My Favorite Cities Part 3: Asia

Here we go, the finale of my answer to the question “Which city was your favorite?”

In case you’re still catching up, check out Part 1: South America and Part 2: Europe, where I recap pros and cons of each of the cities I lived in last year.

As you can probably tell by how long this blog series has gotten, picking just one favorite city has been impossible. There are so many things I loved about each place—and some things that were difficult about each one too.

In this final installment, I’m covering the pros and cons of the Asian cities we lived in. Here we go:


Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


  • Nominated for Best Street Food in the World by everyone who has ever been here ever

    these are all malls

  • Speakeasy-style bars are also a big trend here (like they were in Buenos Aires), and I’m still a fan, except for that one time our friend went into a brothel by accident because the speakeasy was a little too hidden
  • Buddhist temples in Chinatown a couple blocks from a huge Hindu temple, and mosques everywhere, playing the call to prayer over loudspeakers through a rainstorm and it is shockingly beautiful, I might have cried
  • The best coconut ice cream in the world
  • Basically the super-affordable version of Singapore
  • It’s a modern city so you can find all the weird drug store stuff you didn’t realize you needed and which Europe doesn’t carry for some reason (look I love Europe but sometimes looking for recognizable skincare/healthcare/grocery store brands there feels as futile as asking your 90-year-old grandma how to work your iPad)


  • Durian, otherwise known as The Devil’s Fruit (I’d describe my first time trying durian as “like eating a cup of vanilla yogurt while sitting on a port-o-potty in which a body is decomposing”)
  • Durian stench, which permeates the streets at night, as corpselike rivulets of The Devil’s Fruit flow downstream from the nearest ice-cream stand
  • Heat + humidity = sweat in uncomfortable places
  • Alcohol is crazy expensive and mostly crap
  • You live in a mall
  • Your office is in a mall
  • All the tourist attractions are in malls
  • The best restaurants in town are in mall food courts
  • There is no real world any longer, there is only mall
  • Mall.

Chiang Mai, Thailand


  • ELEPHANT SANCTUARIES (THEY’RE JUST LIKE PEOPLE OMG. They have best friends and hold grudges and push their punk-ass kids into the nearest stream when they’re acting up)
  • Cooking schools (but you’ll never be able to recreate this dish anywhere else because you will never find produce like you get in Thailand ever again, holy shit it’s amazing here)
  • Coffee shops (mostly in the digital nomad-y area we lived in, but there were so many great ones!)
  • Weird workspaces (in a treehouse! in a pool! yes, literally in it!)
  • Some of the warmest, friendliest, most welcoming people we met anywhere, and the locals who kindly put up with us being completely unable to communicate in any meaningful way
  • Gorgeous mountain drives through rice patties
  • Night bazaars that make it feel like you just stepped straight into a YA fantasy novel
  • Khao soi, otherwise known as the Nectar of the Gods. The best curry on the planet (is it a curry? I don’t even know. Whatever it is I ate it every single day we were in Thailand)

do not attempt this lantern thing yourself. seriously.


  • But really
  • Scooters/motorbikes will definitely hit you at least 10x
  • Traffic is nuts
  • Pollution is similar, so good luck breathing while you idle in said traffic
  • But don’t even think about walking, the sidewalks are even worse than Mexico City. This time not only are they made of holes, but most of them are rented out as billboard ad space, so there’s giant signs in your way all the time! (True story) (And don’t get me started on the telephone lines you have to duck, while climbing over said billboards)
  • Sex trafficking is a thing, and there are a lot of ways tourists support this industry, whether knowingly or not, and you definitely need to educate yourself at the very least on how not to accidentally buy into it before you go
  • So much plastic waste. So. Much.

Kyoto, Japan


  • SO CLEAN. I once spilled ketchup on the street and tried to mop it up with my napkin because I felt so guilty, true story (also, there’s a rule against eating on the streets for exactly this reason, I apologize Japan)
  • The best train system I’ve ever seen (they issued a nationwide apology one time when a train left the station 20 seconds early)
  • I was right. Peeing here is a magical experience.
  • Kobe beef is the best thing I have ever put in my mouth, yes I know exactly how that sounds, no I do not care, IT’S ALL TRUE (also whatever tf crap we have in the states labeled “kobe” is just not, I promise you)
  • Fire ramen. ‘Nuff said.
  • Sake.
  • Strong Zero (think Four Locos, but available in a vending machine on street corners)
  • Michelin starred box ramen from 7-11, and 7-11 food in general (another area in which the US seriously needs to up our game)
  • Free beer happy hour in our workspace, which was a lifesaver because we sure could not afford Japan-life after, well, everywhere-else-life
  • Extremely well-organized tiny-house-like apartments (a con for some, but I loved my weird shipping container solo pad!)
  • Beautiful historic temples and the old geisha district to walk around
  • Basically a country built by and for introverts
  • Tiny little bars that look like hoarders’ living rooms nestled beside the lit-up river, offering cozy warm havens against the December chill in the air

    average walk to work


  • Trying to cram 56 clingy foreigners upset about the approaching year’s end into those tiny hoarder living room bars
  • There are A LOT of rules. Which is great, but also terrifying, so study up before you go unless you want strangers to cross their arms at you in a big X all the time (yes, that’s where that emoji comes from, and yes, being X-ed makes any social anxiety you may already have peak instantly)
  • Expensive. Like, more so than NYC in many respects.
  • Not enough time to see everything (but then, an entire lifetime in Japan probably wouldn’t be enough!)

