This August, Buffalo Tours is proud to launch our brand new, in-depth line: Local Life. As part of our exciting new initiative to respect, support and celebrate the cultures and people that make each of our destinations unique, this specialised line is designed to get travellers closer to the heart of Asia – without sacrificing the comfort and ease of a classic Buffalo Tours experience. For a behind-the-scenes look at what it was really like to experience and capture these unique experiences, we sat down with the photographer behind our Local Life photos, Sabrina Rubini, to chat people, street food and unplanned moments of magic.
What’s the coolest thing about travel photography – and what made this project an exciting one to take on?
In my day-to-day life, I am a professional photographer – and the majority of my work is head shots, weddings, events, products and architecture. Travel is a passion of mine, and to have the opportunity to combine both was the chance of a lifetime. Travel photography is not as controlled as my everyday work – you really have to be willing to experience anything and everything (including the changes in weather!) and be open-minded about other cultures. You have to be ready to connect with everyone and everything around you, as well as ensuring you have nailed the brief.
This project was exciting as I was able to combine my two favourite things: photography and travel. Hearing that the tours were going to delve into local lives and meeting the local people was what I found most appealing. This job was offered to me at a moment’s notice, and I loved the spontaneity and sense of adventure it gave me!
When you set off on your Local Life photographic journey, what were your initial expectations – and now that you’ve finished your journey, how different was your experience from your expectations?
My initial expectations of the tours, going off of the brief, was to capture the essence of local life while also capturing travellers having fun and experiencing the trip of a lifetime. I love Southeast Asia, since its culture is so different from Australia. The cities are constantly alive, the population is huge yet incredibly dense, and the cuisine is – in a word – exotic!
Being on a Local Life tour was different from your average journey. I remember after night, after we ate at a couple of local places and had some really great main dishes and a few drinks, a few more adventurous guests were daring each other to try the chicken feet, flying bats or bugs in a bowl!
Compared to the initial expectation, I found the tours to have a more personal touch than I thought they would. Experiencing moments with the locals, on top of seeing all of those amazing sights like the Great Wall of China, was a dream come true.
What do you think is special about getting off of the tourist track in Asia? What was the experience like for you as a photographer?
You get a closer insight into local lifestyles and cultures than you would on the beaten path. There’s nothing like getting to know a country better when you mix in with the locals, and Buffalo Tours does just that.
As a photographer, I enjoyed blending in with the local culture, but also connecting with the guests on tour. I loved capturing the way they were enjoying themselves, especially those moments they were experiencing brand new things. When we visited the Batu Caves in Malaysia, for example, I noticed how the monkeys here ruled the place with reckless abandon. They consider it a tug-of-war when you’re carrying a bag of food, a plastic bottle… anything, really.
I caught this amazing moment when a group of tourists were caught off guard by a monkey who had his eye on a plastic bottle they were holding. The look on this group’s face is priceless! Definitely a once in a lifetime shot. In that same day, I came across this lovely baby and mother monkey, too. I think that really highlights the diversity of experiences you can have in just one day here.
What were some of your favourite people you met along the Local Life road?
In one of the tours, we were invited into a family’s home to learn how to cook fresh dumplings. An hour or so later, we were eating in their dining room, laughing and enjoying our hard work. Another that stands out is dancing in a local Chinese park – a popular pasttime for local Chinese – until the early hours of the morning. All in all, I found the locals so friendly, and it was such a great experience immersing myself into the lifestyles on the locals here.
Out of the places you visited, which one is your favourite?
I loved the cable car ride in Hong Kong, when you come down from the peak of the mountain across the sea, and jump off into the town. How often do you get to say you have seen a location from three different perspectives?
From your perspective, what do you think is special about these tours?
I think that Buffalo Tours has a very special insight into local life as it really is in modern Asia. With tourism at its high, it’s great to head into the untouched backstreets and see Asia in a different light. Being welcomed by the people and experiencing a different part of the world is a really rewarding experience.