Shock therapy: The process of getting used to tropical insects in Asia

by Amanda/Backpacking Tips Asia
(Oslo, Norway)

Asia is vast and beautiful, but boy, it brings some nasty surprises too. For travelers coming from cold climates, encountering tropical animals and insects can be a huge transition. But I promise you, you'll get more used to it with time ;-)

Some hate reptiles and think bugs are OK, or vice versa. Whatever fear or phobia you have, you have to face these creatures while backpacking in the tropical part of Asia. They come in all types, size and shapes. It's inevitable.

A beetle in Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand

I remember carrying my bug spray wherever I traveled in Asia, and I admit, I still do. I almost shit my pants when a large, yellowish, stonge-age cockroach crawled up from inside my backpack, but when I stumbled upon "vicious" monitor lizards I eyed them with fascination. It's completely irrational.

If you're the type who just hate bugs, you're probably going to react more. Probably get more paranoid.

"Crap, what it's in my hair?"
"Do you see anything in my hair?!"
"Ah, get it off! Get it OFF!!!"

Most of the time, it will be the wind brushing your hair.

The question is: How do you handle the transition while traveling?

As a start, you might want to try AC-rooms. Most tropical bugs hate cold climate, especially mosquitoes, so a tip is to stay in AC-rooms. To lessen the mosquito attacks during day-time, apply mosquito spray and use a citronella soap while showering. Read more about what you can do about mosquitoes.

To protect yourself from most bugs while you're sleeping, use a mosquito net. It's not a fortress, but it will shield you from cockroaches, grasshoppers, mosquitoes, flies, beetles and more. If you're staying at a cheap bungalow on an island in Southeast Asia, these are the typical insects you'll see.

A bungalow with mosquito net in Thailand

In India, I was so happy for my mosquito net. I was staying at budget guesthouses and I just knew that there was going to be some extra visitors.

Every night at in Kochi, I could hear visitors "landing" on my net. And when I woke up in the morning, there they were; some lovely cockroaches on their back, trying to get on their feet again.

You can also buy bug sprays at the local supermarket. Spray some under your bed, wall cracks, air ventilators and the bathroom drain.

Also remember that insects are drawn to light. The light works like a magnet or something. It's impossible to not use light when it's completely dark outside, but a flash light is a little better than using the roof lamp.

If you see geckos in your room, it's a sign that there's "food in the room." But don't chase them away - the geckos are your helpers. They eat insects, one by one.

Should you stay in a more expensive room to avoid bugs?

No room in tropical Asia is bullet-proof, no matter what standard it has. Cockroaches can still crawl up the drains, fly through air ventilators and insects can be free passengers in backpacks and can sneak into hotel facilities. Luxury bungalows in for instance Thailand, have outdoor bathrooms, meaning shower, toilet and sink in a garden-like bathroom. I've noticed that there are other types of insects in the room if a bungalow has an outdoor bathroom.

A room with bugs doesn't necessarily mean that it's not clean. Cockroaches love everything, also the scent of a perfume.

After a couple of months, you'll be tired looking for bugs wherever you go, sit and stand because it is exhausting. This is your breaking point. You start accepting it.

Afterward, you unconsciously don't mind the beetle on your train seat or the garden insect crawling on your bed.

You just brush them away.

It's a process and like with tons of other things, it's about habit. Getting used to the surroundings ;-)


Posted: Feb 5, 2013

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