Updated November 18th, 2017.
1. Sugar Cane Juice:
Sweet, refreshing and wonderfully cheap; ‘Nuoc Mia’ as they say in Vietnamese, is the raw juice extracted from the sugar cane right before your eyes. You’ll find it for sale at street stalls all across Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and parts of Thailand. A pile of sticks and an ancient-looking metal contraption with a hand powered crank is a certain sign that the stall sells the sweet sap. Sometimes sold in an ice-filled plastic bag with an elastic band around and a straw stuck through the top, (practical) this is the perfect cool-me-down on a sweltering day in Asia.
2. Fresh Coconut Juice:
Apart from opening your mouth to catch rain drops, this is just about the most natural drink you can get. Drank straight from the coconut you know it’s the real deal. It’s the perfect beverage to rehydrate in Asia’s scorching heat and did you know that it is the best source of natural electrolytes in the world. It is even more rehydrating than water! The cloudy white liquid is not only thirst quenching and delicious, it’s detoxifying too. So if you’ve drunk too much of number 3, 4, 6 or 8 on your travels, (see below) this magic fluid will sort you out.
3. The Bucket:
The notorious “Bucket” lines the streets of South East Asia’s most famed backpacker areas. From the Khao San Road, to Koh Phi Phi to Vang Vieng, the multi-coloured children’s playthings sit, gleaming, silently waiting for another victim from which to ‘steal’ away the night. Don’t be fooled by their innocent appearance, these bad boys are deadly – and then they say “Buy 1 Get 1 Free!” Sangsom or Mekong whisky, vodka or gin; mixed with M150 (same same but different Red Bull) and a ‘dash’ of fruit juice. It’s true you haven’t been a backpacker till you’ve held a bucket in your hands – just be careful that’s all we’re saying… share with friends if you must! In recognition of its fame, there’s even a bar named after the legendary beverage… ‘The Bucket Bar’ – it’s the last stop on the Tubing run in Vang Vieng, Laos.
4. Bia Hoi:
Ideally located on bustling street corners of Hanoi and other cities in Vietnam, Bia Hoi junctions are a fantastic place to grab yourself a glass of Vietnam’s beloved local brew whilst taking part in a popular Vietnamese cultural tradition. It’s a great way to socialise with both locals and fellow travellers. Sit by the roadside with a litre to share and watch the fascinating street life go by, guaranteed you’ll have tonnes of new friends by the end of the night! A light lager (usually only around 3%) you’ll see shirted workers sat on little plastic stools drinking the stuff on their lunch break. At just 10,000 VND a litre (about $0.50) it’s an absolute must for the thrifty backpacker.
5. Vietnamese Filter Coffee:
Strong, chocolaty and thick; this sweet nectar is a unique treat for all those who love their coffee. Served in a small cup with a metal filter over the top like a neat little hat; the syrupy goo drips through to create the distinctive aroma that is best savoured slowly as you while away a pleasurable afternoon in Vietnam. It can also be enjoyed ice cold, where the coffee is poured over ice and mixed with sweet condensed milk. Introduced in 1857 by the French, Coffee production is now a major source of income for many Vietnamese people living and working in coffee plants in the cooler highlands of the country. Some posh coffee shops in USA and Australia have begun to import the coffee as a gourmet delicacy – but this here’s the real deal!
6. Cobra & Scorpion Whiskey:
It’s one of those unfortunate occasions on your travels. It is late at night, you’ve run out of alcohol and all liquor selling outlets are shut. You remember ‘that souvenir you bought for Uncle John sitting in your rucksack. You suggest it to your backpacking buddies. There’s no turning back now! It’s a proof of manhood. Dare you try one shot of the potentially venomous snake infused potion!!? Hailed as a powerful aphrodisiac among other things, this special whiskey instilled with a real cobra or scorpion is certainly not for the timid. Peppery, spicy, revolting? – an acquired taste some would say. You can find bottles of the potent liquor in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Declared to cure all kinds of ailments you didn’t even know you had judging by the label on this suspicious looking bottle found in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta below…
7. The Beloved Backpacker Fruit Shake:
Aah… the trusty fruit shake; always a safe and reliable option for travellers. It’s the liquid version of the ‘banana pancake,’ found in popular spots along the South East Asian backpacker trail and one of the only ways that many backpackers get their daily intake of five a day! Pineapple, orange, mango, coconut, dragon fruit, melon, apple, guava; separate or all thrown in together and don’t forget that essential dash of condensed milk, just in case it was all sounding a bit too healthy. The evil ‘Oreo shake’ found at the night market in Laos hailed as the Anti Christ.
8. Homemade Lao-Lao Whiskey:
A powerful home-brewed whiskey made from fermented sticky rice that is the national drink in Laos (along with sacred Beer Lao of course!). Don’t think you can keep up with the locals as you down shots of this potent moonshine like it’s going out of fashion. Lao meaning ‘alcohol’ and Lao (with a different tone) meaning Laos, naturally. This local liquor is utterly unregulated and it’ll BLOW YOUR HEAD OFF!
9. Teh Tarik:
Made from black tea and condensed milk, this beverage is a national treasure in Malaysia and can be found in restaurants and outdoor stalls all across the country. At any time of the day you’ll find Malaysians sipping mug after mug as they eat Roti Canai (Malaysian Flat Bread) chat about the day and watch equally beloved English football! The skill of a cocktelier is needed to serve the tea to its true potential as it is lifted high above the head and poured back and forth between two jugs to create a thick, frothy top. The name ‘teh tarik’ literally means ‘pulled tea’ in Mandarin.
10. Bright Orange ‘Orange’ Juice:
15 baht for a small, 25 baht for a large. Street stalls selling these luminous orange cartons glisten in the sun and like an oasis in the desert, seem to pop up just when you need them. When you’re hot, sweaty and feel like you can’t go on, this instant dose of Vitamin C powers you on for the rest of the day!
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