Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

The Official Song of the Asia Jaunt


A few weeks ago, while preparing Ask Kate Anything!, I was asked the following question by one of my readers:

“What are two to three songs of the trip so far?”

Well, I loved that question so much, I decided to turn it into a whole post!

Yes, there is one song in particular that I have named the Song of the Asia Jaunt. But first — several runners-up!

The song that represents my love for travel:

“Once Around the Block” by Badly Drawn Boy

This song is about the infatuation you feel when you first fall for someone.  I always thought of it as how I feel about travel.  And it’s a fantastic song — it’s jazzy, the instrumentation is great, and it conveys the rush of new love so perfectly.

As I explored Bangkok, the first stop on my trip, it played on a loop in my head almost constantly.  Yes, more than just travel, this was the song for Bangkok!  This was the song for Thailand!  Every blissful moment of exploring Bangkok felt like I was falling in love!

Then sh*t got a little too real.  It was a long time before I could listen to it again.

The song of each and every hostel in Southeast Asia:

“Californication” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Red Hot Chili Peppers are probably the most-played artist in Southeast Asia besides Bob Marley.  I consider it an unusual day if I don’t hear at least two of their songs!

Hostels mostly play their later material.  While “Scar Tissue,” “By the Way” and “Dani California” are some of the most popular songs, “Californication” leads the way.

The song of Southeast Asia’s beaches:

“Crying Shame” by Jack Johnson

Thailand’s beaches blast Bob Marley and reggae more or less all day, every day.  But then the bar next door to my Koh Lanta resort started playing Jack Johnson, the beachiest artist besides Jimmy Buffett.

Everything melted away, and suddenly the island paradise around me — ocean waves, soft sand, palm trees, the setting sun — became more radiant.

The song that made me love reggae:

“Dreadlock Holiday” by 10cc

“I don’t like reggae,” my friend Cody sang, grooving in his seat.  “I love it!”

I burst out laughing.  “Those are the real lyrics?”

“Yeah!” he grinned.

Thailand’s Andaman Coast gave me a moderate appreciation for reggae, but this was the first reggae song I actually loved.  Whenever I hear the chorus, it puts a smile on my face.

The song with the choreographed dance everyone knows:

“We No Speak Americano” by Yolanda B Cool and Dcup

There is a dance to this song.  I have no idea who came up with it — Australians, perhaps? — but virtually everyone who spends time in Vang Vieng learns the dance quickly, thanks to the many impromptu performances on the river!

And because the Southeast Asia Backpacker Trail has many paths, whenever it comes on, no matter which country, everyone breaks out into the dance!  The Vang Vieng veterans find each other quickly.

In lieu of the full recording, see the above video of me and my Dutch friends performing the dance in Hoi An, Vietnam!

The song to which everyone sings along:

“Wonderwall” by Oasis

The beauty of Wonderwall?  Even though it’s 15 years old (makes you feel ancient, huh?), everyone still knows every word.

So when it plays — by a Thai guitarist at a tiny bar in Ao Nang, to end the night Q Bar in Vang Vieng, on a party boat in Nha Trang, or in a private karaoke room in Saigon — everyone joins in and sings along.

The other song to which everyone sings along:

“F*ck You!” by Cee-Lo Green

Thank you, Cee-Lo, for writing the poppiest, happiest, catchiest song in recent memory — that also contains quite a bit of profanity.  How could you not love this song?

On the decks of the riverside bars in Vang Vieng, everyone began to dance a little bit harder when this song came on!

The song of my new favorite artist:

“Dance Wiv Me” by Dizzee Rascal

Despite being a party girl who loves her party music, I had never gotten into Dizzee Rascal.  Well, Dizzee plays in every party hotspot in Southeast Asia, from Vang Vieng to Halong Bay!

“Dance Wiv Me” always reminds me of the feeling I get when walking into JJ’s in Sihanoukville — the excitement of knowing that an unforgettable night awaits.

The song that doubles as Thailand’s alternate national anthem:

“Do-ter-tum” by Job Bunjob

Been to Thailand?  Heard this song?  Of course you have.

Now, do as the song says and give me back my Bob Marley album!

My favorite song I first heard in Asia:

“It’s OK” by Cee-Lo Green

I first heard it in Saigon — the music video was on TV in my guesthouse.  And since then, I’ve been unable to stop listening to it.

I’ve loved Cee-Lo since he and Lauryn Hill recorded a song with Santana.  He has one of the best voices in the business, he’s insanely creative, and I’m thrilled he’s crossed over into mainstream pop music so that more people can discover him!

Give it a listen.  I bet you’ll love it.

And the official song of the Asia Jaunt:

“Barbra Streisand” by Duck Sauce

It plays in every club in Southeast Asia.  It’s the ultimate party song.  It gets you dancing.  And on top of all that, it has a cheeky sense of humor!

But more than that, everyone loves “Barbra Streisand” — and when its unmistakable first beats ring out, everyone cheers!

I once started singing it to myself at a bar in Luang Prabang.  A guy from across the room yelled, “Yeah, Barbra Streisand!” and pumped his fist.

My friend Chris and I went crazy every time this song came on.  Here we are singing it in Vang Vieng!

We kept wanting to add different names to the song instead of Barbra Streisand.  Our favorite?  “RICHARD NIXON.”  Though “RYAN SEACREST” was another winner.

For the rest of my life, I will always think of my amazing times in Southeast Asia when I hear “Barbra Streisand.”

What songs remind you of your travels?


14 Responses to “The Official Song of the Asia Jaunt”
  1. Leah says:

    Favorite post yet. I love a good musical round-up!

  2. Amy says:

    Oh! Great line up! I love Barbra Streisand and We No Speak Americano! They definitely remind me of traveling in Europe!

  3. Dave says:

    What, where’s Banana Pancakes by Jack Johnson!? That’s the one I heard everywhere in SE Asia back in 2008. And I didn’t even know it was him, a Canadian girl pointed it out to me while we were eating in a restaurant one day in Thailand. Been listening to that album ever since (and only that one).

  4. Interesting to see which songs are big in Asia right now! ‘We no speak Americano’ is huge in Central America too – how many times have we heard that song in the last seven months 😉

  5. Candice says:

    I am SO bringing those dance moves to Canada.

  6. Scott says:

    So glad I asked you that question, Kate. I love the combination of music & travel and you know for the rest of your life when you hear those songs you are “going back”. In my opinion, “Wonderwall” is the absolute official song of backpacking world wide, I know it has dominated Europe on my adventures, so glad to see it in SE Asia too! Awesome post!

    • I am thrilled that you asked me that question, Scott! It really made me think! I actually have a playlist from my semester in Florence in fall 2004 — including Jay-Z’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” Fat Joe’s “Lean Back,” Houston’s “I Like That,” Beyonce’s “Naughty Girl,” “Errbody in the crowd getting tipsy” and plenty of others! It always brings me back.

  7. Rebecca says:

    Great choices! And you’ve introduced me to a few new ones. Isn’t it funny how there’s always just one song being played EVERYWHERE??!!

  8. vira says:

    I wonder what your traveling song is in Indonesia 😀

  9. Mariah says:

    omg I saw this vitamin water commercial with the barbra streisand song and it reminded me of this post.

  10. “We no speak Americano” is one of my travel songs too! It’s awesome how a song can take you back to a moment and place.

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