To me, one of the best things about traveling is meeting people from other cultures and telling their stories through words and pictures. Talking with or observing the local people is a great way to learn about the history and customs of the destination you are visiting.
My favorite way to people watch in any city is to hang out in local cafes. A group of friends laughing at the corner table, the mother with a sleeping toddler in the seat next to mine, a couple holding hands at the counter, and two women dressed in hijabs loosely draped over their heads and shoulders speaking in a quiet tone to each other--all tell stories through their laughter, the clothes they are wearing, a gesture, or the way they speak.
I also learn a lot about a destination’s culture by visiting places of worship. In temples, shrines, and cathedrals you will find the usual gold or bronze religious statues, ancient tombs, descriptions written on headstones and wall plaques. But the way people display, and express their faith tells a lot about the local history and culture.
On a recent trip to Thailand and Japan, I spent hours walking the grounds of Buddhist temples and shrines seeking to learn its history. I immersed myself in the peaceful beauty of each location and witnessed the people’s devotion to Buddhism.
I had a three-hour tour of Wat Pho with a local farmer who shared his passion for the origin story of Buddha and the history of Bangkok with me. I observed people of all ages light incense to make offerings and say prayers at worship stations located at the Shrine of Guan Yu and the Big Buddha Temple, on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand.