Joe Cummings talking about Bangkok’s history along the Chaopraya river.
Welcoming guests from all over the world is the complete opposite of a one-man show. We’ve blogged before about how much work goes on behind the scenes when we get a booking, and visitors to the Smiling Albino website can meet our office staff, adventure hosts, and advisors at the “Who we are” page. But we think it’s time we show some love for some of the other people who make our trips so unique and memorable – our Expert Hosts.
Over the years, Smiling Albino has built up a superb list of friends who sometimes work with us, specialists in a wide variety of areas that add depth and color to any trip they’re part of. Just as no two trips are the same, no two hosts are the same either, and depending on the particular theme of a trip or interest of our guests, we can tailor the hosting experience to add a particular twist to your adventure.
Here’s a list of some of the expert hosts Smiling Albino uses to liven up a dinner, join on a day-trip, or give a custom-tailored presentation on their area of expertise.
Of course, our distinguished founder has a hand in almost every element of our trips, but doesn’t have time to lead every one. However, Daniel can be counted on to bring a little something extra to the table if the occasion calls for it. World traveler, television star, film actor, and Thai language specialist, Daniel can talk about the landscape of Thai cinema, the finances that drive television/internet productions, or the difference between ใกล้ (glai) and ไกล (glai). Hint – they sound the same but mean the opposite.
Legendary travel writer, superb blues musician, actor, author and all-around renaissance man, Joe has been traveling in, documenting, and studying Thailand and all its foibles for 40+ years. Joe loves to regale Smiling Albino guests with some of the crazy stories he’s collected, or introduce them to topics near and dear to Thai culture; everything from the history of the Chao Phraya River to the intricate and mystical art of Sak Yant tattoos. Any time spent with Joe will only deepen your interest in Asia.
Author of Very Thai, one of the best books on Thai culture available, Phil has spent his decades in the Kingdom getting to know all the little details and weird little ticks that makes the country such an interesting place. Spending time with Phil is a great deep-dive into all the curious and little-known things we all see on an average day here, from transgender culture, to Thai attitudes on politics, to why street food stalls have tiny pink tissues instead of real cloth napkins.
If it’s hidden in the Cambodian countryside, Nick has probably visited it, whether by foot, bike, kayak or four-wheel drive. An expert in the complicated flora, fauna, and water ecology of Cambodia, Nick gets his energy and inspiration from the forests, lakes, plains and wildlife of his adopted home. If you’re a fan of adventure travel, Nick can provide some pretty interesting first-hand insights into clearing jungle vines from 1,000-year old ruins, going off of waterfalls in a kayak, and developing eco-tourism initiatives that provide some much-needed sustainable income to isolated and overlooked areas of Cambodia.
Dr. Damien Evans
Working from the research center of Sydney University in Siem Reap, Damien has done more to advance the knowledge of the sprawling, ancient temples of the Khmer Empire in the past few years than has been done in the past few decades. Using laser and satellite technology, Damien and his team have greatly expanded the scope of the ancient civilization and our understanding of it… and sitting down with a cold Angkor beer to listen to him explain it all is a thrill for any amateur historian or archeologist.
Anyone returning from a trip to Southeast Asia will undoubtedly do so with thousands of photographs – but we’re willing to bet none will be as nice as the ones John takes. One of Asia’s best-known photographers, his work has appeared in everything from Newsweek to the New York Times, and his work is part of the permanent collection at the National Museum in Phnom Penh. For photography buffs, John can provide great insight into his process and the art of photography, and maybe give you a few inside tips on just how he gets his amazing photos to look so ethereal and lifelike.
Loan Nguyen Foster
Descendant of an aristocratic family going back to the early 13th century, Loan thrives on giving visitors an inside look at the rich and storied culture that Vietnam lays claim to. Her family escaped during the war, after which she returned to do her part to help revitalize the country; in doing so, she’s become known as one of Vietnam’s most fashionable and engaging hostesses. This is due in no small part to her bubbly personality and enthusiasm for making new friends against the backdrop of ruins, tombs, and mountains – not to mention the famous dinners and cooking classes she hosts in her renovated villa on the edge of Hanoi’s West Lake. She also speaks seven languages, so no matter where you’re from, Loan can knock down any communication barriers.
Unlike contemporaries Laos, Thailand and Cambodia, Vietnam is chockablock with artists, galleries, and exhibitions, and Suzanne is one of the leading voices in this area. Her eye for detail and ability to find and promote talent has made her private VIP gallery exhibitions must-attend events in artistic circles. Suzanne loves to introduce people to the incredible talent that Vietnam is exporting to the world, and can lead our guests through an enriching, eye opening tour of some of Vietnam’s best galleries and most exciting artists, providing rich descriptions and behind the scenes details along the way.
From the time he was a boy riding bikes along the lush Mekong Delta, Khoa has had a connection with the landscape and people of Vietnam like few people do. A guide for over 13 years with an English wife and two daughters, Khoa can easily bridge the two cultures, providing insights and experiences in the unique and hidden corners of Vietnam, speaking at length and answering even the most random questions about Vietnamese food, history, culture, and coffee.