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  1. #1
    Forum Member b1gsky's Avatar
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    Womenís clothing recommendations for Southeast Asia (mainly Vietnam)

    Iíve never travelled to Asia before and I have no experience with a (sub-) tropical climate. I usually do well with minimal packing, but I suspect I need some new clothes for this experience. We plan to travel in July/August next year, which will be hot and wet. Unfortunately it has to be around that time, because my travel buddy and best friend is a primary school teacher and the only time she can go on an extended trip is during the German summer holidays. I know thereís still a lot of time, but I plan to start looking early because I prefer to a) not break the bank, b) have clothes that are as responsibly made as possible and c) want items I can also make use of at home.

    I looked around a bit on the internet and on YouTube, but that wasnít all that helpful because the women mostly pack short shorts and strappy tops and mini dresses and I already know that this isnít appropriate dress for the destination. We donít plan to go to a yoga retreat or on a beach holiday, we want to see something of the place and the culture. My travel guide recommends covering the shoulders (which means short sleeves, right?) and most of the legs. Is it fine when I wear tea length skirts that cover my knees? Iím not a fan of maxi length skirts and dresses on myself.

    And which kind of fabrics are best? I dislike synthetics and usually prefer to wear wool, cotton, hemp, linen or silk. I guess the merino wool is too hot, but what about cotton? Iíve read some mentions that cotton was too warm and too difficult to dry. Is that also true for breezy woven cotton fabric?

    And what kind of shoes would you recommend? My usual warm weather travel shoes are Birkenstock sandals, but those are not good in wet weather. I know that a lot of people just wear flip flops, but I cannot wear them (the only pair I ever had was for showering). Are leather sandals a problem in that kind of weather? If no then I would prefer them to plastic shoes... I have wide feet, so shoe shopping is always a problem for me and itís important to start looking early.

    I also have a travel skirt question - I remember reading a thread a while ago about those Macabi skirts. Would that skirt work for these kinds of temperatures or would it be too hot? Iíve read that itís quick drying, at least. I think the skirt looks quite awkward in the product pictures, but I can imagine it looking better sitting a bit higher in the waist and being some kind of midi length.

    If you are from Southeast Asia or have travelled there before I would be grateful for advice. Thank you!

  2. #2
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    For natural fibers, I would be inclined to go with merino or linen. When we were in Japan last summer, my linen dresses were pretty much all I lived in. I did take my macabi skirts with me (worn with my merino tees or with linen tees) and felt like I personally was too warm in the full length maxi version, but if you were to go with the shorter length (not the knee one, but the maxi skirt in a short length) and were wearing it at a midi-length, I think these would be perfect! They dry quickly, have fabulous pockets, etc. I know that other people on this thread would recommend them for travel in a heartbeat. And by the way, they will be on sale a week from Friday (Black Friday).

    I would rather take linen than cotton any day for hot humid temperatures, and my merino tees have replaced my cotton tees. For shoes, I'm a big fan of saltwater sandals. I too have wide feet and they stay on my feet much better than flip flops, plus they can get wet. The only probably with them is that they don't have any padding, but you have to decide if that is a deal breaker for you. I took casual tennis shoes for heavy walking days and sandals for when my feet would be getting wet.
    A30 - Original Halcyon/UV MB - Aubergine/NWS LCB - Original Halcyon/Wasabi! MCB - Steel dyneema/Wasabi! STT - Wasabi! SE - NORDIC/Solar TT - Sitka

    TB Newbie Rainbow First factory visit - 9/21/2018

    Heartís desire: a S19 or S25 in original NORDIC.

  3. #3
    Forum Member nsh's Avatar
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    My travel shoe recommendation are the plastic Birkenstocks- perfect for wet climates and I never got blisters.

    I know you said you don't love long skirts but from a modesty, style, and comfort perspective (pants are too hot-sticky for that climate) it might be an awesome option. Have you thought of a traditional Indonesian batik wrap tie skirt? I have a few from travel in Indonesia and they are fantastic because they are natural fibers, can accommodate shifting waist sizes (from pregnancy to post partum to back to me again, to just a food belly), are breathable and prefect for humid warm climates, and simply beautiful with a wide range of color and print options! The skirts do come in a range of lengths but I love my full length ones. A couple skirts and different blousy tops and you’d be good to go for minimalist packing!

