From sacred shores in Indonesia to gleaming temples in Thailand, Southeast Asia has had an exotic allure for travellers seeking new adventures for as long as we can remember. But, thanks in part to the rise of social media (and the seemingly endless hordes of gen xers and millennials flocking to insta-worthy spots trying to take the perfect insta-picture) a new generation of traveller is evolving. In search of meaningful, and sometimes once in a lifetime experiences, this new breed of traveller values sustainability, authentic experiences and the opportunity to learn about new cultures above all else, often choosing less explored destinations above the perceived ‘over commercialised’ destinations that rest of the world has come to know and love.
While choosing to veer off the well-worn tourist trail might not be to everyone’s liking, more and more destinations and operators are seeing the intrinsic value in providing ethical and sustainable experiences to visitors. In places like Thailand, Cambodia or the Gili Islands you don’t have to look far to see this change. With campaigns such as ‘Refill not landfill’* (an initiative started in Cambodia but growing across Southeast Asia that encourages the removal of all single use plastic from hotels) and tours and excursions designed to have a positive impact on the communities they explore (such spending a day tracking, swimming with and learning about endangered green turtles in the Gili’s or the Tuk Tuk Club’s 11-day northern Thailand adventure), it’s easy to give back or make a change with little to no effort and still have the experience of a lifetime.
Get off the beaten track in Northern Thailand
Northern Thailand has been bussed, cycled, trekked and moped’ed but has it ever been ‘Tuk Tuk’d’? Why notrelease your inner cab driver and take a journey that puts you in charge of Thailand’s most iconic form of transport – one that will guarantee of numb bums, shaky arms, ringing ears, huge amounts of fun, more than a touch of luxury and a travel story to bore your friends with for years. Starting and finishing in the beautiful Mae Wang valley this tuk tuk adventure takes you on a journey through some of Thailand’smost spectacular scenery, lets you stay in some of the coolest small hotels in the region and brings you in touch with local communities like you’ve never known before. Ever rocked up to a market in your own Tuk Tuk? If not, you’ve never really seen Thai hospitality at itsbest.
Journey’s like this tuk tuk adventure, offer travellers the opportunity to see a destination with new eyes and have experiences that are, well as the Thai saying goes “same same but different”. A highlight of this tour is a visit to anelephant sanctuary tolearn more about the significance of these incredible creatures in Thai culture and the work the sanctuaryis doing to support ethical elephant treatment (no elephant rides here!). This experience also gives visitors an opportunity to interact with these beautiful creatures one on one by helping the mahouts at feeding time before walking with the elephants to the local river for a lively bath.
Capture your child’s attention
Across the region more and more of these authentic experiences are becoming accessible. How about doing something that will capture your child’s attention and further their appetite for learning, such as pottery making with Yandabo villagers in Myanmar, a shadow puppetry lesson in Malaysia or even coconut carving with a NGO in a Cambodian village.
From learning traditional crafts to discovering hidden hikes, sharing a homemade meal with a local family to partaking in a private monk blessing ceremony, authentic excursions offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences… but then it was Confucius that said “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”