FEATURED TRAVELLER: Breanna Martell, an Algonquin Travel & Tourism student talks about her experience on our first trip run with our partners Passport and a Toothbrush on their videography/photography tour, THAILAND IN FOCUS.
During the Thailand in focus tour, we saw what it was to live the everyday life of the locals. Being a Travel and Tourism student, I know that many of the bigger tour companies like to “explore” Thailand by visiting the big cities that are Americanized and hardly skim the surface of actual Thai culture.
The partnership between Original Trails and Passport and a Toothbrush is one that is hard to beat. The personal connections with the locals that Passport and a Toothbrush have, along with Original Trails commitment to ethical and community based tourism, blended together beautifully for this once in a lifetime trip.
Having a small group cooking lesson with a local family, and being shown the town by someone who knows the community like the back of their hand is something that separated “Thailand in Focus” from other major tours in Thailand. Their partnerships with local community groups provide for a great opportunity to discover unique areas of Southern Thailand that are accommodating to tourists, while straying from the well tread tourist path, and really learning about the area.
All of this comes together to give you a true Thai experience; one that pays locals fairly and doesn’t exploit this country, which is unfortunately all too common.
The first few days we were in the village of Khao Sok. Although the ride up from Phuket made us feel as though we were in the middle of nowhere, this vibrant little village consisted of a handful of local restaurants, an Internet cafe and a few local shops. During our stay at Our Jungle House, we encountered nature and landscapes like I’ve never seen before; the beautiful limestone cliffs, some of the most unique trees I’ve seen and even a few monkey encounters.
The first day, we spent much the afternoon at the local pre-school and elementary. We were lucky enough to learn some local Thai dance moves and sing some songs with the preschooler’s, easily some of my fondest memories from this trip.
Then we were off to beautiful Cheow Lan Lake. Our first activity was exploring a cave that cut through one of the massive cliffs and boating around the lake. It was all breathtaking but we were all very excited to get to our temporary homes for the night, the floating bungalows. Immediately after arriving, everyone from the group started jumping into the water (some of the warmest water I’ve ever swam in) and spent the rest of the night relaxing in the “dining bungalow” on the edge of the dock, looking over the gorgeous scenery.
Next up was Khurabouri. A small town, but with vibrant morning and night markets, was where we met up with Andaman Discoveries. Andaman was started after the 2004 tsunami to help the local communities economy recover by bringing in tourism. Our guide Lindsey was our translator and link to the locals in the area. She toured us around the town, and brought us on a day trip to a local school for Burmese children.
During our second day in Khurabouri, we traveled island of Koh Surin, a small but beautiful island that was home to the Moken. These formerly nomadic people were thought of as sea gypsies, living nearly their entire lives on boats. They now inhabit a small village on the island, but still try to live their lives as their culture would have dictated centuries ago.
Experiencing the Moken village first hand was really an eye opener. I now know that the North American lifestyle I currently live is not what I want in my future. They lived very simple lives, harvesting what they need from the surrounding jungles, with the sea providing their food. Everyone just seemed so happy and peaceful all the time. Something I aspire to have in my life.
Thailand in Focus was an amazing experience in seeing Thai life through a local’s eyes, as well as participating in local community projects that allow these areas to flourish.Thank you Original Trails and Passport and a Toothbrush, for showing me the real Thailand.