    Ps- The label inside my skirt purchased from Indonesia back in 2006 (it still looks brand new) says Batik Keris. I recall it being kind of pricey but it was hand blocked and dyed/ I believe you could find a seller on line for this too.
    Last edited by nsh; 11-19-2019 at 11:15 AM.

  4. #4
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    I live in Florida, so the weather is somewhat similar to what you will be experiencing on your trip: hot, wet, and humid.

    In summer, I live in my long Macabi skirts and plastic Birkenstocks. Yes, I prefer natural fibers, but sometimes you just need clothing that will shed water and dry quickly. While I'll wear linen at home, I'm not willing to iron everything on a trip. If the weather was cooler, I would go with merino T-shirts, but there comes a heat/humidity level where wool is just not comfortable, and I resort to technical fabrics for travel.

    Bluffworks just came out with a couple travel shirts for ladies (one T shirt, one button up), and I mean they JUST came out with them this week. I bought my husband Bluffworks pants and shirts for a long trip, and he always looked fresh and put together. He prefers natural fibers, too, but he couldn't complain about the Bluffworks fit, fabric and secure pockets.

    I would also recommend some sort of large shawl in cotton or linen or silk. It can be used as a blanket when chilly on a plane, or as a wrap to look more elegant, or to cover your head or shoulders when you need to be respectful of the local culture, and as a makeshift totebag when absolutely necessary.
    Last edited by BWeaves; 11-19-2019 at 11:55 AM.

  5. #5
    Forum Member b1gsky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jessmakes View Post
    For natural fibers, I would be inclined to go with merino or linen. When we were in Japan last summer, my linen dresses were pretty much all I lived in. I did take my macabi skirts with me (worn with my merino tees or with linen tees) and felt like I personally was too warm in the full length maxi version, but if you were to go with the shorter length (not the knee one, but the maxi skirt in a short length) and were wearing it at a midi-length, I think these would be perfect! They dry quickly, have fabulous pockets, etc. I know that other people on this thread would recommend them for travel in a heartbeat. And by the way, they will be on sale a week from Friday (Black Friday).

    I would rather take linen than cotton any day for hot humid temperatures, and my merino tees have replaced my cotton tees. For shoes, I'm a big fan of saltwater sandals. I too have wide feet and they stay on my feet much better than flip flops, plus they can get wet. The only probably with them is that they don't have any padding, but you have to decide if that is a deal breaker for you. I took casual tennis shoes for heavy walking days and sandals for when my feet would be getting wet.
    Thank you very much! I canít imagine going with my merino tees, mostly because of the underwear issue in hot weather, but Iíll look into linen tops I can wear with only a bralette or linen dresses. There might still be some leftovers available online from summer sale. Iím also going to have a look at Saltwater sandals, Iím fine without padding. And thanks for the heads up about the sale for the Macabi skirts! I was thinking the Slim skirt in a short length. Iím 5í 3Ē and that would mean it should hit me somewhere mid calf if it sits in my waist. If itís too long I can always have it hemmed up a bit, I regularly have small alterations done on my clothes and have a perfectionist and inexpensive tailor right around the corner. How accurate is the sizing chart? Looking at the chart I would probably pick size M, but I donít want it to sit too low. Right now my waist measures 33Ē which is the higher end of my fluctuating size. The only items I have in US sizing are a pair of Royal Robbins hiking shorts in size 8 and Columbia hiking pants in size 10.

    Quote Originally Posted by nsh View Post
    My travel shoe recommendation are the plastic Birkenstocks- perfect for wet climates and I never got blisters.

    I know you said you don't love long skirts but from a modesty, style, and comfort perspective (pants are too hot-sticky for that climate) it might be an awesome option. Have you thought of a traditional Indonesian batik wrap tie skirt? I have a few from travel in Indonesia and they are fantastic because they are natural fibers, can accommodate shifting waist sizes (from pregnancy to post partum to back to me again, to just a food belly), are breathable and prefect for humid warm climates, and simply beautiful with a wide range of color and print options! The skirts do come in a range of lengths but I love my full length ones. A couple skirts and different blousy tops and youíd be good to go for minimalist packing!

