Talking Travel with Tour Leader Krista Routledge
Insider Journeys tour leader Krista Routledge has been leading tours in Asia with Insider Journeys for over six years, and says she loves her job even more now than when she started.
We caught up with Krista to find out what inspires her so much, where she recommends her family and friends travel to and her secrets for getting great travel pictures.
Q: What do you love most about travelling through Asia? What are your favourite places to travel to and why?
A: I’m incredibly lucky; I’ve been guiding across Asia for over ten years, with the last six and a half with Insider Journeys, and I love it more now than when I started. I currently lead tours to China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, India and Myanmar, and they’re all so different. I have a better understanding of the cultures and people of the places we visit now, and appreciate it more once I get to know a country.
My passengers benefit from my passion – as a tour leader, it’s important I know and love the countries I work in, and I’m very protective of my destinations. It’s very hard to really pick a favourite, but if I had to choose, I’m particularly loving India, and its combination of people, sites and food, at the moment. The Pushkar camel fair is an incredible experience.
My highlights include spending time with locals, exploring markets and meeting people. I do love the big cities like Ho Chi Minh and Shanghai, and for a more off the beaten track experience, Laos.
Q: What are insights travellers should know about our destinations?
A: A big insight for me is to recommend people visit during festivals. Seeing a country at a special time of year – such as Vietnam during Tet – brings out an energy and excitement. Travel might be a little more difficult, but it’s worth it to see everyone as they gear up for the celebrations.
Our Insider Experiences show something a little different, such as food tours which take people through back streets, something they wouldn’t ordinarily do if by themselves. In Myanmar, we take a trip down from Mandalay, stopping in traditional villages that are famous for different products. It’s great to get out of the cities, to see how people really live. Likewise, in Yangon, we run walking tours where passengers get the chance to meet and eat like the locals, having tea and snacks.
I think our responsible tourism approach is also really important. We support organisations like Healing the Wounded Heart in Hue, Vietnam, which is a humanitarian project that helps disabled artisans, or DHONK, a women’s cooperative in Ranthambore, India which trains poachers’ families how to earn a living through handicrafts and small loans.
Q: Where do you recommend your family and friends go to?
A: It’s too difficult to pinpoint one place; there’s such a variety, of history, but also natural beauty of places. For India, I suggest they go to a National Park. One of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had was seeing two tigers in the wild. The feeling when you see one is beyond words.
In Cambodia, the temples are a definite must, while in Laos, the waterfalls are breathtaking. The sheer volume of water at Kuang Si, in the south, is impressive, and the dolphins around the 4000 Islands are well worth it.
Inle Lake is one of my favourite places in Myanmar, while in Vietnam, Halong Bay and Hoi An for eating oneself silly top the list. In China, I recommend they visit the Great Wall at Mutianyu, where it’s quieter, and you can sometimes even get photos without anyone else in them.
Q: Are there things travellers should know and be sensitive to when travelling in Asia? How can you best photograph your trip but remain culturally sensitive at the same time?
A: Cultural sensitivity is important. At holy places, in places like Varanasi in India, many tourists can be indiscrete. They’re ‘in the faces’ of locals. I advise my travellers to be respectful of their beliefs, of these important religious moments for them.
A lot of people are happy to have their photos taken, but it’s better to interact with them first – engage, have a laugh together – then ask. Some will say no, but many will enjoy letting you take their photo.
Q: How do you take such great photographs, and do you have any tips about what makes a great shot?
A: Photography is only a hobby for me – I’m not trained, but it’s something that I love doing. I particularly like pictures of people, their faces; it’s the colours that I love, of tribal clothing, wizened faces and children. Sunsets and early mornings are beautiful times of day. My advice is to take lot of photos, and end up culling, then the key is the editing afterwards.
Q: Any final words of wisdom?
A: One of the best things you can do as a person is to see the world. Get out of your comfort zone, get involved and get into it.