Responsible tourism: Lantern festival tour in Thailand
Most of the hotels on our trip are locally-owned and -operated. Approximately half of the hotels in which we stay on this trip are made from local materials, such as bamboo and palm leaves. Our jungle bungalows, tree house hotels and floating lake huts in Khao Sok and Doi Saket are eco hotels that use limited electricity. Since the trips are run in the dry, cooler months, the lack of air conditioning is never an issue. The design of each bungalow, hut and tree house varies considerably, often at the whim of the owner, but for the most part they do not clash with the lovely rural surroundings. Our jungle bungalows in Khao Sok National Park actually have a very interesting story that started in the 1970s. It was essentially the first 'eco-hotel' in SE Asia, even before the whole 'eco' movement even started. On the ride to Khao Sok, we will give a short history of the hotel and how Khao Sok was very lucky to become a national park as well as how it escaped the destructive hands of the logging industry.
The floating lake huts we go to are some of the last remaining lake huts that are still family owned and operated. These also have an interesting story behind them and the guides will be happy to share it with you on the transit to the lake huts. The lake huts do not have electricity and you will be given a lantern for light when it gets dark. The bathrooms are shared, self-sustaining and on the main land and there is no hot water. Welcome to the jungle!
Since there will not be any restaurants in some of the areas we visit, we will have dinner prepared by a local family. The dinner will be made of whatever ingredients are local and in season.
On our trips, you are given choice in your daily schedule and we also make sure to have a selection of activities that helps rather than hinders the environment. For example, in Railay Beach you will be given the option of participating in a beach clean up project that happens once a week. You will also be given a choice to participate in a cooking class for which the proceeds go to providing food to the most in need in Bangkok. Many of the activities you can choose from leave zero carbon footprint and all of the activities are with locals who know the area rather than with big companies who are trying to exploit the surroundings for profit.
The carbon footprint is minimal on this trip. We will spend 4 days in Railay, which is a completely walkable 'town' with no cars in the area. In Khao Sok and in Doi Saket, all of our activities are either on the premises or nearby, so we will not need to use transport. In Chiang Mai, we use tuks tuks to get around and 'red buses' which is how the locals get around.
Thailand has been a popular destination for many travelers for more than a decade. Most travelers stick to drinking bottled water and because of this, the plastic waste epidemic is very apparent in Thailand. Plastic bags and bottles litter too many of the beaches and rivers all around Thailand.
You are probably wondering what can be done to prevent this. Luckily, there has been some really positive action taken relatively recently. All of the 12 hotels and guesthouses in which we stay at on this trip have now started using glass water bottles with the exception of the hotel that we stay at in Bangkok. Everyone will have two refillable glass water bottles in their rooms. You can either fill your own water bottle up with this water or pour the water into the glasses provided to you by the hotel. You will get two water bottles placed in your room daily by the hotel staff. Also, if you want more, you can just go to the reception and ask. They are always happy to oblige. This small action is making a huge impact on the plastic waste epidemic in Thailand.
There are also some ways that our travelers can help. We ask that when you go to a store to buy something, just put whatever you bought into your backpack or day pack rather than into a plastic bag. At the start of your trip, we will even teach you a few essential Thai words. One of them will be : "It's OK". This way, when you have purchased something and the clerk starts to put it in a plastic bag, you can tell him or her "It's OK" in Thai and help to reduce the amount of plastic waste!
On this trip, there are 3 flights over a 15-day period. This is because the journeys are very long if done by bus or train. For example, if we were to make our transfers by bus instead of by plane, it would take between 11 and 28 hours approximately.
Low budget airlines run daily flights to many of the smaller towns and cities across Thailand and other parts southeast Asia. Because of this, bus and train travel has become much less popular as the cost of an airline ticket and bus ticket are similar. As a result, flights are nearly full because most people are opting to take flights rather than long and arduous bus journeys.
Taking a car solo over these long distances has the same basic impact on the climate as taking an 80 percent full plane flight a similar distance. (This is based on a study published in Environmental Study and Technology.) Almost all of the flights we take will be full and this is due to the low cost of the plane ticket as well as the convenience. The buses are not nearly as full as they were 10 years ago, but still run just as frequently. These days, many travelers have chosen to take the short 1 hour flight over the 17 hour bus ride for nearly the same cost. This means that the buses are not full and have a larger carbon footprint compared to a full flight.
Our local guides know all of the best kept secrets and off the beaten path sites to help our travelers experience the best that Thailand has to offer. They will always recommend the best local establishments and places of interest based on your interests and their personal favorites, so you know you're getting an authentic experience. In this way, the local economy is stimulated and the Thai people also benefit.
Our travelers will visit a wonderful elephant conservation called Elephants World outside of Bangkok that rescues elephants from horrible circumstances and is one of the largest conservation sanctuaries in Thailand. This cause is one that is very close to our hearts and we have become regular donors to keep such a worthwhile cause alive.
We think the best way to support a community is to buy local to support vendors and business owners who often work endless hours to support themselves and their families. Luckily, our lengthy experience in Thailand as well as our very knowledgeable local guide can tell you where to get local hand-made items from small business that are run by locals and who are trying to make their locality a better place. One of our favorites is cafe 'Free Bird' in Chiang Mai, which donates much of its profits to Burmese refugees.
We stay uniquely at small locally owned accommodations, boutique style hotels, which are owned and run by local citizens. Unlike the large chain hotels and resorts, the owners and workers of the accommodations see more direct financial benefits. We also urge our travelers to try to speak and interact with the workers and owners at their accommodations to get a feel for life in Thailand and to inspire cultural exchange and education.