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The First Time Traveler's Guide to East Asia

Making your first trip to East or Southeast Asia? Wondering where to go?

Okay, I've spent significant time in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. I can weigh in on those places for you. I haven't been to Macau, Laos, Burma, the Philippines, North Korea, or Indonesia yet - of them, I've heard great things about the Philippines and Indonesia in particular, but I can't comment.

So, some thoughts about every country -

Japan - Still the crown jewel of Asia, Japan has something for everyone. There's ancient and hyper-modern culture mixed all together. There's amazing technology, high levels of development, basically nonexistent crime, ridiculously high standards of quality and hygiene, and the people are friendly and polite. English isn't widely spoken, but the Japanese take being good hosts seriously and you'll be fine in any major city. You can find quite literally anything here - amazing camping and mountains and forests and oceans, or hyper-developed space-age districts in cities.

The downside of Japan - It's fucking expensive. Like, really really expensive. I hate spending money on eating and sleeping - every dollar I put into basic "staying alive" stuff is less money to be invested in commerce or philanthropy, or learning, or having unique experiences that are more interesting than... well, eating and sleeping. Yet, eating and sleeping is brutally expensive here. If you're not a veteran traveler and don't have friends here, you'll be hard pressed to spend less than $100/day in Japan. If you slum it hard, you can maybe get down to $50/day. Everything's ridiculously expensive, ranging from 400% to 2,000% higher than still-developing countries in Asia.

Three HIV Tests in Three Months

On The Constance Chronicles

I had access to health insurance before coming to Korea so I figured why the hell not, I should get a health check up before moving across the world. What a pity it would be if I came to South Korea, found out I was dying of HIV and had to be deported out of the country before I had a chance to spread the infectious disease. I set an appointment to receive some immunization shots and have my lady parts looked at. Most waiting areas have pictures of the physicians framed on the wall. I scanned the photos there he was, a man who used to a date a good friend of mine. I thought about the day I made the appointment and wondered, "Oh man, who did she say would be seeing me today?" 45 minutes later, out came Joseph. I felt awkward about how serious he had reacted to this complete coincidence. When we were in the examination room, without the slightest chuckle he explained because we knew each other he wasn't ethically supposed to examine me. However, if I wanted or needed him to he could do it. Joseph is a gay man. One year, I spent Halloween with him and his boyfriend. He dressed as a Boy Scout Leader. Can you guess what his boyfriend dressed as? It crossed my mind to freak him out with my vagina.

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