending up in Singapore where the temperatures would be 30-35 degrees.
I had planned to be “roughing it” for the second half of the trip but in fact I continued my trip in comfort, staying in nice hotels and even flying domestic sometimes instead of taking the bus. I was also treating this trip differently, in that I would be working remotely while travelling. This meant bringing my computer as the iPad just wouldn’t cut it for working on documents, editing my business website, and so on.
Backpack vs suitcase: Last time, after lugging my big backpack around for three months, I actually decided that a suitcase with wheels would be a more civilised choice going forward. I once again succumbed to convention this time, though, and packed a backpack – a smaller backpack, but a backpack nonetheless. It felt like the right choice for Asia and, let’s face it, having a backpack is sort of integral to the concept of backpacking. It worked fine but again a suitcase would have been absolutely fine too. I wasn’t travelling on chicken buses and there was always a lift up to my room since I was staying in hotels rather than hostels. Next time: SUITCASE!
Sleeping bag: I didn’t bring a sleeping bag; I did bring a sleeping bag liner but didn’t use it, again, as I was staying in nicer hotels with clean sheets!
Jeans: It’s true that you don’t need jeans in Asia. It’s HOT. You need light trousers, shorts and skirts. But I brought a pair anyway for the plane journey there and back again and to wear in New Zealand as well as on the cooler evenings in Australia.
SLR vs point-and-shoot: I’m getting more into my photography and so I made the decision to bring my Nikon D5100 on this trip. I brought only one lens, a zoom lens (18-200mm) to cover most situations. I didn’t bring any other kit, I had no tripod, and I didn’t have the proper bag to put it in, carrying the camera loose in my shoulder bag for easy access. (I felt less uncomfortable with my big camera in Asia than I would have in South America, but I’m still surprised by all the tourists who openly flash their big brand cameras and iPads around all over the place.) I also brought my GoPro for the first time, shooting short video clips throughout the trip. And I had my iPhone to take some candid pics for Instagram 🙂
Computer vs iPad: I took a big gamble and brought my Macbook Air. I was very careful with it, in Asia especially: I didn’t get it out on buses or in public places, I didn’t bring it to cafés or bars. I had backed everything up ahead of time, and turned on the FileVault encryption for added security. This was a bit of a test for me as I start to live more of the “digital nomad” life…
1 x 50l backpack (Lowe Alpine Cholatse II ND Backpack – Black/Lavender, Size 50-60)
1 x old Longchamp bag* (Le pliage)
1 x small handbag (I also bought a shoulder bag during the trip that I could wear across the body in Asia)
6 x packing cubes to compartmentalise my clothes (eBags Slim Packing Cubes)
1 x mesh bag for dirty laundry
*No small backpack this time, as I wasn’t hiking
1 x flip-flops (Havaianas)
1 x old sandals (thrown away and replaced during the trip)
1 x old ballerinas (thrown away at the end of the trip)
1 x sandals with heels for the evenings (barely worn but good to have them)
No trainers or hiking boots!
Trousers and shorts:
1 x jeans
2 x loose trousers
1 x lacy shorts
4 x short-sleeved tops
2 x vest tops
1 x tunic top for temples (to cover my shoulders)
Dresses and skirts:
2 x casual short dresses*
1 x maxi dress
1 x knee-length denim skirt
*Barely worn. Even though other tourists (especially the Chinese) were wearing skimpy little skirts and hot pants, I was more comfortable wearing my long trousers while travelling in Malaysia, which is officially a Muslim country.
Underwear and swimwear:
14 x pairs of knickers*
3 x bras – 1 strapless nude, 1 white, 1 colour
1 x socks for cooler evenings (barely worn)
1 x bikini, with bag to put it in when wet
*Last time I only brought enough underwear for a week so this time I went all out!
Jumpers and cardigans:
2 x cardigans
1 x light windbreaker (from Uniqlo)
1 x warm pashmina
1 x light scarf
1 x sunglasses*
1 x mini umbrella (especially useful in Malaysia and Singapore)
*Instead of my cheap sunglasses that I brought to South America, I brought my old Chanels this time darling…
Additional clothes bought on the trip:
1 x midi-skirt
1 x maxi dress
3 x tops
Ahem. I had a bit of a shopping spree in Sydney and then again in Melbourne…
1 x sleeping bag liner*
1 x pyjama vest top and shorts
1 x eye mask and earplugs (no inflatable pillow this time)
*Never used, as I stayed in nice hotels with clean sheets!
Small bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, face wash, face cream, body lotion
Nail travel kit including scissors, nail file and tweezers
Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss
Lip salve with SPF, Vaseline
Sun cream, for face and body
Make-up – mascara, eyeliner, concealer, powder, blusher, lip gloss
Anti-bacterial hand gel
Hairbrush, hair grips and elastics
*I like Cath Kidston’s Cosmetic Roll Cases – they come in a larger size (it’s huge!) and a smaller one, which I use for this type of trip. The detachable pockets and the hook for hanging it make it super practical.
Insect repellent, after-bite cream
Malaria tablets, antibiotics, Imodium, rehydration tablets*
Small first aid kit, sterile needle kit*
*I never used any of the medical kit, which is a good thing!
Macbook Air (11 inch) plus charger
iPhone 5S plus charger
Kindle plus charger
Adapters for Australia and New Zealand (Malaysia and Singapore are the same as the UK)
Nikon D5100 with 18-200mm Lens plus charger
GoPro HERO3+ plus charger
USB sticks, memory card, memory card reader
Passport, photocopies of passport
American Express, Visa debit card
Printed flight bookings
Lonely Planet Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei*
*I had this on my Kindle but I would really recommend the paperback version. It’s so much easier and more enjoyable to flip through the book in your hands, to find pages that you’ve marked, and to refer back to a map or reference that you need.
Padlocks*, including one with a cable
Money belt to wear under my clothes
*Never used on this trip, unlike in South America where I constantly padlocked my backpacks while travelling as well as locking my things up in the hostel lockers.
Other bits and bobs:
Notebook and pens
*Never used as I was staying in hotels and private rooms instead of hostels and dorm rooms
**I picked this up along the way and it did prove useful at some bus stops and bus terminals in Malaysia.
I didn’t bring travel detergent or a washing line this time – in New Zealand and Australia I was mostly staying in apartments where I had my own washing machine, and in Malaysia you could send off your laundry really cheaply. I had a bit of a shock when I wanted to wash something in Singapore, though, as prices there are on a par with Europe.
As you can see, this was more flashpacking than a traditional budget backpacking trip. I had my computer and my big camera, I had a Longchamp bag, and nice sunglasses. And, though not planned, I ended up staying in nice hotels throughout the trip. If you’re going to do luxury, though, you might as well do it in Asia, where you get a huge room with 5-star service for the price of a closet in the big European cities like Paris and London.
So what do you think? Anything missing that you couldn’t live without? Anything I’ve included that you think is completely unnecessary? Let me know how you get on with packing for your next trip!