Thai Boxing, Muay Thai in Chiang Mai Thailand

Thai boxing, Muay Thai
Thai boxing, Muay Thai

The art of Thai Boxing, Muay Thai, has been the country’s most popular spectator sport for hundreds of years.

It is unique among other kinds of fighting disciplines in its approach to close quarters fighting. Fighters are able to more effectively use their elbows, knees, feet and fists than in other martial art.

The art of Muay Thai has been the country’s most popular spectator sport for hundreds of years.. It is unique among other kinds of fighting disciplines in its approach to close quarters fighting. Fighters are able to more effectively use their elbows, knees, feet and fists than in other martial art.

Muay Thai, Thai boxing
Muay Thai, Thai boxing

The sport differs from international-style boxing in several ways. International boxing allows the use of only the fists, and blows ‘below the belt or to the kidney area are illegal as are certain kinds of punches. In Muay Thai, the fighters are allowed to do almost anything so long as they don’t cover their opponent’s face with their gloves or poke their opponent’s eyes with their fingers. This makes it a more dangerous sport for the participants, but much more exciting for the Thai spectators .

Before every match, the two fighters dance around the ring to special boxing music. The music pervades the entire event, both uplifting and following the mood of the evening. The dance is called the ‘Raam Muay’ or ‘Wai Kru’ and is intended to honor and pay respect to the boxer’s trainer, his religion, family, sport and the ‘fighting spirits’ . Gamblers and spectators say that they can tell how a fighter will do in the ring simply by watching how he performs the ‘Raam Muay’.

One of Muay Thai’s most feared tactics is the use of elbows. Boxers have a whole repertoire of forward elbows, back elbows and guards. The fearsome Muay Thai fighters of old were said to be able to use their elbows as clubs, swords and axe – resulting from the hard bone at the tip of the elbow and the size of the appendage make it a fearsome weapon. One of the elbow attacks, the swing-back elbow, is thought of as one of the most beautiful moves in Muay Thai, and some stadiums give special awards to boxers who can knock out an opponent this way.

Knees are another of Muay Thai’s unique weapons and skilled boxers can use them in both close and mid-range attacks and parries. There are only a few types of knee attacks, but the power that can be put into a kick is fear-inspiring . Muay Thai opponents often grab the other around the neck to add more force to their knee kicks, and to help their balance.

The feet and legs are the most characteristic of the Muay Thai techniques, so much so that when the Japanese borrowed the sport for their own use they called it ‘kick boxing’. The feet of a Muay Thai master can be used in many ways; sweeping kicks, jumping kicks, combinations with other attacks or even straight to the face of the opponent. Boxers practice kicking their own hands to strengthen their legs and increase their range.

The fist in Muay Thai, while not the most spectacular technique for the crowd, is the most versatile of all of the boxer’s choices. Jabs can be used effectively to annoy and anger the opponent. While hooks or uppercuts can be used to knock him out through a hole in his guard. Thai legends abound with tale of a man who could box with his fists from a crouching position, and even pull his opponent’s whiskers before getting hit. Effective straight punches can do damage to a boxer’s body. A punch must always be thrown to start a Muay Thai fight, alone or in combination with a elbow or knee attack.

The history of Muay Thai goes back some 2000 years, as long as Thai culture itself. As the Thai tribes migrated south from the southern Yunan province of China, they were exposed to attacks and constant harassment from various groups, including the expansionist Chinese. The people were forced to develop a strong military and a formal military doctrine. The military code was called the Chupasart, and it called on all able bodied people to be prepared to come to the aid of their leaders with the current weapons of the time; swords, spears, axes, bows and others. Since not everyone could afford these weapons, many took up the use of the human body as a weapon. Thus Muay Thai was born.

During the reign of King Naresuan the Great (16th cent.), Muay Thai was brought in as part of the training of foot soldiers and remains a part of their education to this day. Many of the day’s battles were settled by soldiers in hand-to-hand combat and Muay Thai reflects this use. Even today, many of the sport’s moves are efficient at breaking through the opponent’s defences to get to the other side.

As with many things in Thai history, it is said that kings have taken an interest in the sport before. One story involves a king in the Ayutthya period named Pra Jao Sri Sanpetch Vlil . He was said to be an avid boxer, and would often conceal himself in the clothes of a commoner in order to take part in the fun, despite the danger to him . Once he was accredited with beating all comers at a temple fair in Ban Pajanta in the Wiset Chaichan district.

