Getting out of your tourist bubble
Some of the most memorable experiences on your trip will be when you get out of the “tourist bubble” and engage with the locals. If you do, there will be endless moments of unpretentious fun, innocent interactions and cultural learning. One interesting aspect in Asian countries is that its streets are, more often than not, used not only to commute but also as recreational spaces. Places where families and friends gather to have food or drinks, play or simply hangout. Moreover, considering the interest shown by the locals in games, a great opportunity for connection is to join every time you see them engaging in some sort of outdoor sport of hobby. Asian streets are for playing!
From some kind of version of checkers in Vietnam…
… to chess in Cambodia …
… to normal checkers in Laos but played with bottle caps!
Also in Laos, you can try petanque, a game left by the French during colonial times (and that you can also find in Vietnam and Cambodia, that were part of the old French Indochine as well)
Going to Thailand for a bit, why not joining local kids and playing with them?
In Vietnam, kids also seem interest to engage in some kind of king fu role play…
… while in Laos they still use many times traditional and beautiful toys:
In Vietnam, badminton is so popular that people don’t mind to set up the nets blocking the whole sidewalk…
… while in Cambodia they love to play with something very similar to the object used in badminton but with their feet (you can see it in the air in the middle of the photo, they kick it from one person to another without letting touch the floor)
If what you want is some exercise, why not joining some aerobic/dance classes that you can find in the streets of any Cambodian big city? (If you are in Phnom Penh check the riverside, the Vietnamese Friendship Park and the Olympic Stadium)
The most important thing is to not only meet other travellers but also local people, learn their culture, have fun with them. This helps to break the barrier that often is set by default between locals and tourists, the poor and the rich, the westerns and the “Easterns”. Empathy and connection can start with such a simple thing as a game and, you know, Asian streets are for playing!