Thailand. – The focus of my time in Thailand was to learn about sustainable eco-tourism from the communities that I would visit.
Fortunate enough to be one of 80 participants of the Amazing Thailand Green Mega Fam Trip gathered in Bangkok from Europe, Asia, Africa and North America. We enjoyed a welcome briefing and introduction at the Pathumwan Princess Hotel, the following day splitting into three groups to explore a variety of sustainable, cultural and ecotourism offerings promoted under the 2015 Discover Thainess campaign.
The first group headed to Discover the Untold Stories of the Rivers and the Adventure Escapade route in the provinces of Samut Songkhram and Kanchanaburi. The second headed to the Northeastern province of Loei for a Revealing the Land of Mystical Culture which would showcase the faith and belief of local communities. The third group – mine – was to Explore the Way of Nature in beautiful Trat.
Taking an early and convenient flight from Bangkok on Bangkok Air, we arrived in the rather remote and lesser known Trat, or Trad as the locals call it. Here we were lucky enough to visit three community based tourism projects and learn how the work they do uplifts the local communities while providing a rich, cultural experience for travellers.
Nam Chiao Community
We spent a day with the Ban Nam Chiao Ecotourism community who live on the canal, with their colourful boats adding a vibrancy to the narrow waterway.
They have been involved in culinary based tourism for 11 years and have now branched into the sustainable sector. We enjoyed cooking demos, lots of eating, a boat trip to catch Tongue Shell, lessons in how to make Ngop woven hats. Also a cycle trip around the village, which I loved. This is a community of Muslims and Buddhists living peacefully with an ancient temple a short walk from the 200 year old mosque.
One of the highlights was planting a mangrove tree and letting young crabs caught in fishing nets, back into the water, so that they may grow big. There were many lesson in warmth and hospitality, a perfect introduction to Thai culture and how these very real communities are benefiting from tourist visits.
Bridge over the canal. Has to be walked.
The colourful fishing boats on the teal green water.
Weaving fresh flower offerings to be bought and taken to temple.
Learning to make the sweet coconut candy, Tangme Krop, which is especially popular during the Ramadan fasting period.
A bird in a cage over the water. There were many of these lining the elevated pathway.
Planting a mangrove tree in the protected swamp area that borders the canal. These areas are increasingly important as with rising water levels the mangroves stabilize the main lands. Today, permission from the community is required to cut a tree down, but even then is frowned upon.
Releasing the undersize crabs.
Out on the water diving for tongue shell, which is considered a delicacy.
The ladies of the of the community leading us on our cycle tour.
Chong Changtune Community
The Chong Changtune community aims their focus on the tradition of health and wellness, which is deeply ingrained in their culture. Enjoying a deep Thai massage with herbal compress ball treatment and Spa de Chong, a herbal steam treatment in a woven chicken coop invented here.
In the afternoon we took Salenger bikes down to the river for a White Mud Spa with the children mixing and applying the mud to our arms and shoulders. I simply loved lingering with them in the force of the water. In between more incredible warmth and delicious food.
There is a strong passion here for natural and cultural conservation and this was evident as we walked the area provided for tree plantation and the nature walk. The Chong people live strongly by their philosophy “whatever we take from nature, we have to give back”.
This incredible woman looks unsuspecting, but she really hurt me, in the nicest way of course.
Having my cleansing steam session in the crazy Spa de Chong chicken coop.
Spices and oils to enhance the experience.
Children of the community, learning from their elders, who in turn learnt from theirs.
Mixing the white sand mud with water and turmeric to make a mix they rub on your shoulders and arms.
The pleasure of princess treatment by these gorgeous girls.
This is the area of the famed Siamese rubies and we had a go looking for some in the river. Some precious stones were found.
Ready, steady go …Our Salenger bikes and drivers.
Huai Raeng Community
All of the communities touched me in different ways, yet the sense of space and calm in the wooded Huai Raeng farming district was special.
Referred to as the ‘Land of Three Waters’, the fertility of the land and success of their agricultural projects is due to a combination of fresh, brackish, and salt water on the river. Here they demonstrate a respect and gentle coexistence with nature and the environment.
We took a cruise on the Khlong canal to see how they harvest palm leaves and catch prawn for consumption. Made betel palm leaf wraps, a traditional lunch pack with rice, salty eggs, walnuts, onion, pineapple. Also coconut oil and mangosteen soap, tasting the delicious freshly hacked open palm fruit which resembles litchi in flavour and texture.
All the while friendly dogs welcomed our attention and we could retreat to an elevated tree-house type shelter in the trees. A very good day.
Taking a long boat cruise on the Khlong canal.
Our guide demonstrating how they cut the different aged palms and set little traps up stream to catch the prawns. The palms along the river have many uses including soft leaves for rolling cigarettes and thicker leaves for making dams.
Betel palm leaf lunch pack making.
Coconut Oil making and palm fruit eating.
Three days rich in experiences, beautiful people and lessons in life. A true and honest look at the gentleness and respect with which these special communities co-exist with nature and ho openly they are prepared to share their lives with visitors and tourists.
It’s infectious, makes me want to bottle the goodness and spread it around the world. I highly recommend that your trip to Thailand includes a visit to this area. Even a home stay in the community is possible. At least a meal, laugh and cycle to bring the realisation that language isn’t a barrier when it comes to like minded people.
A sweet pup that I met along the way. Much loved and cared for. Such a cutie.
Read more about my Thailand experience here.
I travelled by invitation of Lesley Simpson Communications and was hosted by Tourism Authority of Thailand in association with 7 Greens Thailand and Local Alike, who advocate for sustainable ecotourism.
This very routing is offered with 7 Greens Thailand here.