Most people think good Thai Boxing can only be seen in Bangkok however excellent matches can be seen all over the Kingdom include small villages. In Chiang Mai Kawaila Boxing Stadium, across the street from Sampakoi market, has exciting matches every Friday night beginning at 8PM. Many good Thai restaurants and food vendors in the area so go purchase your ticket, enjoy a meal then watch the matches.

Chiang Mai Thailand’s Weekend Shopping Bazaars

Chiang Mai Thailand's weekend Bazaars
Chiang Mai Thailand’s weekend Bazaars

The markets on Wualai Road on Saturday and Rajdumnern Road on Sunday are much different than the Night Bazaar.

While the Night Bazaar has it’s flashing neon signs advertising the western food chains and merchandise, crowded narrow walkways crammed with hawkers and tourists, the Weekend Bazaars offer a more relaxing experience.

Chiang Mai Thailand's weekend Bazaars
Chiang Mai Thailand’s weekend Bazaar

Large wide avenues are blocked off from vehicle traffic at 4 PM until 11 PM. Talented craft persons and northern Thai fresh food vendors politely sell they wares along the sidewalks and on colorful temple grounds. Both weekend walking markets are excellent however each is different in the types of wares sold, atmosphere and experiences.

The Saturday Bazaar on Wualai Road is the old city silver-making district and even today you can still hear the tapping of hammers as the silversmiths sculpture beautiful designs on bowls, cups, bracelets, rings and wall murals. You can watch them make their beautiful creations as they sit on the street in front of their shops.

There are several silver shops on Wualai Road so look at all of them before deciding on a purchase. Plenty of food and drink vendors along the street and small restaurants where you can take a rest and take in the surroundings so no need to rush.

Chiang Mai Thailand's weekend Bazaar
Chiang Mai Thailand’s weekend Bazaar

The Sunday Bazaar on Rajdumnern Road begins at Thapae Gate and ends at the city police station about 6 bocks west. About half way up, at Prapokklao Road, the Bazaar continues south past Wat Chedi Luang for another block and north to the 3 kings statue and the old Provincial Hall, which is now the Chiang Mai City Museum. A stage is set up on the grounds of the museum where northern Thai musicians and dancers in traditional costumes give live performances starting around 7 PM.

Rajdumnern Road seams to have one temple after another. The temple grounds are where almost all the food stalls are set up. Here they have tables and chairs where you can sit and have everything from French Fries to Papaya Salad, soups and grilled Thai dishes. Lots of different foods and deserts you probably have never seen before are available. Soft Thai music is usually played on the temple sound system to add to the eating experience.

Both Bazaars are lots of fun and several hours can be spent here enjoying the culture, food, people and atmosphere. Unlike the Night Bazaar with its copied brand products, fake jewelry and handicrafts made in China or Burma both weekend markets have real handcraft persons selling their goods.

Chiang Mai Thailand's weekend Bazaar
Chiang Mai Thailand’s weekend Bazaar

The real fun is not the shopping but the ambience. Every block has traditional Thai Music being played by elders and children. The rich colors of the surrounding temples, the smell of garlic, grilled fish, sausages and chilies being cooked and roasted. People are eating smiling and just having a good time. Oh, one more thing. Get your snack and cold drink and take it to one of the many foot massage operations set up on the sidewalk. Sit back in the comfortable cushioned reclining chair and just watch, listen and take it all in.

Wat Chedi Luang Buddhist Temple Chiang Mai Thailand

Wat Chedi Luang temple Chiang Mai Thailand
Wat Chedi Luang temple Chiang Mai Thailand

Located on Phrapokklao Road road in the city center Wat Chedi Luang was built in 1391 during the reign of King Saen Muang Ma.

Wat Chedi Luang Temple is a must visit when in Chiang Mai. It also houses the Inthakhin City Pillar essentially is for everyone to wish for happiness for all people of Chiang Mai.

Wat Chedi Luang was built in 1391 during the reign of King Saen Muang Ma. He intended the structure to house the ashes of his father, Ku Na. Appropriately; the site was designated as a ‘ku luang’, which houses ashes of royalty instead of a chedi, which house relics of the Buddha. The massive structure was expanded over the centuries, until it reached its final form in 1475, when King Tilokaraj made it the home of the Emerald Buddha, the most important cultural treasure in Thailand. At one point the structure was 144 feet wide and 282 feet tall.

Unfortunately, the pagoda was heavily damaged in the 1545 earthquake during the reign of Queen Mahadevi. The Emerald Buddha remained here for about six years after the earthquake, whereupon it was brought to Luang Prabang (in today’s Laos) by King Setthathirat, who ruled Chiang Mai for a short period in the years following in 1556.

