Traveling can be an overwhelming experience, especially somewhere as exotic and foreign as Asia. With a little research, planning, and common sense you can certainly have the time of your life while avoiding most unpleasant situations. This list includes a few things that I have come to realize from my own experiences.
Don't do the Typical Tourist Thing
It's easier than you think to miss out on experiencing some of the best things Asia has to offer when vacationing or even living in Asia. So many expats get into a routine of hanging out at expat bars and rarely leaving their expat friends. Western style restaurants and fast food chains have now extended their reaches to most corners of the world and too many times have I seen tourists hesitant of leaving their comfort zone and trying new local cuisine. So get out there and ask locals what they like to do and eat, take a walk in a random direction, go anywhere that looks interesting, explore and I guarantee you will have a better time than those who don't.
Do Visit the Most Famous Places
Maybe this seems contradictory to the previous statement, but there are some things always worth seeing. If you are in Beijing go take a walk on the Great Wall of China, don't miss out on seeing Angkor Wat if you are in Cambodia, and take an elevator to the top of Taipei 101 if you are in Taiwan. There are reasons places like these are so famous, don't miss out and regret it later. So get off the beaten path but don't forget to take a day or a few to do the touristy thing, after all you are a foreigner here.
Do Speak the Local Language to the Best of your Ability
I'm not saying be fluent in Chinese before going to China, I'm just saying make an attempt to use the local language whenever you have the chance. This can be as simple and saying thank you at a restaurant after ordering food. Don't worry if people laugh or smile they aren't making fun of you and they will respect you more and open up to you more. Learn basic phrases and attempt to use the local language as much as you can to the best of your ability. You will have better interactions with people and make more friends.
Don't do Anything you Wouldn't do at Home
It's easy to get carried away with so many new and exciting things to experience, but don't forget to really think about what you are doing first. If you wouldn't normally go to a circus in your home country because of how they treat animals, you probably shouldn't go ride Elephants south east Asia. Animals at these types of attractions are often treated poorly while living in bad conditions. Don't flash money and expensive objects around, petty theft and pick-pocketing can be common. After converting your money to local currency you might have a big stack of cash, so be discreet and cautious. Also be careful about what you eat. Most restaurants and even street food places wont get you sick, but if food looks raw or under cooked, if conditions look especially dirty, or if food looks questionable you probably shouldn't eat it. So use discretion and common sense, think before you act.
Do Visit Other Nearby Places
Travel around to other nearby cities and countries as much as your time and budget will allow. It's pretty expensive to get to Asia but once you are here daily life is pretty cheap, and it's much cheaper to travel around Asia once you are here rather than planning to return and visit other places in the future. Take advantage of the close proximity of many countries here. Trains and buses are cheaper alternatives to flights and readily available in most places. So do and see as much as you can, but allow your self enough time to see and enjoy each place without feeling rushed or stressed.
Don't Forget to Always be Respectful
Most Asian countries are becoming more westernized but culture is still much more traditional and customs are probably very different than you are used to. Having proper etiquette and respecting local customs will make your stay more comfortable for you and everyone else. Be polite when talking to anyone even if you are confused, tired or frustrated. Learn about chop sticks, hand gestures, greetings, and faux paus. People will understand that you are a foreigner and be much more forgiving if you make mistakes, but that's no reason not to research and learn as much as you can to make things go as smooth as possible.