Top 5 Feel Good Travel Experiences in Southeast Asia by Tom Lastick
Beyond hotels, sightseeing and activities, I and many of our clients travel to greater appreciate our small place in the world and maybe in some small way our wanderlust can positively impact someone’s life or make their world a better place. Here are some of my favorite programs we can arrange which not only are amazing cultural experiences for you, but also directly benefit the local people, community and/or environment in a positive and meaningful way.
Siem Reap, Cambodia. The ruined city of Angkor is one of the wonders of the ancient world visited by millions of foreign visitors every year. Sadly many local children who grew up nearby have never seen Angkor nor understand their own homeland’s glorious past. We have teamed with a local NGO to arrange for your tour of the temple ruins to include a group of local children from the area that have never had the same opportunity. Beyond the amazing architecture and history, your experience will be enhanced by seeing the smiles and bright eyes of the children accompanying you and for whom you made the experience of a lifetime possible.
In largely agrarian, developing world nations like Laos, one is often not guaranteed education beyond the primary level, if at all. Many people in Laos, especially young people, are eager to learn English as a path to a better life in the tourism industry or abroad, but few of them have access to teachers who are fluent enough to teach them. We team with a local NGO that sponsors drop-in English conversation and practice for visitors to talk with or read to locals and children. A bilingual facilitator, books, maps and other supporting materials are provided to aide in your conversations and interactions. Some opt to stay for an hour or two, some opt to stay all day.
In many countries previously ravaged by decades or longer of unrest, war or political upheaval, traditional arts such as music are sadly not a priority and skilled people needed to teach and carry on traditions on are lesser and lesser with each passing generation. We partner with an NGO in Myanmar that opened a music center to reintroduce these skills to young, eager students. On a visit to this center you will be treated to a concert by the students and take solace in knowing your visit helped to purchase instruments for them, hire and train local instructors, and provide scholarships for the most talented to continue to refine their craft abroad.
For millennia majestic Asian Elephants have been domesticated and trained for manual labor, largely farming and logging. In the modern age the need for elephant power is no longer, yet with a lifespan often approaching 100 years, literally thousands of former working elephants now find themselves without purpose, mistreated, and lacking the natural habitat and skills to fend for themselves. We partner with a couple of very eco-sensitive and friendly partners that provide many of these elephants with a comfortable and safe “retirement” where visitors can interact with them, feed them, bathe them, learn about elephant breeding, management, and the challenges faced by both domesticated and wild Asian elephants in the modern world. Beyond being an amazing experience, travelers can feel good knowing profits from the program support threatened elephant acquisition, reforestation initiatives, and local community education.
Hidden away in a secluded corner of Northwest Bali, far from the masses in Bali’s more traditional tourist enclaves lies the village of Bulian, ancestral family home to one of our longest standing and most trusted local partner, guide and friend. In his company spend a day in a foreign and exotic world with his extended family in Bulian. You may help make traditional flower offerings for temple festivals and weddings, help with tilling and harvesting the fields, learn about and play traditional musical instruments and also participate in preparing the nightly family meal. Then you’ll be treated to a feast, celebration and performances in your honor through the evening including traditional dance, music and conversation. This is the real Bali and this special day we have developed here in this village helps carry on and maintain traditions and customs being lost elsewhere on the island. A life changing day for you and an opportunity for truly special people to maintain practices and traditions passed down for generations but increasingly forgotten in the hustle and bustle of modern life.