The viharn, or worship hall was built in 1928, is a much newer structure decorated with naga (water snake) and peacock motifs. The standing Buddha image inside is known as the Phra Chao Attarot. Made of a combination of brass alloy and mortar, the image dates back to King Saen Muang Ma (r.1385-1401). The hall to the south near the entrance gate from main viharn contains the Inthakin City Pillar.

Inside Wat Chedi Luang Chiang Mai Thailand
Inside Wat Chedi Luang Chiang Mai Thailand

Here in Chiang Mai, people from the city, its suburbs and all over Northern Thailand will flock to pray, and pay respects, at the city’s Inthakin Pillar. Throughout Thailand, people will pray for a rainy season which will nourish the rice crop and ensure a health yharvest. Statues in small shelters surrounding this building are homes of guardian spirits. A week long ceremonies will be from May 24 until May 30.During this time, hundreds of people will attend the Inthakhin either in formal procession or as families or as individuals.

Inthakhin Pillar at Wat Chedi Luang
Inthakhin Pillar at Wat Chedi Luang

Paying respect and praying at the Inthakhin Pillar is not a Buddhist ceremony (the Pillar predates organized religions) but essentially is for everyone to wish for happiness for all people. The Pillar is sited within its own walk-in shrine which is only opened during this 7-day ceremony (visitors please note — the Pillar can not be seen at any other time of year). Any male may enter the shrine to see and to pray. An attire and attitude of respect is essential. Ladies are not permitted to enter the shrine but may view through the entrance portals. In the area surrounding the Inthakhin Pillar Shrine, thousands of candles and incense sticks will burn and there will be ritual washing of a Buddha image with lustral water. People will queue to file past the shrine and will lay gifts of flowers and fragrant herbs at many points circling the shrine. Chao Kawila, moved the Inthakhin Pillar to its present site from Wat Sadoe Muang in 1800.

He built statues of the kumaphan under shelters to the north and south of the main entrance to the temple. He also planted the three large Yang trees from Sri Lanka. According to legend, the tree nearest the City Pillar will protect Chiang Mai as long as it is not cut down. The Inthakhin Pillar — while not exactly in the geographic center of Chiang Mai is certainly at the heart of the people –remains a potent symbol of fertility to all the generations, young and old, of North Thailand.

The main temple at Wat Chedi Luang
The main temple at Wat Chedi Luang

As a visitor to our northern city, you are welcome to join, or observe, the ceremonies. The Inthakhin Pillar — within the precincts of Wat Chedi Luang — is another fascinating part of Chiang Mai and the ancient culture of Lanna Thai. Other buildings in the compound include the Lanna campus of the Mahamakut Buddhist University (This is the northern campus for monks of the Thammayut sect, a reformist sect founded by King Mongkut (Rama IV r.1851-1881, who was dissatisfied with the established Mahanikai sect in the late 1830’s). To the west of the chedi is a viharn with a reclining Buddha and the Sangkhachai Buddha.

The Chiang Mai Flower Festival

Chiang Mai Thailand Flower Festival
Chiang Mai Thailand Flower Festival

This season The Chiang Mai Flower Festival is Feb. 5 – 7, 2021.

Every year during the first weekend in February is the Chiang Mai Flower Festival. The city is awash with vibrant colors ranging from the electric orange and lilac colors of the bougainvillea to the velvety blossoms of petunias in all shades of pink, white and purple. The strident red of the poinsettias, bought by many at Christmas and New Years, is echoed by beds of scarlet Salvias. Homes and shop owners alike line the city streets with colorful flower boxes. The sheer profusion of color that the flower festival and carnival brings to Chiangmai aptly gives the city its name “Rose of the North”.

On all three days of the festival, prize blooms are on display at Suan Buak Haad near the city center. Every type of flower, miniature tree and orchid is put on display for the judges to choose the best of the species. Landscape specialists put on an elaborate display, which includes patios and waterfalls with exotic decorative plants and flowers.

The best part of the flower festival is on Saturday. This is when we load our lawn chairs and ice chest in the pick-up and head to D.K. Bookstore along the moat in the city center. We go there because there is plenty of parking and excellent coffee and pastry shops.

Parade float at the Chiang Mai Thailand Flower Festival
Parade float at the Chiang Mai Thailand Flower Festival

On the way we passed the flower covered floats, Hill Tribes and Thais in their traditional dress and uniformed marching bands all getting in line to start the parade. We had to leave the house before 8 AM as the parade start around 9 AM. Although it would not be until 10 AM until the parade reached us we had lots of fun eating food from local vendors, relaxing in our lawn chairs at curbside and watching the world go by.

