12 immersive experiences in Asia you'll never forget

You can choose to tour a destination or you can dive deep and experience what makes a city tick. So go ahead, embark on these adventures in Asia and forge long-lasting connections.

Bangkok street market.
  • Alison Goh
  • November 2019

Get to know these cities from the inside through these one-of-a-kind experiences.

1. Take part in an ancient Buddhist ritual in Bangkok

Monk in Bangkok.
The walking tour is limited to one or two guests at a time to respect the tranquil lifestyle of the monks.

Private Spiritual Morning With Thai Monks by Withlocals opens in new window

In Thailand, many locals start the day by offering food or money to Buddhist monks who walk down the streets of their town to collect alms. In this experience, you’ll get the chance to take on the temple boy’s job of carrying these gifts. You’ll then head back to the monks’ residence to sort out the food donations and share the morning meal together.
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2. Pick tea leaves in Taiwan

Tea leaves from the Green Light Farm.
The crops are grown using organic farming methods that don’t involve the use of chemical pesticides.

One-Day Ecological Tour & Tea Leaf Picking by Green Light Farm opens in new window

At the age of 50, Chen Lu He retired from his job in the city and returned to his hometown of Pinglin to start an organic tea farm. Here, you’ll get to pick tea leaves in the farm’s picturesque fields and sample different teas like green and oolong. Bring along a Mandarin-speaking friend, as Chen does not speak English.

Address: No. 11-2, Dashe Hu, Yuguang Borough, Pinglin District, New Taipei City
Tel: +886 2 0952 600 268
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3. Meet the people who are integral to Penang’s living culture

Hawker at Penang’s Little India.
The four-hour tour includes a trishaw ride and the chance to sample traditional Indian snack

George Town Traders & Living Culture Tour by Malai Adventure opens in new window

If you want to understand the history and cultural diversity of Penang, study the lives of its traditional tradespeople on this walking tour. Watch in awe as a spring roll skin maker plies his trade that has spanned generations, and rub shoulders with the friendly barbers, goldsmiths and florists in Little India
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4. Live among the hill tribes of Thailand

The Hmong are an ethnic group from the mountainous regions of Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and China.

One-Day Authentic Hill Tribe Tour by Thailand Hilltribe Holidays opens in new window

This tour takes you beyond the touristy hill tribe villages across northern Thailand to the verdant countryside an hour away from Chiang Mai. In the villages of two hill tribes (the Karen and the Hmong), you’ll witness how life unfolds away from prying eyes. The itinerary may include school visits, cooking over an open fire or having a go at back-strap cotton weaving.
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5. Live with royalty in Sumba

Sumbanese youth
The Sumbanese people have retained much of their culture despite foreign influences.

5D4N Sumba Trip by TravelPeople

Sumba is a gorgeous island about 90 minutes from Bali by plane. Besides exploring its beaches, waterfalls and savannahs, you also get to visit villages to learn about their traditional culture and help by bringing books to the local children on this tour. Your guide will tell you all about how the native Sumbanese still practice animism and burial practices involving elaborately carved stone tombs, and how each village in Sumba has its own royalty. Who knows? You might just get to rub shoulders with one of the queens.

READ MORE: Looking to go off the beaten track in Bali? Check out these paradise islands that fly under tourists' radar

6. Be a fisherman in Vietnam

Fisherman at the Cua Dai river.
You’ll get to play fisherman and cast giant nets on the tour.

Fishing Village Culture & Basket Boat Tour by Jack Tran Tours opens in new window

Not far from the centre of Hoi An, the local fishermen on the Cua Dai river are at work by 4am fishing for fresh bream, grouper and mullet. They make SGD $14-28 per day selling their catch at the village market. Tour highlights include the chance to learn fishing techniques and paddle the weird and wonderful Vietnamese basket boat.
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7. Learn a centuries-old Chinese exercise in Hong Kong

People doing tai chi at Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour
The lessons are conducted at Tamar Park.

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Tai chi is more than just exercise — it’s a contemplative practice based on Taoist principles which dictate that harmonious living requires balancing the opposite yet complementary elements of yin and yang. Tai chi expresses this through the act of finding balance through constant, controlled movements. Try it for yourself at hour-long classes in English against a spectacular view of Victoria Harbour.
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8. Help to take care of Australian wildlife

Girl with parrot on shoulder at Peel Zoo.
The zoo only accepts five junior zookeepers a day, so be sure to book in advance.

Junior Zookeeper 4 A Day by Peel Zoo

The native wildlife in Australia is amazingly diverse. At Peel Zoo located an hour from Perth, education on the importance of respecting your environment and conserving wildlife starts at a young age with their daily five-hour Junior Zookeeper programme. This experience allows 8- to 16-year-olds to get up close and personal with animals through unique activities such as bottle-feeding baby Tasmanian Devils and taking a dingo for a walk.
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9. Get an intimate glimpse into how most Singaporeans live

HDB blocks in Singapore.
Singaporeans call public housing blocks “HDBs” after the Housing & Development Board that built them.

Home 소 Tour by Tribe Tours

There’s the Crazy Rich Asians side of Singapore. Then there’s the 85 percent of locals who live in high-rise public housing blocks. On this tour, opens in new window you’ll get an intimate glimpse into how the average Singaporean lives. Take a walk through a typical housing estate, feel the pulse of the city at wet markets and hawker centres, and meet two Singaporean families at their homes.

READ MORE: Meet the Singaporeans keeping the kampung tradition alive opens in new window

10. Be a farmer in Siem Reap

Tourist trying her hand at farming on the Siem Reap Farm Tour.
Depending on the season, you might be asked to fish or harvest rice during the tour.

Siem Reap Farm Tours by Merry Travel Asia opens in new window

Almost 80 percent of Cambodians live in rural areas, and nearly half of them work in agriculture. In this seven-hour tour, you get to experience life through their lens. It starts in a gorgeous green village called Krobey Riel, where you put on a traditional Khmer farmer outfit and are put to work on the land. You’ll also get to see basket weavers in action and cook a Khmer meal using organic produce you buy from local businesses.
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11. Learn more about one of Malaysia’s sunset industries

Rubber tapping in KL.
Guests will get to take home souvenirs like seedlings and even the hardened milk from rubber trees.

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In the ’80s, Malaysia was the world’s biggest natural rubber producer. This experience takes you to one of the last few small-holding plantations in the country. Just 20-minutes from KL International Airport, you’ll be transported back in time here — hear stories of the country’s rubber industry in its heyday and try your hand at tapping a rubber tree before tucking into a tiffin lunch featuring locally-grown vegetables.
Cost: SGD $41
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12. Travel back to feudal Japan

Samurai in action at the Samurai and Ninja Museum in Kyoto.
For an extra fee, you can slice a tatami mat with a 300-year-old samurai sword.

Museum Tour + Samurai & Ninja Experience + Sword Demonstration at the Samurai and Ninja Museum opens in new window

While samurai no longer exist today, people are still fascinated by this group of military nobility that lived in feudal Japan. Your inner child will love the Samurai and Ninja Museum in downtown Kyoto — a ticket includes a guided tour on samurai history and culture, a sword demonstration, and the chance to don samurai armour.

READ MORE: Travel experiences in Asia under $50 opens in new window