This is one 'tourist trap' you'll love

Discover Asia, develop an artistic skill, do a good deed - all at the same time.

I think what Backstreet Academy does is very interesting.

It's like AirBnB but even better: it offers a very local experience to tourists and gives artisans who often have little or no education but have an expert skill set, a chance to earn a living by sharing their art with tourists.

My team and I went to Siem Reap tell Backstreet's story and got to soak up a myriad of experiences.

We got to make some traditional art in the form of iron pencil sketchings and stone carvings.

For the hunter in us, we made knives and crossbows, and for our fashionable side, we made trendy bracelets from copper wire, as well as bags from recycled cement bags and rubber tyres.

We learnt Bokator, a traditional Cambodian martial arts, as well as Apsara dancing, the images of which dot the famous Angkor Wat temple complex.

We fished and farmed rice and rode on ox-carts. And we got to round off our Siem Reap experience with an authentic Cambodian spice cocktail-making workshop.

In my previous experience in Siem Reap a few years before, the only opportunities I could see for the locals was to offer their services as tuk-tuk drivers and work at eateries or tourist attractions.

But through Backstreet, I saw that local artisans, not just in Cambodia but elsewhere in Asia, can use their unique - often traditional - skills to earn a living.

I think that's important, so that in years to come, as technology and the human race advances, future generations can still learn about the arts we have now.

Plus, the artisans we met seemed grateful for the opportunity to share their art with us and to use it to earn a living.

Some have even gone on to help their countrymen. Imagine the impact if more such artisans could use their art and skill to make a decent living?

Backstreet Academy was one of four winners in the 2013 edition of the Singapore International Foundation's Young Social Entrepreneur programme. To find out what local experiences and impact you can have on your travels, go here.

About Backstreet Academy

Founded in 2014, Backstreet Academy is a social enterprise that provides offbeat experiences to travellers, while empowering the local community. To date, they offer over 1,000 experiences in more than 40 cities in Asia.


Writer & Filmmaker

Tan Teck Kuan

Additional Camera Work

Deryck Tan