A sarong is the most useful and versatile thing ever invented by mankind, and you need one. I never go on a trip without bringing three of them, and after reading this, you won't either.
It hurts me to, but I'll spare you a long and colorful history on the origins of the sarong. If you want to, you can read more here. Lets just say that they are ubiquitous throughout Polynesia, South and South East Asia, and for a good reason. My friend calls them "utility cloths". They are super soft, they dry fast, they look good, and they are impervious to sand when wet. Shake it off, all the beach sand is gone. It's fucking magic. Basically they are good for everything: a scarf, a kiffiyeah, a beach blanket, a bed sheet, a bandanna, a belt, a sling, a towel, a rope, a bag, something to have sex on the beach on (for real guys, lets be honest), a dress, a skirt, something to change clothes behind, to carry a baby, a shawl to cover your shoulders when going in a temple, a pillow, padding for the stuff in your bag......you get the idea. For backpackers, it is one of the most useful things to own. One of the best places in the world to buy them is on Koh San Road in Bangkok. They sell for 200 to 350Bhat.
The best ones to buy are manufactured in Indonesia, and hand made using German ink. These don't bleed in the wash and stain your other clothes. High quality ones have the same print on both sides. Cheaper Thai ones are colorful on one side only. have them washed separately before you use them.
Personally, I always have one in my day bag that I use as a beach blanket, towel, scarf and face mask to keep insects out of my mouth when I drive my motorbike home at sunset, and to clean the lens on my camera. I also twist it up and use it as a place to set my camera in lieu of a tripod when I make videos.
I have another one that is dirty from the day before, and another one that I use for my towel in my guesthouse. I also use them as curtains to cover bright windows, drapes to cover holes in mosquito nets, and sheets for the bed in bungalows with less than savory bedding.
If you really go for it and get off the beaten track, you'll discover that wrapping a sarong around your head when you sleep has a three fold purpose:
1. In a hut made of bamboo, a lot of light gets through the cracks in the the morning, and I'm not down with 6 am wake ups.
2. Huts like that don't always come with pillows, so a sarong is the best thing you've got, and the big one:
3. Roosters. Yes my friends, you didn't plan on roosters. Worry all you want about malaria and what to pack and if you are safe as a girl traveling solo, but you forgot to worry about the fucking roosters. Many a day have I arisen from my slumber knowing exactly what I'm gonna have for breakfast, and it's gonna be a fucking rooster. I don't care what the price is, that fucking bird has got to die. Now that fighting cock in a pen outside your window might be earning a pretty penny for it's owner, so tying that sarong around your eyes and ears before you sleep might save you a bit of hard earned cash, cause you're gonna eat it otherwise, and it's gonna taste good. Really good.
Quick tip: Sarongs in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam are made of silk, and are useless to you. You need to buy cotton ones in Bangkok. Unless you are in Malaysia or Indonesia, don't think that you'll be able to pick them up as you go along. It should be one of your first priorities on your first day of travelling.
If you guys have any comments or suggestions, leave them below. I'd love to hear what you think.