I thought it is time to add something beyond the usual practical advise about planes, trains and buses.
Would be interesting to read other's ideas as well.
I noticed that many people just stick to their guidebook and main sights while they would also like to experience some local things etc. Normally people then tend to go to places that are not in a guidebook (and brag about it for the rest of their trip). My experience is that it doesn't need to be so difficult to experience something out of the ordinary.
You just need a plan/theme. It always worked for me.
My backpacking days are behind me but I still do this during hollidays. I just set myself a goal of visiting certain places that are related to my interests.
- One trip I decided to plant as much rice as possible. Other themes included visiting chess clubs, finding social geography teachers and so on
Off course you can visit orphanages or hospitals but that's not really original nor difficult.
The great thing about unusual themes is that it brings great interaction. Even those annoying touts/tuk tuk drivers change (one never charged me for a full day of driving around HCMC looking for a chess club because he had a fun day as well (we never found a club btw)) when put to the test and my best memories of my travels have always been related to my themes. Ok the wonderful sights were great but I will always remember playing that 10 year old boy in Hue who almost beat me at chess (and I'm not a bad player) or the first time I fell in a rice fields face forward (and the laughter of the farmers)