Three Unique Things to See in Asia that You Won’t See in the USA

If I wanted, I could write this post forever because there are such vast differences in the food, culture, and landscapes between the United States and Asia.

Also, they’re both gigantic and could feature an endless amount of content based on them.

I’m going to stick to 3. Not just three things, but three things I was able to capture on video (I’ll get better at this, I promise).

Here are three unique things to see in Asia that you won’t see in the USA. Courtesy of this single dad blog.

The Mekong Delta

Incredibly beautiful, exotic (in an American’s eyes), and relaxing. Unless, you hit the overcrowded, hawker-filled, easy-to-find tours that we did.

mekong delta vietnam travel
One of the few shots I could get that wasn’t filled with other boats/tourists.

It’s a mangrove of palms trees, home to countless numbers of birds, insects, fish, and things with four legs. I’ve always wanted to visit it ever since I saw it in National Geographic when I was a kid.

Nature was still there, but the main tourist destinations are anything but natural. People are constantly bugging you about money and trying to sell you something. I’m there to relax, so fuck off guy who wants money for showing me some bees I didn’t want to see.

travel mekong delta vietnam honey bees
Stupid bee guy. Nothing against the bees. Long live the bees.

You’re probably better taking a multi-day trip to the more remote parts of the delta if you really want to see what it’s like. I’m not sure, I only did the crappy tour I found in District 1 for $8.

More Motorbikes than Bike Week at Daytona Beach

Seems almost everyone in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and other Asian countries only drive motorcycles. Hondas and Suzikis are everywhere in these countries. Sometimes carrying an entire family.

motorcycle asia vietnam thailand cambodia
Become one with the shoal by renting one of these bad boys.

It’s madness. But it’s madness in the same way a shoal of fish is madness. Everyone moves together and it seems much more peaceful than the rush hour anywhere in the United States.

New Restaurant, Dirty Dishes

Apparently, many restaurants in Hong Kong don’t entirely clean the dishes they’re placing on your table. They leave behind soap residue and cleaning materials. Weird.

asia things to see and do
Thankfully, this is what post-meal looks like.

Normal. For locals. They have their own way of cleaning the dishes in a bath of hot water and tea before they eat. Maybe this is why no one leaves a tip here at the end of a meal?

Check it all out in the video below! Pardon the language, this is a single dad blogger here.


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So you want to live in Hong Kong? There’s heaps of beaches, a wild party atmosphere, mountains to explore ghost villages in, and some lovely places to take your kids. If you haven’t seen it, check out here for a quick idea of how life is for my daughter and me.

If you’ve gotten this far and you think, I can’t live abroad, you’re wrong. I’m a single parent, and I live abroad with my daughter. I’m from a small town in the middle of Michigan, there’s nothing special about me.

I didn’t leave the USA for the first time (except to Windsor, Ontario at 19) until I was 24. If I can do this, the only thing stopping you is you. Or, probably a million other things, but don’t let them get in your way. Do it.

single parent parenting blog
My dad came over to visit us in Hong Kong late 2017. Read that story here 🙂

If you’re wondering about the cost of living in Hong Kong, wonder no more.

Essentials Included in the Cost of Living in Hong Kong, per month

Transportation: $100

Taking a ride on Hong Kong’s MTR is an ultraconvenient way to travel. It’s cheap, fast, clean, and relatively uncrowded when you’re not traveling during the rush hour. The MTR is the city’s subway system.

Buses are ubiquitous in Hong Kong. There are so many; there are big buses and little buses, red buses and green buses. You literally can’t walk down the street without getting blasted by their exhaust pipes in some places, like next to Prince Edward Station. Buses in Hong Kong are affordable, safe, well-marked, and the plethora of information online regarding Hong Kong’s buses is excellent for mapping your route ahead of time.

Taxis and Uber are available. More expensive, but safe and they are everywhere.

Walking is ideal in Hong Kong if you’re staying in a tourist area. No reason to hop on transport at all if you’re within a kilometer or so of where you’re going. You’ll get to the city from ground level!

