Photo by Ed Schipul
Superstition is a touchy subject. Even the most rational traveler might take a pause before booking a flight on Friday the 13th — although he or she may never actually admit it to friends and family. While researching the most haunted hotels in the world, we ran into a number of travel superstitions in Asia, a continent with a culture that can take dealing with ghosts pretty seriously. While not everyone in Asia believes in ghosts, there is a general consensus among the believers that hotel rooms in particular can attract the departed as a kind of way station between this life and the next. Curious, we asked self-proclaimed “modern-day nomad” Nellie Huang — who grew up in Singapore and now writes about her travel adventures for the likes of Food & Travel and CNN Go — for her take on ghost culture in Asia. She also gave us some tips on what to look for — and then we did some in-depth research to ensure we know how to avoid ghosts while traveling!
Why does the ghost culture have such a prevalent and hallowed presence in Asia?
I think this may be linked to the long history of Asia and how this region has always held on closely to its traditions. Myths and legends have always played an important role in storytelling, especially so in the ancient Chinese world. Asians tend to be quite superstitious in various aspects.
Why is the number four considered unlucky?
The number four is pronounced as ‘si’ in the Chinese Mandarin language. It sounds very similar to “death,” which is also pronounced as ‘si’ but with a low tone. Therefore, the Chinese have always associated the number four with death and misfortunate. When I was young, my family used to live in an apartment building that was numbered 444. Thankfully, we didn’t have any bad experiences!
Any tips for travelers who don’t want to share their hotel room with a spirit?
In old Chinese traditions, people would hang a piece of red paper that has been blessed by a priest at their door fronts to ward off evil spirits. Even today, many ethnic Chinese still carry lucky charms everywhere they go to avoid any encounters with spirits.
*Follow the tips below to ensure you don’t hear any unexpected bumps in the night:
Knock three times
Before you fling open your hotel room door, take a moment to knock firmly three times on the closed door. If you speak the local language, it doesn’t hurt to announce yourself and how many nights you plan on staying, as a sign of respect to the ghost who may be lurking in the room. After opening the door, enter the room with your body pivoted to the side so that any ghosts who would like to leave have the space to do so. Hey, they don’t want to share a room with you either!
Make space for positive energy
Now it’s time to set the space up with light and signs of the living. Open the curtains, turn on all the lights, and flick on the TV. Flush the toilet to purge the bathroom of any negative energy. Basically, let any wandering souls know you’re here and, more importantly, you’re alive.
Arrange your stuff
If you’ve ever been terrified that you’ll wake from a peaceful sleep to find a child ghost watching you rest (or is it just us?), this tip is for you. Be sure that your shoes or slippers are facing opposite directions on the floor so that ghosts will get confused about where you are. If there’s a second bed in the room that you’re not planning on sleeping in, put your suitcase or clothes on it so that there isn’t any space for an unwanted spirit.
Leave the hotel bible out
This one is definitely spooky. In Asia, the bible can be viewed as a good luck symbol and might be left out on the desk as a warning to ghosts, so don’t put it back in the drawer. If you return to your room and find the holy book open, it may be time to check out and find a room that’s less haunted.
Have you encountered any travel superstitions or ways to deter ghosts on the road? We’d love to read about them in the comments below or on Facebook.
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