Our intrepid photographer Danny DePasquale heads “off grid” to discover the true locals of Southeast Asia.
Having traveled to many countries, I’m always amazed at the people you can meet along the way, and I’m constantly reminded, in the strangest of ways, that we are all not so different at the end of the day.
It is definitely okay to be a tourist, but I encourage anyone with a camera to try and get “off the beaten path” as often as possible; find the locals, and learn from them. When I find a person of interest, most of the time all it takes is a simple non-verbal exchange of me pointing at my camera and them smiling in approval. Photography is a language that everyone speaks.
1 – Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple, Chiang Mai, Thailand
They might seem cute and harmless but these local girls dressed in traditional Thai clothing are experts at pick-pocketing. Once you ascend the 309 stairs up the mountain to the temple, you’re bound to find them flashing their little smiles and urging you to take photographs. Before you realize it, they could be running the other direction with your watch, sandals or camera!
2 – Mae Sa Snake Farm, Chiang Mai, Thailand
In case you were wondering, yes, it is real and yes, these snake charmers are crazy. These were no ordinary snakes either. The Thai King Cobra is extremely dangerous and attacks to kill! It’s actually one of the few snakes in the world whose venom can kill you in just a couple of minutes!
3 – Pai River, Pai, Thailand
Pai is a chilled-out little hippie town in the mountains of Northern Thailand, close to the Myanmar border. It has become increasingly popular amongst tourists but still holds a special charm. With tons of exciting outdoor activities, it’s very easy to find yourself off-the-beaten-path. This is our fearless rafting guide posing for a reluctant photograph.
4 – Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya, Thailand
The former capital of Thailand is oozing with history and completely covered in temple ruins. The Wat Mahathat is one of these old temples and also where I happened to come across this group of young Buddhist children taking a break from their classes. I asked this charming little dude if I could take his photo and his reaction was priceless.
5 – Fishing Boat, Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Picture this – you are somewhere off the coast of Koh Phi Phi in the Andaman Sea, on an old boat with a captain who barely speaks English and aggressive storm clouds start to approach you slowly. I took this photo of our guide as he prepared some tea for my friend to help “calm her nerves” before the rocky adventure back to shore.
6 – Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam
Did you know that these super cool conical shaped hats are referred to as a “Non la”? They’re traditionally made from easily accessible materials like palm leaves or bamboo. You’ll find them all over Vietnam being worn by locals and tourists alike!
7 – Cat Cat Village, Sapa, Vietnam
The beautiful, tranquil, rolling rice paddy fields of Sapa in Northern Vietnam are definitely a recommendation! With plenty of hiking trails, waterfalls, and gorgeous farmland – it’s easy to see why this place is so popular to visit. Don’t let the name mislead you, as I, unfortunately, did not see any cats in the village. But these three hooligans were following me for a good half mile, giggling and running away every time I turned around.
8 – Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
Bali is one of those magical places that people dream about going to, and I’ll be the first to tell you that it lives up to its reputation. Ubud is a well-known town right in the middle of the island that is well known for rice paddy fields, art galleries, yoga studios, and vegetarian restaurants. I stumbled across this mask maker as I was exploring (a.k.a. getting lost in the rice paddy fields). The mask you see him carving here is actually the one I brought back home for my dad!
9 – Bollata Bungalows, Gili Air, Indonesia
The Gili Islands were easily a favorite destination of mine during my Southeast Asia adventures. The three islands of Gili Air, Gili Meno, and Gili Trawangan (Gili T) all have a different type of reputation. I think the easiest way to break it down is to think party for Gili T, honeymoon paradise for Gili Meno, and chill for Gili Air.
I watched this fisherman make his morning routine catch as I enjoyed a fantastic seafood brunch.
10 – Seger Beach, Kuta Lombok, Indonesia
The island of Lombok is where Bali was 20 years ago. I found it a refreshing change of pace and an escape from the tourists. What do the locals do here you may ask? Well, they surf… a lot. I’m not sure how old this kid pictured is, but I can tell you for sure that his surfing skills are far superior to mine!
* All photos taken and provided by Danny DePasquale