One of the most exciting things about Asia are the local encounters you’ll find there. For all of its chaos, colour and history, Asia is fascinating partly because of its scenery – but mostly because of its people. We love exploring Asia and discovering the magic of the locals here, and we never have a shortage of stories from our travellers!
What do local encounters really look like, and why are they special? We asked some of our favourite travel bloggers what their most memorable experience with a local has been during their travels – and why they were unforgettable. These travel veterans may have their fair share of destinations under their belts, but authentic connections made with the people they meet along the way are always a surprise!
Donna & Alan
On a Yangtze River Cruise, the riverboat stopped in Fengdu where our group visited a local kindergarten. The children were waiting for us in an outdoor courtyard that doubled as a playground. One little boy sat by himself, tears streaming down his face. Alan spent the entire visit trying to cheer him up while I danced the hokey pokey. We never did get him to smile but at least he stopped crying.
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There is nothing I enjoy more in my travels than the serendipity of mingling with the local people in their day-to-day world. Indeed, more than the iconic sights and the heavenly food of Asia, the chance encounters with locals is the very reason I travel.
And so it was that with but 12 hours on the ground in Myanmar, I was already skipping through the streets of Yangon, snapping photos and soaking up the local color. Turning a corner, I spotted a cluster of folks squatting along the curb, playing… OMG, could it be? Why it’s BINGO! Needless to say I was both amazed they’d be playing what I presumed to be strictly a Western game, and eager to join in. Happily, the ladies swiftly made room for me, and I plopped down right there on the filthy street, paid my 100 kyat (10¢) and was handed a paper BINGO card. To my surprise I “won” the very first round, and so naturally had to keep playing until all my winnings were returned to my new Burmese friends. Truly a local experience I shall never forget. Only later did it dawn on me that… uh, perhaps “gambling” in the streets might get me tossed into a Myanmar prison!
I have had many memorable encounters while traveling in Asia. As a tea lover, one of the experiences that has really stuck with me is visiting the Thai Nguyen region of Vietnam which is a major tea producing area and well off the beaten path for most Western tourists. During our visit, we were able to pick tea leaves in a tea field, watch the tea making process, talk and have lunch with a local tea producing family, and of course drink many hot cups of the local green tea. Eating and drinking with locals is always a great way to connect with people when traveling.