In December 2018, we travelled in Cambodia for 10 days. I was looking for unique things to do in Siem Reap, Cambodia and came across Backstreet Academy’s website by accident. After checking out their site, I fell in love with their concept and philosophy. We decided to book Backstreet Academy’s medieval knife making class, and it became my first ever experience with the Academy.
The booking process was clear and painless. After your booking, they will send you an email with instructions and direction. READ THE INSTRUCTION THOROUGHLY. We failed to dress accordingly because we were wearing sandals. Although we didn’t get into trouble, our host was genuinely worried about our safety. We also get to choose whether you want a pickup service or extra add-ons (if available.) Our host thought Jim can’t easily get delicious mango in Sweden is one of the most terrible things in life.
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With modern technology, tools and weapons are mostly factory-made. Although our hosts still supply handmade tools to the workers and farmers in Siem Reap, the art of blacksmithing is dying. That being said, I’m truly grateful that Backstreet Academy is doing what they do, so crafts like this get to be remembered and hopefully, preserved.
I couldn’t really talk much for the video since there were also other blacksmiths working, so the background noise was rather loud. Anyhow, we got to experience every stage of the medieval knife making process. If we couldn’t manage, our hosts would take over to make sure we did it right. In the end, they helped us to polish up the final products, so we brought beautiful knives home.
What is Backstreet Academy?
Backstreet Academy is a peer-to-peer travel platform that connects travellers to local artists and artisans. Travellers get to learn about traditional arts and crafts like an apprentice. Currently, The Academy has 1200+ of experiences in multiple destinations around Southeast Asia. While travel industry generates lots of profits each year, often times, the revenues don’t go back to the locals. However, Backstreet Academy believes that making profits and social impact should go hand-in-hand.
To me, one of the most wonderful things about booking experiences with Backstreet Academy is that you get to meet the locals and spend quality time with them. Even if there was a language barrier, I didn’t feel restricted. In contrary, I felt closer to the land I travelled.
Even if there was a language barrier, I didn't feel restricted. In contrary, I felt closer to the land I travelled.
A Great way to keep lost arts and crafts alive
One of my greatest fears is the disappearance of minority cultures that their arts and music will eventually die with time. By booking experiences with Backstreet Academy, you’re supporting the arts and culture that are usually away from the spotlight. It’s a way to bring your travel a different meaning and build unique memories. Plus, half of the payment goes to the hosts.
Curious about other Backstreet Academy experiences? Watch my vlog on YouTube learning Khmer traditional music instrument in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with Cambodian teachers.
Are you ready to do good when you travel? Besides Cambodia, Backstreet Academy also offers classes and experiences around the cities in Nepal, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, Myanmar, Thailand, and Malaysia. If you plan to travel around in Southeast Asia, make sure you check out their site!
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Have you taken any classes while travelling? Leave a comment and tell me about your experience!
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Also published on Medium.