 

Ferries and boats are continually bubbling through the waterways of Hong Kong. Use them to cross from TST to the Island. Or take one to an outlying island and see what you can find. Highly recommended!

Overall, transport is relatively cheap if you avoid taxis. Shouldn’t be more than a few dollars a day if you’re using public transportation. Since travel is something impacting your cost of living in Hong Kong everyday, so might as well look for ways to save!

Food (local HK food, specialty cuisine, western food, groceries): >$300

Cooking in Hong Kong is difficult. Why? Space is limited in Hong Kong, so accommodations can be small. If you’re wealthy enough to afford an apartment that comes with a full-western kitchen, you’re probably not too worried about your money anyway, so I can’t imagine why you’re reading this.

I have a hot plate and a rice cooker/steamer, but I have to store them under my bed, and I cook on top of my fridge (just to give you a sense of space limitations in Hong Kong).

If you’re cooking, however, you can buy rice/noodles relatively cheap. Fruits and vegetables are reasonably priced in the wet markets (sometimes less expensive for locals than you), and if you shop around (like I do) between the nearest Wellcome, Park n Shop, and Vanguard you might be able to find some meat and yogurt (and sometimes even beer!) with a 50% off sticker stuck to it. That’s usually a good way to go.

Affordable ‘street food’ is available, but not like in Thailand. You can find plates of fried noodles, rice and (add ingredient), etc. for less than $2.50, even in the more touristy areas. Fast-food-style restaurants dot the ground level corners of Hong Kong’s buildings.

You could easily eat this for every meal and spend less than $10 per day on food. But do you really want to do that to your digestive system? No judgment, I love the occasional gut bomb.

Bakeries are abundant, and they offer everything from sugary donuts to tuna fish buns to banana bread to rolls stuffed with red beans. Most buns are less than a dollar, few are more than $2. If you get them warm, they’re extra delicious, but the bakeries are always a good option if you aren’t gluten-free.

hong kong cost of living, parenting blog
Seaside clams on Mui Wo. The plate was under $10.

There are a gazillion restaurants that can eat up your cost of living in Hong Kong. Chain restaurants like Cafe de Coral and Fairwood are yummy, and most meals are between $4-$7. Western restaurants like Outback Steakhouse are no stranger here. Some bars have great deals on burgers (like a place on the island that has an impressive burger and a craft beer for about $12, just wish I could remember where it was). Hotpot, Korean BBQ, and other buffet style restaurants usually let you eat all you can for an hour or two starting at $20. If you want to splurge and eat at something 5-star, Hong Kong has that, also, but your budget is going to soar.

Western comforts are everywhere. McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, 7-11 are all thriving in Hong Kong. Don’t get Pizza Hut though, get PHD, it’s way better here.

Rent: $400-infinity

Rent is wild in Hong Kong. $400 gets you a shoebox. Well, a bed, a bathroom, and no more, anyway. If you’re looking for an apartment akin to a modern apartment you would have in New York City, you’re also going to be looking at over $1,000 in rent each month. $2,000-$3,000/month isn’t an uncommon price for a relatively basic apartment on the island.

cost of living in hong kong
Hong Kong is filled with buildings like these. Each hold hundreds, if not thousands, of different living accomodations.

Rent increases every year in Hong Kong; it’s definitely the most significant contributor to an inflated budget if you’re picky about where you live.

My daughter and I live in a tiny place, but it doesn’t bother me. I actually prefer small areas because it’s less to keep clean and helps maintain my minimalistic ideals.

Utilities (electric, wifi, water): Free-$??

This will vary based on your accommodations. If you’re paying for everything yourself, expect your cost of living in Hong Kong to be similar in prices to the United States.

Internet starts around $30/month. I tether my computer to my phone. Why? My prepaid monthly plan gives me unlimited data for $12.50. Head over to Chungking Mansion in TST to find the guys selling sim cards and data plans.

Shop around between the shops until you find the features you want. I was previously paying $36/month for a similar service to what I have now.