The parade lines up from the train station to Narawatt bridge so the police close most of Jarenmuang Road around 8 AM. The VIP viewing stand is right next to the bridge in front of the Chiangmai Governor’s home. The Parade route goes down Thapae Road to the Gate and turns left and follows the moat to Suan Buak Haad City Park.

The parade moves at a slow pace and stops several times so there is plenty of time to take pictures of the colorful floats, pretty girls and hill tribe people in costume. The people in the parade hand out roses to spectators lining the road.

When the parade finishes everyone heads to Suan Buak Haad where all the floats, award winning flower growers and landscapers projects are all on display. There are plenty of food stalls located in the park and in late afternoon the Miss Chiang Mai Flower festival starts. The party goes well into the evening until the new Flower Festival Queen is chosen.

If you are intersted in viewing flowers from all around the world a trip to the International Ratchaphruek Flower Gardens should be in your itinerary.Also a trip to Doi Inthanon National Park for bird watching where all the trees are in full bloom should not be missed.

This is a great time to visit Chiang Mai, as the air is cool and the evenings fresh and clear. If you want to see the festival make sure you book your hotels and flights well in advance.

Visit the Beautiful village of Thaton, Chiang Mai Province in North Thailand

Beautiful village of Thaton, Chiang Mai Province in North Thailand
Beautiful village of Thaton, Chiang Mai Province in North Thailand

There is a wonderful, scenic, and peaceful place away from the normal tourist crowds that believes in keeping its culture intact. This little known gem is the community of Ban Thaton in Mae Ai district and Chiang Mai Province.

The spectacular scenery with the Mae Kok river snaking its way through the fertile Fang valley disappearing into tree covered mountains is a photographer’s dream. The brief rain showers keep the air fresh and clean to offer unlimited visibility of this strikingly beautiful area. Big puffy white clouds decorating the mountain tops against a rich blue sky with numerous rainbows occur only during the rainy season. Colorful hilltribe people working in corn fields set on almost vertical slopes surrounded by many shades of green from the lush vegetation complete the picture.

You will be equally impressed by the hospitality and friendliness of the Thaton people. The area is a unique cultural mixture of Thai, Chinese, and hill tribe people who welcome western visitors but do not change traditions to please them.

Buddha at Wat Thaton Temple
Buddha at Wat Thaton Temple

The first place to visit is Wat Thaton. The temple grounds consisting of over 400 rai of land is famous for it large Buddha statues over looking the town. The breath taking vistas from the upper temple grounds are unmatched anywhere in Thailand. The temple is a perfect place for meditation and study because of its quiet tree covered grounds and flower gardens. Contrary to popular belief, heavy rain showers only happen at night. Daytime showers occur only on the mountain tops. Between 5 and 7 p.m. the skies open up with torrent rain. These cool evening rains make it excellent for sleeping. The mornings are clean and clear with spectacular sun rise.

A popular mode of transportation in the area is bicycle. The paved country road which winds along the river and through mountain canyon is easy by bike. Its possible to enjoy a hot spring bath and visit Lahu, Yao, Lisu, Karen and Shan hill tribe villages in one day. Guest houses are located in a Karen and Lisu village for those wishing to stay with the hill tribe people of the area .

Lisu hill tribe New Year
Lisu hill tribe New Year

October through December is the best time of year for trekking. No need to worry about getting wet from brief mountain showers as your dry clothes are never far away at the guest house. Treks can last from a few hours to several days returning to the Lisu village or sleeping in a house built in the jungle or a different hilltribe village. The cool season is also the time of year for bamboo rafting from Baan Thaton to Chiangrai. The rain adds excitement and adventure to the the beautiful Mae Kok river.

For a wonderful experience making life long friendships and learning local culture and Hill Tribe Home Stay is a must. The best areas for a village home stay is Doi Inthanon National Park and the small village of Thaton, both away from the normal tourist crowds.

Although both are with Karen hill tribes they are much different in what is available to enjoy. At Doi Inthanon home stay you will experience hiking in the cloud forest, swim at the waterfalls, learn to roast coffee and enjoy village life. In the Thaton Home Stay You visit other hill tribe villages such as Lahu and Akha, learn to weave cotton, visit the local market, cook Thai food then a private long tail boat ride.

Both are at clean comforatble traditional homes in your own bedroom, clean toilets with showers and all bedding is provided. In both villages your guide speaks perfect English and in Thaton your guide speaks all the hill tribe languages.