    Ps- The label inside my skirt purchased from Indonesia back in 2006 (it still looks brand new) says Batik Keris. I recall it being kind of pricey but it was hand blocked and dyed/ I believe you could find a seller on line for this too.
    Thanks! I never thought about the plastic Birkenstocks, but youíre right, that might be a good option! Especially because I know my size when it comes to Birks. Are they very rigid, or can you break them in just like the normal sandals? I definitely prefer my Birks once theyíre broken in. As for skirts, no argument there - I live in dresses during summer. But I prefer them to be somewhere between tea length and just covering my knees in everyday life. Iím only 5í 3Ē and I feel that maxi skirts make me look even shorter and also heavier. And I dislike the hem getting dirty walking around... Thatís why I currently donít own any full length skirts or dresses. But I guess I could make an exception for a travel outfit, if necessary.

  6. #6
    Forum Member haraya's Avatar
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    I used to live in the Philippines, and have traveled in Vietnam, Laos, and Japan (Okinawa - so, the more tropical part of Japan) during the summer. I used to travel with really light cotton tees, but like Jess (above) I now prefer to use very lightweight merino tees, even in humid climates - they dry faster and don't wrinkle/don't smell.

    >>Iíve read some mentions that cotton was too warm and too difficult to dry. Is that also true for breezy woven cotton fabric?

    Breezy woven cotton will likely be more transparent (thus you have to decide whether to wear another layer underneath, or a darker color that will not reflect sunlight as much) and wrinkly (so you'd have to iron or be willing to put up with a casual look). It will dry faster than thick cotton, but not faster than merino or technical fabrics.

    For bottoms I like loose linen slacks in medium or dark colors (taupe, navy, grey). You could sub in linen skirts, if you don't care for pants. The wrap skirts nsh suggested could work too - they are loose so they wouldn't cling to you as much, and you could probably go at least a couple of days without having to wash them, especially if you are rotating out with more than one skirt.

    Or alternately I have worn dresses (Athleta swim dresses, in fact) with a long-sleeved button-down shirt on top, both in a wicking fabric. Linen if you really want natural fabrics, or some kind of polypropylene. (I agree with BWeaves that sometimes a technical fabric is the best solution, if you are on the go and don't have time to wash and dry clothes between stops.)

    Shoes - I have worn Keens, Chaco, and Mephisto sandals in hot climates. The Mephisto sandals (slip-on) were comfier and didn't build up smells like the Keens do. The Chacos are great for situations where you will sometimes get your feet wet (e.g. boat rides) and/or need your shoes to stay strapped on securely.

  7. #7
    Forum Member b1gsky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BWeaves View Post
    I live in Florida, so the weather is somewhat similar to what you will be experiencing on your trip: hot, wet, and humid.

    In summer, I live in my long Macabi skirts and plastic Birkenstocks. Yes, I prefer natural fibers, but sometimes you just need clothing that will shed water and dry quickly. While I'll wear linen at home, I'm not willing to iron everything on a trip. If the weather was cooler, I would go with merino T-shirts, but there comes a heat/humidity level where wool is just not comfortable, and I resort to technical fabrics for travel.

    Bluffworks just came out with a couple travel shirts for ladies (one T shirt, one button up), and I mean they JUST came out with them this week. I bought my husband Bluffworks pants and shirts for a long trip, and he always looked fresh and put together. He prefers natural fibers, too, but he couldn't complain about the Bluffworks fit, fabric and secure pockets.

    I would also recommend some sort of large shawl in cotton or linen or silk. It can be used as a blanket when chilly on a plane, or as a wrap to look more elegant, or to cover your head or shoulders when you need to be respectful of the local culture, and as a makeshift totebag when absolutely necessary.
    Thanks! I would be alright not ironing the linen while travelling, embrace the crease and all that. I had a look at Bluffworks, but I don’t think I would want to order clothing which is so difficult to fit from overseas. Just too much hassle, with customs and no easy possibility to return. Good tip with the shawl, I’ll definitely take one.

