Dinner-party Clichés about Asia

May 11, 2010
*Special to asia!
-A +A

You too can attain the aura of the well-versed traveler, by dishing out these bite-sized “facts” at tedious cocktails. Best served quickly.

Never be caught flat-footed at a dinner party again. Here are some iron-clad clichés about various countries in Asia that, when said with a knowing look and a certain gravitas, are bound to get you thoughtful nods from other dinner guests. At least, we think so.


Food for thought: Take your pick with an assortment of dinner-party cliches throughout Asia to pluck at and rifle through

Food for thought: Take your pick with an assortment of dinner-party cliches throughout Asia to pluck at and rifle through

Illustration: Debby Ng



  • Malaysia is not Truly Asia
  • Kuala Lumpur has fantastic architecture with Moorish influences
  • Pulau Perhentian is Asia’s best-kept secret



  • Thai food is second only to Chinese cuisine in its sublime blend of spices
  • Brothels standing side by side with temples – that’s the paradox of Bangkok
  • Some of those go-go girls actually enjoy what they’re doing



  • Singapore is the Switzerland of the East
  • The Singapore Sling is undrinkable
  • Did you know – Singapore has a World Toilet Organization?



  • China has the worst toilets in Asia
  • Counterfeit-goods factories standing side by side with designer-goods factories – that’s the paradox of Shenzhen
  • You must visit the Great Wall before you die



  • Tokyo is hideously expensive
  • Japan has the best toilets in Asia
  • You must stay in a ryokan before you die


South Korea

  • Everyone in South Korea has had plastic surgery
  • Korean food is Asia’s best-kept secret



  • Laos is Asia’s best-kept secret


Hong Kong

  • Financiers standing side by side with fengshui experts – that’s the paradox of Hong Kong



  • Macau is the Monaco of the East



  • India is the largest democracy on earth
  • Extreme beauty standing side by side with extreme poverty – that’s the paradox of India
  • Indian water is undrinkable



  • There are no toilets in Mongolia



  • Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation
  • Bali has managed to retain its authenticity despite the onslaught of tourism
  • But Kuta is a hellhole
  • You must visit Borobudur/ Sulawesi before you die


The Philippines

  • The Philippines is the only Catholic nation in Southeast Asia
  • The Philippines is the Italy of the East



  • Australia is the West of the East



  • Hanoi is so much more charming than Ho Chi Minh City
  • Hoi An is so much more charming than Hanoi
  • You must visit Halong Bay before you die



  • You must visit Bhutan before you die



Do you have any helpful clichés to add to this list? Send us your comments below.

clarissa tanClarissa is a journalist who focuses on travel and the arts. As a desperately hopeful author, she writes short stories and is working on a novel. Clarissa won the Spectator’s final Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize for travel writing.

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