Fresh Water: >$5

Bottled water prices aren’t inflated here, but they aren’t cheap either. You could easily spend a couple of dollars each day on bottled water if that’s how you’re getting your drinking supply.

I recommend you don’t do that unless you want to quintuple your cost of water.

Instead, have a refillable bottle (or two or three) and fill them at the children’s playgrounds where you’ll find fountains with cold water. Better yet, buy a several liter bottle with a handle when you first get here and refill that each time you need to. It’s how I survive!

Laundry: $40

If you’re doing laundry 4 times each month, you’ll probably spend $10 each time if you drop them off at a cleaner, depending on how many clothes you have. If you do them yourself at LaundryUp or a similar place they will be cheaper, just a few dollars each time.

School: >$200

Local or international? Montessori or corporal punishment style? Hong Kong’s schooling system is diverse and competitive. You can pay over $1,000 a month for the top international schools, or you can do like I did and send your children to a local school where they will learn Chinese like my daughter did. That school costs less than $200/month.

Bonus: her school paid for a field trip this year where they took us to Disneyland! My schools were never that cool; for one field trip in elementary, we went to my home because we had a pond. Yawn town.

Lifestyle Choices: $200

Everyone needs entertainment in their lives. The question is: what kind of entertainment do you enjoy? Hong Kong has everything you can think of: scuba, golf, parties, theme parks, boat excursions, the list goes on forever. Your cost of entertainment solely depends on what you like to do.

If you’re on the alternative side, street drugs are easily locatable in Hong Kong. Quality can be low (or superb), prices are high, dealers are shady, but the cops don’t seem to care too much (at least not enough to stop the obvious slinging in some areas).

Be warned: drugs are illegal here, and you’re not going to bribe your way out of an arrest here like you might in other Asian countries. Not only that, but the addition to your cost of living might not be worth the quality of the products here. Probably equally bad for your health.

Visas: Free, 3-month validity

You’ll have to leave Hong Kong to renew your visa (the easiest way is to hop on a ferry over to Macau and back) every three months if you want to stay any longer without finding a job and getting a working visa.

Tourist visas are free, fantastic! But they aren’t unlimited. Border hop too many times and you’ll be treated with a stamp in your passport that limits your future trips, even banning you for a year.

Side note: Hong Kong is passport friendly in the sense that they offer you a small slip of paper to place in your passport instead of taking up precious stamp real estate. Don’t lose this seemingly insignificant piece of paper though, you need it upon your exit. Otherwise, your first stop is to fee city.

Those fees don’t help your cost of living in Hong Kong, so avoid them by being organized.

Health Insurance: up to you, $100 for me

When considering the cost of living in Hong Kong, you should likely invest in travel insurance. You can receive travel insurance through your credit card, airline, or through the servicor I prefer: World Nomads.

I pay about $100 per month for both my daughter and me, and that covers anything I’m worried about. The piece of mind is well worth the cost, but World Nomads also does well in keeping its promise to pay out when you make a claim.

Total Cost of Living in Hong Kong for My Daughter and Me: ≈ $1395 per month

This price tag doesn’t include transportation in and out of the cost of living in Hong Kong and is a rough estimate based on the information provided and assuming going the cheapest route every time. And this is for a single parent blogger, not a lone traveler.

Even if you’re alone, that $1,395 could easily jump to over $2,000 if you aren’t paying attention to your budget or are living above the basics.

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Considering traveling abroad with children? If you are, then I’m sure you have a million questions jetting around inside your mind: is it safe to travel with children? Do you children adapt well to new cultures? Should I travel with my child? Most importantly, why should I travel with children?

Let me give you a quick answer to the penultimate question: absolutely, you should. There are always things you can do beforehand to prepare, so, prepare.

Now, let me tell you why you should travel with them. First, I’ll hopefully ease your fears, then give you two more important reasons to take your children traveling abroad.

Safety Concerns

Like any parent who is asking themselves the question if they should travel with their child, I have been concerned about my daughter’s safety abroad. More importantly, I am more concerned about her safety in the United States. It seems that every week there is a massacre of one type or another, a horrific act of violence, or a ‘mistake’ that ends in the death of a child.

