Southeast Asia is a major backpacker's destination.
One absolutely essential item for ladies to pack: A SARONG!
That's right, a sarong.
Don't worry if you don't have one to hand, but definitely try to get a sarong as soon as you can! Sarongs are going to be your best friend in Southeast Asia.
1. Beach cover-up: I'd imagine that part of the reason you're in Southeast Asia in the first place is to enjoy some of the warmth, sunshine and beautiful beaches. Use that sarong to keep you modest between your hotel/hostel and the beach! Remember, Southeast Asia is still a bit conservative when it comes to the amount of skin revealed and you should stay sensitive to local culture.
2. Beach spread: Okay, so now you're on the beach and ready to catch some rays or waves. Use your sarong, yes the same one you're wearing, as a beach blanket. Spread it out and now you've got a lovely beack blanket!
3. Towel: Uh oh! You've gone in for a swim and just realized that you've forgotten a towel! Good thing you've got your sarong because hey, it's basically just a thin towel. A sarong can also double as a make-shift towel in general. Just make sure you give it a wash before using it as a bath towel after coming in from the sea.
4. Change room: I like lazying by the beach or pool as much as the next gal, but I just can't do it in a wet swim suit! So I always have a spare bikini to hand. Though, a change room on a remote beach in Cambodia is hard to come by. My solution? The sarong.
Yes, with some practice, you will be able to use the sarong as a change room by simply wrapping it around yourself and using your other hand to change out of your wet swimsuit and into a new. dry one. My suggestion is that you practice in the privacy of your room before trying this in public. Or maybe you're not such a freak like I am and can deal with a wet bathing suit.
5. Pillow: I'll be honest, a sarong isn't going to be the best pillow you've ever slept on, but if you're traveling on an overnight train or bus, a rolled up sarong does the trick to help prevent a stiff neck in the morning. Trust me.
6. Blanket: Thailand and Vietnam's buses are notorious for cranking up their air conditioners. At first it is absolutely soothing to escape out of the heat and humidity into the cool air of the Thai or Vietnamese buses. Until 5 minutes later when you've got goosebumps and your teeth are rattling.
Although most bus companies will provide you with a blanket (why they don't just turn down the air conditioning is beyond me), I find that they can be too small, especially since I'm trying to bury myself into one to stay warm. I use the given blanket around my feet and body then wrap my sarong over my shoulders and neck.
7. Admission to Sights: Many of the cultural and historical sights in Southeast Asia are also religious sights and they require modesty in all patrons. Bring a sarong with you (I carried mine in my daypack everywhere) and cover up as necessary when asked.
Written and contributed by Conniehum