  8. #8
    Forum Member b1gsky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by haraya View Post
    I used to live in the Philippines, and have traveled in Vietnam, Laos, and Japan (Okinawa - so, the more tropical part of Japan) during the summer. I used to travel with really light cotton tees, but like Jess (above) I now prefer to use very lightweight merino tees, even in humid climates - they dry faster and don't wrinkle/don't smell.

    >>I’ve read some mentions that cotton was too warm and too difficult to dry. Is that also true for breezy woven cotton fabric?

    Breezy woven cotton will likely be more transparent (thus you have to decide whether to wear another layer underneath, or a darker color that will not reflect sunlight as much) and wrinkly (so you'd have to iron or be willing to put up with a casual look). It will dry faster than thick cotton, but not faster than merino or technical fabrics.

    For bottoms I like loose linen slacks in medium or dark colors (taupe, navy, grey). You could sub in linen skirts, if you don't care for pants. The wrap skirts nsh suggested could work too - they are loose so they wouldn't cling to you as much, and you could probably go at least a couple of days without having to wash them, especially if you are rotating out with more than one skirt.

    Or alternately I have worn dresses (Athleta swim dresses, in fact) with a long-sleeved button-down shirt on top, both in a wicking fabric. Linen if you really want natural fabrics, or some kind of polypropylene. (I agree with BWeaves that sometimes a technical fabric is the best solution, if you are on the go and don't have time to wash and dry clothes between stops.)

    Shoes - I have worn Keens, Chaco, and Mephisto sandals in hot climates. The Mephisto sandals (slip-on) were comfier and didn't build up smells like the Keens do. The Chacos are great for situations where you will sometimes get your feet wet (e.g. boat rides) and/or need your shoes to stay strapped on securely.
    Thanks! The merino shirts have the underwear issue, or else I might give them a try. They are way too clingy for me to feel comfortable wearing them without a proper bra. But I definitely prefer to only wear bralettes in hot weather, so that makes the merino shirts a no-go. I usually take care to pick loose tops with prints, or woven summer tops to avoid that issue. I’m not a fan of trekking sandals and have yet to find a pair that comfortably fits my feet, so I would be glad to avoid them. I really like the idea of the plastic Birks, but of course there are only slides available. They only offer the sandals for kids.

  9. #9
    Forum Member nsh's Avatar
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    The Plastic Birkenstock’s had zero break in time for me...they have become my go-to summer shoe because they can be worn with dresses or even a bathing suit at the pool. Versatile!

    The batik wrap skirts come in different lengths so you might find a shorter tea length optionSmilie I am more than 5’8” so I usually have the problem of clothing being too short. ��

  10. #10
    Forum Member b1gsky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nsh View Post
    The Plastic Birkenstock’s had zero break in time for me...they have become my go-to summer shoe because they can be worn with dresses or even a bathing suit at the pool. Versatile!
    I’ll definitely give them a try. They might be great swimming pool slides even if I end up with different travel shoes.

  11. #11
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    No break in time for the plastic Birks. They're a bit like Crocs, only in the Arizona or Gizeh style of Birkenstocks.

    Here's a trick with regular leather Birks. Wet them down and wear them around the house. They break in almost immediately, instead of in a couple of weeks. Of course, you sort of ruin the suede lining, but you never panic about getting caught in the rain again. I've actually given up on regular Birks and only wear the soft footbed that doesn't need breaking in.

    If you want loose linen tops, I highly recommend Vivid Linen. They're in Hong Kong. Read the reviews on Amazon, but don't buy from Amazon. Buy from the Vivid Linen website. Shipping is free from their website. They're clothing is very high quality, and really cool styles. The size charts are accurate. I like my linen ironed, but if you wash and hang dry, you could get away with not ironing. When I'm not in my Macabi skirts, I'm in Vivid Linen in the spring, summer and fall in Florida.

    There's also Ann G Linen, also in Hong Kong. They're styles are cut a bit more petite. The backs of their items have really unusual seaming, so look at the photos of the backs, too.
    Last edited by BWeaves; 11-19-2019 at 12:58 PM.

