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Ready to tour South-East Asia? Here are the 5 things you need to know

In December 2015 my band VAPORIZED! were given the thrilling and exhilarating opportunity to embark on our first ever international tour. Obviously this is a momentous achievement for any performer, and its safe to say we felt like eager kids living out our childhood dreams. Where did we embark to you ask? The rich and vibrant South-East Asia; teeming with lush landscapes, exotic cuisine, menacing volcanoes, plus arguably one of the strongest punk rock scenes on the globe.

When revealing our decision to tour South-East Asia to friends and family, we were largely greeted with a wary response. Truthfully speaking, South-East Asia isn’t necessarily pictured to hold such a robust DIY musical community. To an extent I found that few people in Australia even stigmatized places like Indonesia as a boiling pot of corrupt police officials, cheap alcohol, petty theft and seedy locals trying to take advantage of the unsuspecting tourists one way or another.

I can’t help but feel as though stupid A Current Affair reports have something to do with this fear. Really this could not be further from my experience. While I’d be lying if I claimed I wasn’t a witness to some of these stigmas (particularly in Bali), my overall experience of Indonesia and the rest South-East Asia was tremendously positive, only leaving me wanting more. The beyond generous and kindhearted people I encountered throughout my travels, including all the humbling new friends I made along the way, is something I will live to cherish forever.

This is a call out to all you punks out there; do you crave an unmatched experience like no other, to travel through a vastly rich and vibrant DIY punk community, playing packed out shows to local crowds? Then look no further than South-East Asia. However before you embark on your journey here’s a short list of things to keep in mind when considering a tour across the region.

VAPORISED! asia tour

Are you ready to take your band on your first international tour? Here are some handy tips for your South-East Asia trip, be wary of taxis and keep your shirt on in public.

Have a good local tour manager

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This is the first step in ensuring smooth sailing for you and your band mates. A tour manager will book you the right shows, organise transport and accommodation. Most importantly your tour manager will be your guide during your time abroad. They should be the person whom you rely on to show you the in’s and out’s.

They are there to keep you safe and healthy plus hold wise local knowledge which you are yet to acquire. Make sure the relationship between your band and the tour manager is a healthy one, otherwise you’re going to have a bad time… after all you will be stuck together during your time abroad.

Locations

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If your tour manager hasn’t handled this part for you, or you’ve decided to completely organise all the shows, accommodation and travel solo, these are the locations you need to consider gigging. Generally speaking there are about five main DIY hotspots you can play across South-East Asia; Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and The Philippines.

It’s recommended to try cover at least two to three of these places. In our case we covered Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. From experience Indonesia offers the greatest opportunity to smash out the most shows, followed by Malaysia. From what I’ve heard The Philippines also has its handful of regions with sprawling DIY venues and punk culture, where as Singapore probably holds the lowest volume of venues to play. After all Singapore is just an island.

Be Culturally Aware

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It is essential to remember that South-East Asia is vastly different to Australia when it comes to their way of life. Culture shock should definitely be expected coming if you’ve spent most of your time on Australian soil. Islam is the most widely practiced religion in South-East Asia, equating to about 40% of its overall population with majorities in Indonesia, Malaysia, Burma and southern Philippines. Keep this in mind when traveling or playing a show. This means to present and dress yourself respectfully, watch your language, and overall be mindful of the cultural norm around you.

A good example would be playing with a shirt on stage despite typically playing topless with duck tape across your nipples back home. Furthermore female presentation is a touchy topic, however being mindful of how much skin is shown is just the respectful thing to consider when in certain predominantly Islamic areas; some areas may be stricter than others. For example don’t go to the beach wearing a two-piece bikini without expecting some dirty looks from the locals.

Prepare To Be On The Move

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Long car rides are to be expected. We traveled by van for as long as nine hours at a time to get from city to city. This should vary depending on the number of shows planned however generally speaking you will often be on the move. Tights schedules particularly deem long night drives after shows as essential.

If traveling alone in some regions of Indonesia make sure your bargaining skills are up to scratch when catching taxis, otherwise you could be out of pocket. When traveling Malaysia make sure your taxi is metered otherwise you may find yourself paying more than double the fair price. Furthermore when traveling across countries, budget airlines are your friend.

Give Back To The DIY Communities

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Show your appreciation for the communities that so generously allow you to play their venues. This means getting to the shows on time, supporting the other acts on the lineup, going out of your way to thank the organisers of the event, meeting locals whom have come out to support your band, and embracing yourself in what the DIY scene has to offer. Don’t just stride on in, do your set, then leave. These people have taken time to organise these events for your band; the least you can do is give them your appreciation.