Sustainable Travel in Thailand: A Homestay at the Ban Rai Kong Khing Community
Thailand is one of the most visited countries in the world with almost 40 million tourists arriving in the “Land of Smiles” in the year before the pandemic. However, this influx of visitors has also led to some rather busy towns, islands and attractions which can often feel more stressful than insightful due to the large crowds of tourists. But how might you escape these noisy crowds and experience a more true or authentic side of Thailand?
Community-based tourism is the answer and you need look no further than a cultural experience at the Ban Rai Kong Khing Community in Chiang Mai. But before we talk about this experience, let’s firstly take a quick look at community-based tourism itself.
What is Community-based tourism (CBT)?
Community-based tourism (CBT) is a sustainable model which promotes local communities and invites tourists to learn more about local culture and customs. In recent times, this tourism model has gained traction in Thailand as more and more visitors yearn for more “real” or authentic experiences. It’s a win-win situation because this influx of tourists provides locals with much needed income and economic benefits.
Some CBT communities offer a homestay experience in which visitors can live, eat and sleep in the home of a real family in rural Thailand. During their stay, tourists can also learn about local cuisine and handicrafts, while participating in traditional ceremonies. While some tour operators do visit such places, these types of stays are only available directly through the actual communities which creates a more immersive experience.
Meet the Ban Rai Kong Khing Community in Chiang Mai
In the north of Thailand, visitors are encouraged to stay at the Ban Rai Kong Khing Community in Chiang Mai. This community belongs to the Lanna people who engage in CBT by allowing visitors to live within the community and learn about the local way of life. The Lanna people are one of many ethnic groups in the country and their traditions and ways have been largely preserved due to the remote nature of their home.
Simply put, living at Ban Rai Kong Khing is a truly authentic experience and the type of adventure where every day is different. For instance, one day you might be working with a rice farmer and weaving bamboo or perhaps learning all about herbal medicine from the local doctor. Cooking is another obvious benefit as the Lanna people are famous for their dishes and you can participate in cooking classes which use ingredients from the same area. An extended stay at the Ban Rai Kong Khing Community is also an opportunity to escape the noisy tourist hotspots and chaos of the modern world in general. After all, life moves slowly in rural Thailand and the only way to adapt is to slow down and learn how to appreciate the wholesome nature of this much older way of life.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that a community-based stay in Thailand is not just a great experience from which visitors can benefit. These trips make a hugely positive impact on such local communities by providing income and a means of preserving their traditions and way of life. That being said, the price of a homestay at the Ban Rai Kong Khing Community is rather low; another reason you might want to go!
In case you might be asking yourself, there are small tour operators that organize these type of trips such as Nutty’s Adventures. Also, here’s a few more options for community-based trips in Thailand that you might want to check out:
Ban Huay Hom (Mae Hong Son) – This hill tribe invites tourists to participate in the village by learning how to cook and make handicrafts. There is also the opportunity to visit a local school and there are many hiking trails to explore in the surrounding area.
Koh Yao Noi (Phang Nga) – There is an island community down south in Thailand where visitors can stay with a local family. This is a unique experience because you can also learn to fish with the experts and then swim, snorkel and kayak in your spare time.
Baan Talae Nok (Krabi) – Krabi is a very popular tourist spot but this community feels like a long way from all the noise. Aside from the homestay at Baan Talae Nok, you can participate in mangrove planting or perhaps learn about sea turtle conservation.
Community-based tourism is on the rise and a trip tothe Ban Rai Kong Khing is an ideal way to experience a truly authentic experience in Thailand. You can literally live with the locals and learn about Thai culture in a way that can seem absent in crowded hotspots. That said, this tourism model is also hugely beneficial to the locals and if you really do care about sustainable travel, such a homestay is a win-win option you should explore.
Cover: Empty bungalows in Krabi, Thailand. Photo: Jennifer Richardson
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Derek Cullen is an adventurer and travel writer from Dublin, Ireland. Having traveled the world in search of new experiences since 2008, Derek now spends most of his time leading adventure tours through Africa.