Malaysian artisans who offer authentic local travel experiences

Wilson Teh conducts tea appreciation at his family home in Penang to preserve the age-old tradition. Photo: WILSON TEH/Airbnb

Experiential travel has been the buzzword in the scene for the past few years, and experts say it will only continue its stronghold as travellers remain committed to seeking out local and authentic experiences.

Those authentic experiences are perhaps best sought from local artisans or long-time residents of a particular destination. In fact, many practitioners and local experts have been listing their workshops and services on online platforms.

For tea enthusiast Wilson Teh who list his service on Airbnb Experiences, experiential travel can help keep age-old customs alive. That is why he conducts a tea appreciation workshop for interested visitors at his family home in Penang.

“Tea culture is a local traditional heritage that dates back at least 1,000 years. Tea drinking is a meaningful way of life. It is a way to reunite and gather a family together at the table, ” he shares.

However, Teh – whose appreciation for tea was ignited after an encounter with a monk at a Buddhist temple in the island state – says this tradition is at risk of being forgotten.

“We are gradually losing this time-honoured tradition in our communities. When I conduct my workshops, I found that there are actually more foreign tourists than locals who signed up for my classes, ” he says.

According to Teh, many locals have the perception that joining a cultural workshop is boring and expensive.

“It is such a shame to see that Westerners know more about our culture than we do, ” he laments. Teh adds that the young Chinese generation in Penang is slowly forgetting about the art of tea, preferring to frequent cafes instead.

Fuad Fahmy begs to differ, saying that he has been observing more younger Malaysians who are keen to experience local cultures. He runs a heritage walk at Kampung Baru, the last Malay enclave in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

Fuad Fahmy (in white) enjoys showing visitors around Kampung Baru and share stories of his childhood home. -- SHAARI CHEMAT/The StarFuad Fahmy (in white) enjoys showing visitors around Kampung Baru and share stories of his childhood home. -- SHAARI CHEMAT/The Star

“More millennials are seeking out cultural experiences. They want to know not only the regular touristy things, but also learn more about the culture and history of a place, ” Fuad explains.

Fuad shares that parents will sometimes bring their children on his tour to learn more about Malay culture.

“You will get to learn more about a society’s unique culture through experiential travel, ” he says, adding that Malaysians should take the initiative to learn about the culture of all races in the country.

If anything, Fuad thinks experiential travel can also help Malaysians do some “soul-searching” within the comfort and familiarity of their homeland.

For Fuad who was born and bred in Kampung Baru, conducting a heritage walking tour in his own backyard is his way of showcasing the beauty of his home’s culture, heritage and food.

The man always feels a sense of pride whenever travellers take genuine interest in his village.

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experiential travel , Malaysia , culture , holiday


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