Friday, 11 February 2011

clarissa tan

Clarissa spends her life trying to separate fiction from non-fiction. As a journalist, she 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. Her blog, Words and Letters, is a series of vignettes exploring the nature of fiction.


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Dinner-party Clichés about Asia
May 11, 2010
Special to asia!

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.



Nepal is where you thought you'd try out your new hiking boots.
Nepal is where you will eventually start your lifelong obsession of wearing out hiking boots.
You have to trek the Himalayans before you die.


Yes, and also:

Nepal has the most mobile toilets in Asia.


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