Whats Is WithLocals?
WithLocals is a company which pairs travelers and locals in 18 countries, to exchange culture and experiences. Local tour guides, experts, and families give guests a personalized look into the local lifestyle. WithLocals aims to give people, particularly in developing countries, the means to make a living doing something they love.
With an emphasis on the Sharing Economy, WithLocals aims to change the face of tourism by empowering people through community access an economic sustainability. These are all concepts I also believe in and feel more companies should support. Although I find the “live like a local” narrative a bit cliche these days, I think it’s important to interact with those not necessarilly associated with the mainstream tourism industry of a country during your travels.
Picking A Local
I was skeptical when I first started browsing WithLocals site. I’ve “lived” in Bangkok a few months a year for over five years now. So I know this city pretty well. I wasn’t sure that I would find anything that not only appealed to me but where I could see something I hadn’t already seen dozens of times. Upon initial browsing I didn’t see much, I then looked a bit deeper into each “locals” profile and what they were offering and found a few intriguing options. I decided on a Local Food Tour at Night.
I’ve been on several food tours in Bangkok but never at night. So I figured this was as good a time as any. The booking process is relatively straight forward. What I do like is the interface, and regular reminders WithLocals sends out. The WithLocals site isn’t groundbreaking by any means. But what is groundbreaking is the experience their cultivating. My tour was simply excellent.
Locals Showing Us Bangkok’s Chinatown
My guides, Good, and Faiy are founders of SiamRise Travel. Experts in Thailand tourism with interpersonal skills that put us at ease and made it feel less like a tour and more like friends showing you around. We had a small four-person group which meant we received a lot of attention to our questions and inquiries. This is important on a tour of this kind because food markets are tight places. Many don’t understand this.
The last thing anyone wants is a group of 20 people trying to navigate the markets of Bangkok. What made this tour special for me was it wasn’t exactly about Thai street food. It focused on the Chinese/Thai street food scene in Chinatown. Many don’t know that several aspects of Thai food originated in China.
Here are the dishes we tried.
– Kra Por Pla (Fish Maw Soup)
– Kuay Chap (Rolled Noodle Soup with Pork)
– Pad Thai (Stir-Fried Noodle)
– Larb Moo (Minced Pork Salad)
– Bua Loy Naam Khing (Sesame Ball in Ginger Tea)
– Pa Tong Koh Yang (Grilled Chinese Donut with Topping as Condensed Milk and Pandan Custard)
I’ve tried all of these dishes before, with the exception of Bua Loy Naam Khing. But the beauty of Bangkok is no two vendors make the same dish alike. And I must say, I found a couple of new favorites here. Now the gem of this trip was being taken on a Tuk Tuk ride to a secret rooftop bar. I’m not going to say where it is. But let me tell you, the views are stunning, and not a lot of people know about it.
A Truly Surprising Experience.
It’s difficult to write how surprised I was by just how much fun I had learning about the Chinese influence on Thai cuisine. Even though I’ve been covering Bangkok for years now, having local Thai’s taking through dark alleys to secret places got me excited again. This tour rekindled my passion for Thailand and Bangkok by exposing me to a side of the city rarely seen. A must try for anyone visiting or living in Bangkok.
Whats your favorite food tour experience? Where would you go for one?