That last con applies to everywhere we went, actually. After a month in each city, I feel like I know them just well enough to know exactly what I want to do when I get back there. And I will definitely be back. Soon.

In the meantime, one last BONUS MONTH. When our year ended in Japan, most of our Remote Year cohort couldn’t quite say goodbye yet. A lot of us headed over to Bali for month 13, and I couldn’t leave it off this list, because as it transpires, between a side-trip we took there from Kuala Lumpur that lasted longer than intended (we all skipped our flights home), and this post-RY visit, I wound up spending more time in Bali than any of our official RY cities.

So, just to be thorough, the pros and cons of:

Bali, Indonesia (Ubud & Canggu mostly)


  • So. Chill. Granted, we showed up during rainy season with monthlong hangovers from our final farewell in Japan, and pretty much all of us decided the minute we set foot in Bali that we were doing Drynuary (or in my case, Drynuary+Drybruary+Dryarch—ok I see why only Dry January gets abbreviated now…), but still. There’s just something in the air from the second you step off the plane in Bali that urges you to relax
  • Super friendly, welcoming locals. Everyone we met couldn’t have been nicer, like the lady who ran the homestay where I lived and checked on me in genuine concern when I slept for 14 hours one day (see above re: Japan hangover)

    normal office views

  • The beaches, the jungles, the temples, the infinity pools overlooking rice patties and mountainsides, it all looked Instagram-perfect
  • The rain—people told us not to visit in rainy season, but I loved the torrential jungle thunderstorms. It’s the kind of rain that leaves you unable to step half a foot outside your house without getting as drenched as if you’d jumped into a pool. It’s also the perfect excuse (“sorry I stood you up, but it was pouring, I’m going to go take a 12-hour nap instead, did I mention the monthlong hangover?”)
  • Cacao ceremonies
  • New moon volcano parties
  • Cults (join rival ones and feud with your friends!)
  • Booching (it’s like Icing, but instead of hiding a Smirnoff Ice in your friend’s stuff, you hide a kombucha)
  • Best. Vegan food. Anywhere.
  • Jackfruit (funnily enough a relative of Durian The Devil Fruit)—it’s my new favorite fake-meat, and jackfruit poutine is everything I never knew I needed in life
  • Yoga Barn—50 acres of yoga classes, vegan buffets and juice cleanses
  • Ecstatic dance parties (all the insanity of a rave, all the sobriety of church)
  • Lazy poolside workdays followed by lazy late night tarot card readings
  • More surfing
  • Basically just turning into a hippie stereotype
  • One last chance to catch up with all the awesome people you spent a year with, which was just enough time to realize you’ll never have enough time with them


  • Scooters. They’re pretty much the only way to get around. But every single time you climb onto one you are DEFYING DEATH (or in my case, speeding straight toward it while I crash into all the other bikes in the parking lot)
  • Bali belly (let’s just say, I never wanted to know exactly where an individual piece of food I just swallowed is in my digestive system for its entire rushed trip through my small and large intestines, but now I do)
  • Juice cleanses (your liver already “cleanses” your digestive system for youuuu also, I assume I contracted Bali belly twice as punishment for my making fun of our friends who did try juice cleanses)
  • Living in a bubble again (Ubud in particular felt almost as “digital nomad”-bubble-y as Medellín, and Canggu and Seminyak are chock full of Australian bachelor parties. It creates a weird divide between real Bali and the image of Bali that gets shared on Instagram/social media)
  • All the plastic waste, which is a huge problem for little islands like Bali that don’t have the infrastructure to clean it up yet (there are some groups and local businesses working on alleviating this! But it’s going to be a long hard road toward a fix…)
  • Saying goodbye. To the year, to my new travel-family, to that chapter of my life. It was really damn hard.

But you can’t open new doors without closing old ones first. And as amazing as our year was, it worked because Remote Year was a finite period of time, a moment when we could all hold our breaths and postpone the more tedious, difficult aspects of life for one year.

Now we’re done holding our breaths. Now it’s back to reality. But somehow, after a year of hitting hard-reset on my brain, I feel readier than ever to tackle the difficult things, the things I put off last year—personal-growth things, work things, fighting the US government things, or even just boring tasks like getting my taxes in order.

Maybe it’s because after a year (and a couple months) of solid adventure, I’m ready for the adventure of real life.

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