Traveling with children
Auburn playing safely in Hong Kong, safety equipment and all

So if you’re worried about your child’s safety abroad, I can assure you, they are as safe as anywhere you would take them in the United States. Obviously, travel with caution and diligence; it’s probably not a good idea to take your child to Syria, Somalia, or Iraq, at the moment.

However, don’t be afraid to take your child somewhere that has historically been belittled by American/Western media. Auburn and I have been to Colombia and Vietnam, places I had heard from other Americans (who’d never been there) that I shouldn’t go there because it’s ‘dangerous!’ Now I just laugh when I hear this because I’ve never been to a place outside of the USA that felt more dangerous than living in the USA itself.

Traveling with children in vietnam
Auburn playing with her new-found friends in Ho Tram, Vietnam. I’m pretty sure this sand pile was for construction purposes so likely not the best example of traveling safely 🙂

Learning Opportunities

Can your child get a solid education in the United States? Sure, if you send them to a private school you know and trust. I may sound like a hater in this regard, but the American education system sucks, it sucks big ol’ donkey hooves.

So you think I’m a hater? Not true, I love the United States, but I also love and respect other places for knocking us around in the education department. Take for example that American education ranks just 14th in reading, 25th in maths, and a sad 17th in science.

Traveling with children, class in Ho Chi Minh City
Auburn enjoying her birthday in Ho Chi Minh City, summer camp 2016!

Now I’ll hand you over to my personal experience in public education: donkey hooves. I grew up being taught the letter ‘w’ could sometimes be used as a vowel, that Christopher Columbus was a class-act, and that the USA had never lost a war. Let me scribble that out for you: (1) is B.S., (2) is vomit-inducing, and (3) is utter nonsense. A university-education and the internet have taught me heaps more than what I could have ever hoped to learn (unlearn) from the over-lavished, sub-standard, American public education system.

Now take for example that if you travel with your child, they’ll have the opportunity to learn in a different culture (avoiding common mistakes), see things from a new perspective, and pick up on languages that you probably won’t be able to speak. Get them to put down the new iPhone, the latest gadget, and get outdoors and meet some new people! The new language alone is the best investment you can give your child. Aside from the fact that it might cost $10,000 in the future to learn a new language from a university and you can save that by simply immersing them in the language and culture, but learning a new language also changes your brain, makes you more open, and helps you understand things that monoglots cannot.

Memories Increase Your Lifespan

So maybe you don’t care about your child’s education that much or learning a new language isn’t really on your radar of things you want your child to achieve. Fair enough.

Then, for a moment, imagine a life without memories. Or, more common, a life with the same memory over and over again. How short is that life? Painfully, in my experience.

Traveling with children
Me, my daughter, and my sunburn, all together. Koh Tao, Thailand

I can remember spending each day waking up at the same time to go to the same job at the same place through the same amount of traffic. In my memories, months can pass without any significant change, and that’s where your life gets lost: when you’re not making new memories.

I don’t want to pretend like every day will be different traveling and you’ll remember everything, no, that’s not true. You can fall into routine traveling or living abroad as well. But the move itself, the plethora of new sounds, sights, smells, tastes, textures, people, all add ages to your memory. A year will no longer feel like it flies by when you live or travel abroad, a year can actually feel like a proper year, imagine that?

Traveling with children who sleep on your head
Auburn sleeping on my head in Hong Kong, a memory I won’t forget and she won’t remember 🙂

Travel, Travel Now

So your child will learn more than your standard American B.S., will pick up a new language, will be as safe as ‘back home,’ and you’ll expand your lifetime through an increased diversity of memories? That’s right; if you do it right.

Give me a shout out if you have any questions: do you agree? Disagree? Leave a comment 🙂 And don’t forget to sign up for reminders of future posts through the submission form at the bottom of the page 🙂

Traveling with children to U.P. Michigan
We didn’t have to travel far for this one, just a few hours north of home. Kitch-iti-kipi, Michigan. Simply gorgeous, though it’s better in color, to be honest.