Travelling just got more responsible, whether it is trekking, kayaking or just a stroll in the wild country, with a trip planned by Chickenfeet Travels. Mallika Naguran catches up with a rather unSingaporean Jin at a vegan shop in Bugis.
SINGAPORE, 10 April 2018. There were two things Jin and I griped about when we first met – how we both detest the mall culture in Singapore (making us feel like fish out of water even though we were both born and raised here), and the need for people to get more involved in creating good as they travel.
Still, we met in an air-conditioned mall in Bugis, sipping fresh juice (we said no to plastic straws however) as we got to know each other. Jin runs a newish outfit called Chickenfeet Travel.
If you like a nice holiday with a difference, somewhere exotic, someplace lovely but have no idea where to begin or how to plan for one, Jin might be able to help.
A positive impact travel company, Chickenfeet Travels aims to change the way people travel in Southeast Asia.
Junxiu Lu, or simply Jin as we call her, teamed up with her lawyer British friend Simon in Singapore who shared a thirst for adventure and a common goal to make it easier for like-minded people to explore the region. At the same time, they wanted make a positive impact on the environment and communities which they visit.
“People ask us what got us started,” spoke Jin quickly. “It is because of passion; passion for travel, for the environment, and for the people.”
“We also wanted to effect change on an individual level (for our customers) and community level (for our operators) to become responsible travellers and live a greener lifestyle,” she added.
To begin, they had checked out a number of new destinations in Asia and the best people to work with.
“We've done the research, tried and tested each trip, improved the logistics and optimised it for quick getaways. Our destinations are usually a bit difficult to find information on and even after you have spent that time looking, you still don’t know if your trip will be any good - that problem goes away when you book with us,” said Jin.
Travellers curious to visit lesser known destinations will benefit from the duo’s years of research and experience from travelling in the region. To date they have short trips, such as weekend getaways, and longer vacations planned in these countries: Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.
The Singapore-born tour operator has pretty much been travelling around the world since she was small. Jin used to work as a scuba diving instructor before deciding to start her own business that is not a run-off-the-mill tour operation.
Chickenfeet Travels also ensures that their local partners and guides are the best. By supporting locally-operated businesses and small-scale operations guarantees you are not "just a number" but instead a person with a story of your own.
Chickenfeet believes that when you travel local with locals who protect their part of the planet, you are doing your part to support the right people doing the right thing.
So positive impact travel is at the core of Chickenfeet’s philosophy and practice: empowering local people in Southeast Asia, preserving nature and protecting its wildlife for the future.
“In Phong Nha of Vietnam, the guides are mostly women. This makes it important for us to support our tour partner there so as to empower the female community by raising their income potential,” said Jin.
Such motivations to invest in small operators ensure that tourism activities are beneficial to the communities, with multiple ripple effects for the good of the people as well as the environment.
In addition to only working with locals, it strives to influence change to a better, plastic-free, waste-free and more sustainable operation.
Just browse the blogs on Chickenfeet Travels website to learn how to travel without creating a plastic trail (using metal straws, collapsible containers etc.), how to travel like a pro (without being weighed down), and more.
Jin blogs on a regular basis and sees that as a tool to relay messages on responsible living and tourism. She also has intentions to improve the environmental conditions of certain places with local tour partners through initiatives such as Rubbish Free Rinjani and Eco Phong Nha Collective.
For a few highlights on what to expect on these trips, sample itineraries can be found below. Whether you’re interested in seeing orangutans in their natural habitats in Bukit Lawang or volcanoes and crater lakes in East Java, Chickenfeet Travels can help you plan and book everything in advance with the assurance that you will get all parts of the adventure with none of the hassle. Here’s are two examples:
- Bukit Lawang highlight is seeing the orangutans. Trip costs vary, depending on the size of the group and time involved. For two travelling together, it works out to S$375 per person, while for a group of six, it comes down to S$310 per person.
- East Java Trip highlights: two volcanoes, a crater lake and blue fire. For two travelling together, it works out to S$600 per person, while for a group of six, it is S$520 per person.
Chickenfeet will help you identify and book the best flights, which are an additional cost, as well as alert you to other extras, like national park fees, meals at the guesthouse, plus tips/gratuities.
As I finished my drink, I made a mental note to meet up with Jin next time under a tree sipping coconuts in Cambodia with a metal straw or cruising the deep sea in search of a blue whale in Sri Lanka. Maybe even diving like a local, in support of local operators, and supporting their plastic free movement. Why not? Everyone can make a difference for positive impact.
Photos courtesy of Chickenfeet Travels