Southeast Asia • Work With the Locals!

At Tiplr we dream about amazing travels and we try to record and report any kind of adventurous experience we come across. It could be a sort of masochism, because it only increases our desire to start our next trip…but it is also a way to dream and plan it for the future! 

Carlo Bartolini is a young Explorer from Tuscany, Italy now in South East Asia to improve his desire of working in social services and feed his curiosity for this alternative way of life, in another part of the world.  I have interviewed him and I can’t wait to read tips he will start writing for us! 

Why did you start traveling in South East Asia?

I think that travelling is important for the kind of job I would like to have, in the social field. It is essential to meet new cultures, to question ourselves about our inclinations and ways of being, to try to be alone and dig into our souls, to be prepared to reveal to others who we are. Sometimes, the important thing is not what we are able to do, but who we are able to be. Maybe you are not ready to travel and live alone in another country, but if you trust in yourself, you will see how many people and characters live inside you. South East Asia has always been a dream, after having lived for a year and a half in Australia, where I connected with the Asian world. So, after I graduated I decided to go!

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What is your itinerary? For how long are you travelling?

I started my travel two months ago, and I am planning to stay in South East Asia for two months more. The first month I traveled for 20 days in Thailand and 15 days in Laos, now I am in Vietnam, in Hanoi, and I will be here for a month more; then, I will go to Cambodia and after go back to Italy.

How did you get ready for travel? Which documents did you need? 

In Thailand I have a Touristic Visa for 60 days, in Laos you can easily do a Visa at the frontier, valid for 30 days. But, be careful if you want to stay in Vietnam for a while: you should understand how long you wish to stay there and ask for the Visa in your country, before the departure. There is Visafirst website that is really helpful for these kind of questions.

What fascinated you more? Why?

In Thailand, I have really appreciated Chiang Mai. It is full of history and temples, in fact I have preferred to concentrate my trip in historical and natural sites, rather than touristic ones. I have been mostly in the northern part, where traditions are felt more. There, yoga and meditation are really common and in my next trip I am already thinking to try to stay for a while in a Buddhist temple, to meditate.

Also, I suggest to visit local markets there; they are organized during the night every weekend and have plenty of stuff you may need to travel. (In fact, I suggest to depart with an empty, or almost empty backpack and to buy clothes and necessities there!). The stands are ran by locals so if you buy there you can contribute to small local economy, instead than multinationals and big chains.

In Laos, I have done an amazing experience I suggest to everybody. At the border with Thailand are organized local ecofriendly tours, called Gibbon Experience. They consist of two days inside the jungle, trekking and sleeping up in the trees! You are at 80 meters height and you can move only with zip lines, like Tarzan. The highest one is 600 meters and the longest 500 meters. You will enjoy an unforgettable panorama, trust me! Actually, I suffer of dizziness, but I decided to break my limits and try…and thank God I did it!

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Laos has only been open to tourists since 1993 and for this reason it is still less known than Thailand and Vietnam. To travel there over land is difficult and tiring, but the landscape is something exceptional and marvellous. Vientiane, the capital, is different from the rest of the country: it seems like a European city, with a touch of French colonization. It almost might make you think that Laos is a rich country, but of course, this isn’t true.

Did you notice any unique social ritual, different from ours? ex. When you meet somebody, when you sneeze, during meals etc.

Yes, of course. For example, in Asia it is not highly regarded to show your foot in public. Also, if you touch somebody with your foot, it is really not polite, the feet are seen as something dirty and the low part of the body.

A typical way to greet or thank people is bending the head, and I have noticed it mostly in Thailand. Also, about the language, I was surprised to know that the way to address to somebody depends on gender. To say “I am Carlo” I would say in thai: ” Phom tsjuu Carlo”, but you would say “Tsjan tsjuu Rebecca” and this is only one example!

I know that now you are in Vietnam, volunteering for an NGO. How is this experience going? 

I arrived in Hanoi two weeks ago and I started to work in the NGO, Coins For Vietnam, that gives support to single mothers in the city. The society here is patriarchal and single women are discriminated against, so this association helps them and their children to live better and to have an education. I personally teach English to children, but I also help in the help desk for female victims of violence.

Hanoi is a strange city, really polluted but full of tradition and history. I decided to work with this association because it is in line with the education I received and what I studied at University. I have found this job with WorkAway, a portal where people can find accommodation and food in change of various helps to locals. Sometimes you can work in a farm, but also in hostels or NGOs.

There are other portals similar to WorkAway, like HelpX and Wwoof (that is only to find jobs in Eco Farms).

Can you give us 3 Tips for anybody who wants to start an experience like yours? 

The first thing I suggest is to travel overland. Through streets and transportations are something to experience  and it is an opportunity to really meet locals and traditional culture. You can truly feel the difference between countries and this is something that opens your mind.

The second tip I’d like to share is to try local food, even if sometimes it seems disgusting, or dirty. Be careful: eat where locals eat,  don’t try empty places, even if it has a european vibe, they are the worst! Street food is the best and cheapest option and there are plenty of people selling food along the way. It is almost sure that every European or American coming here would have a stomachache at least once. Our stomachs are weaker and hygienic conditions are totally different from ours. But also this fact is part of the experience! I suggest to eat mostly soups, that are well cooked, and to avoid raw food, or food that is not peeled.

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The third thing is to bring summer clothes and to buy everything at the market, well furnished and cheaper than paying a lot for your luggage at the airport!

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Thanks Carlo. It has been a real pleasure to speak with you about this experience and because I know you still have to visit Cambodia before going back to Italy…I can’t wait to hear about the rest of your adventure!

Featured Image credit:  //  Additional Photos by Carlo Bartolini

One Comment Add yours

  1. shybackpack says:

    I love street food in South East Asia. I know a lot of travellers who are scared to try it, which is such a shame, because street food is usually a thousand times better than fancy Western looking restaurants selling the same thing. Good advice.


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