  12. #12
    Forum Member b1gsky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BWeaves View Post
    No break in time for the plastic Birks. They're a bit like Crocs, only in the Arizona or Gizeh style of Birkenstocks.

    Here's a trick with regular leather Birks. Wet them down and wear them around the house. They break in almost immediately, instead of in a couple of weeks. Of course, you sort of ruin the suede lining, but you never panic about getting caught in the rain again. I've actually given up on regular Birks and only wear the soft footbed that doesn't need breaking in.
    I really don’t like to get the regular Birks wet, but the break in period is short for me in any case so that’s alright. The only time I had really wet feet in Birks they gave off color and my soles were colored for a while. Not so nice. They’re fine with a bit of German summer rain, but I wouldn’t want to jump into puddles with them. We only have the regular footbed here in Germany btw. You can only get the soft footbed if you order online via Amazon, the stores here usually don’t have them. I once got some when I ordered online because I didn’t read the description properly and I didn’t like them at all. And thanks for the two brand recommendations, I’ll look them up.

  13. #13
    Forum Member haraya's Avatar
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    Mephisto are more like Birks but French. Smilie (I have the Helens in various colors, it's probably a good time in the Northern Hemisphere for finding deals on sandals!) For one trip I brought my Mephistos, and used them for extensive sightseeing - never had blisters. But I brought a pair of Teva/Keen/Chaco-type footwear in case we had beach plans, or if it rained, or to have a pair to alternate. (Just looked it up and yep, July/Aug are definitely rainy in Vietnam.)

    Have you looked at Chaco? I like that they have more than just the trek look - they also have strappy/dressier (some are leather) styles which still have the same comfy footbed (and better arch support than Keens or Tevas, imo).
    Quote Originally Posted by b1gsky View Post
    Thanks! The merino shirts have the underwear issue, or else I might give them a try. They are way too clingy for me to feel comfortable wearing them without a proper bra. But I definitely prefer to only wear bralettes in hot weather, so that makes the merino shirts a no-go. I usually take care to pick loose tops with prints, or woven summer tops to avoid that issue. I’m not a fan of trekking sandals and have yet to find a pair that comfortably fits my feet, so I would be glad to avoid them. I really like the idea of the plastic Birks, but of course there are only slides available. They only offer the sandals for kids.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by b1gsky View Post
    I really don’t like to get the regular Birks wet, . . .
    Well, I don't either. But I got caught in a regular Florida downpour and got a new pair absolutely soaked. That's sort of how I discovered they molded to my feet very fast when wet.

    But seriously, the plastic ones are perfect for rainy weather.

  15. #15
    Forum Member b1gsky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by haraya View Post
    Mephisto are more like Birks but French. Smilie (I have the Helens in various colors, it's probably a good time in the Northern Hemisphere for finding deals on sandals!) For one trip I brought my Mephistos, and used them for extensive sightseeing - never had blisters. But I brought a pair of Teva/Keen/Chaco-type footwear in case we had beach plans, or if it rained, or to have a pair to alternate. (Just looked it up and yep, July/Aug are definitely rainy in Vietnam.)

    Have you looked at Chaco? I like that they have more than just the trek look - they also have strappy/dressier (some are leather) styles which still have the same comfy footbed (and better arch support than Keens or Tevas, imo).
    Those really look a lot like Birks! I knew of the brand, but somehow I had sneakers in mind when I thought of them... I sometimes walked by the Mephisto store in Berlin on my way to lectures. Chaco sandals seem to be available only via Amazon and then for ridiculous prices. But it definitely makes sense to have a weatherproof option to change into. I’m definitely going to take more than one pair of shoes, with my problematic feet I’m feeling more comfortable if I play it safe. Clothes aren’t such a big problem and I can always buy something if necessary, but shoes are different. And I’m not going to go carryon only in any case, because my friend isn’t a minimal packer and is going to check a bag anyway. I’m probably going to take my trekking backpack which I also took to New Zealand and Australia, which has 45 litres (underpacked though). I think we’ll be carrying the luggage quite more often than on other holidays, which makes the backpack preferable to the RB36.

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