The many rapids that seem a mere ripple during the dry season become white water thrills. The rafts are large, well built, and covered yet carefully designed to easily navigate the swift narrow rapids. Two experienced raft men guide you on this exciting journey packed with beautiful scenery, colorful hill tribe villages and friendly people.

Long tail boat on the Mae Kok River
Long tail boat on the Mae Kok River Thaton Thailand

Baan Thaton is regarded in most guide books only as a quick stopover before traveling to Chiangrai by long tail boat. Most visitors stay only a few hours waiting for the boat to depart at 12:30 p.m. to Chiangrai. The few that do stay in the area all comment that the Thaton area is the highlight of their Thailand journey. They are impressed with the friendliness of the people without the commercialism found in the heavily visited tourist area. Trekking seems the most popular attraction and the groups are small consisting of two to four persons.

Some rules and restrictions apply to maintain village harmony, custom and tradition. The Thaton area has much to offer the visitor in the way of accommodations. They have inexpensive guest houses to lush garden resorts and everything in between.

Visiting villages Thaton Thailand

In summary, Thaton is a wonderful place. A quiet place that believes in keeping its culture intact. It enjoys western visitors but does not change traditions to please them. Because of the few visitors who stay in the area the hill tribe people are shy but friendly so making friends is easy. Talk with them, smile with them and enjoy their hospitality and friendship. Here you can experience a way of life that is lost in present day Thailand.

Advice for Visitors to Chiang Mai Thailand.

Accommodations, food, night life, travel and tour advice.

In the foot hills of the Himalayan Mountains 800 kilometers north of Bangkok is the culturally rich city of Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai is the longest continuously lived in settlement from the ancient days of Siam.

Chiangmai could only be reached by an arduous river journey or an elephant back trip until the 1920’s. Chiangmai’s distinctive charm is still intact up to the present day.

Many guide books on Thailand only partially cover the real life experiences in Chiang Mai, I have been living here since 1989 so I would like to give you some advice about protocol, travel and accommodations in and around the city. Hopefully it will help you to enjoy your travels in Northern Thailand.

About the Author

Transportation:

When you arrive in Chiang Mai Thailand, it helps to know a bit about transportation within the city. At the airport, train station, or bus station, you will probably be met by the representatives of various guesthouses and hotels and tour operators. If you have a specific place in mind and you don’t see the specific signboard, you can always call the place to have someone pick you up from the train station, airport, or bus arcade depot. Taxis are available at the airport, with a price of 150 baht to most destinations.

The common vehicles of public transportation are more varied than public buses. The terms ‘dtoog dtoog’ and ‘sarmlor’ are open-air, three-wheel vehicles, and ‘zeelor’ and ‘songthaew’ describe vehicles with four wheels. Whenever you get in a ‘dtoog dtoog’, ‘zeelor’, or ‘samlor’, you should make sure that they take you where you want to go. Often the drivers work on commission and may tell you that the place you want to go is dirty, closed, or full if they don’t have a previous agreement with the place you have in mind. Always negotiate the price before you get in a dtoog dtoog or samlor. A zeelor ride should cost 15 Baht on a regular route, more if you hire it out to go somewhere out of the way.

The “Songteaw”

The best way to get around Chiangmai is by ‘songthaew’. These are covered pick-up trucks with two benches in the back. “Songthaew” means “two benches” in Thai. You will see them everywhere, and it’s easy to get them to pick you up. All you need to do is to put your arm out and look at the driver, and they will stop. Then tell the driver which street you want to go to, and if he is going that way, he will shake his head “yes”; if not, he will say “no” and go on. Don’t worry—there will be another one right behind him. When the driver turns down the street you want, start looking for where you want to get off and press the switch located on the roof of the cab. The driver will pull over, let you out, and then you pay him.

The fare should be 20 Thai baht or less (around 50 cents). If you tell the driver a hotel or establishment, he will think you want to hire him for a private trip, and the price will be much more. Negotiate any price beforehand if you want to go to an establishment.

Renting a motorbike or scooter:

There is a wide variety of two wheeled transportation available in Chiang Mai from loads of rental agencies. Price start from just a few dollars a day for a 100CC automatic scooter to large harley Davidson cycles, off road dirt motorbikes and every thing in between. It is important to know which type of motor bike works best for where you pln to ride.

IMPORTANT: Most people rent the automatic small scooters however this is very dangerous if you plan to travel into the mountain countryside or to Doi Suthep Temple on the mountain above the city. This is because when going downhill the scooter goes into neutral so you are free-wheeling and must use only your brakes to slow you down. If there are 2 of you on the scooter going downhill you could have a brake failure and find yourself in big trouble. The automatic scooters are made for riding in the city only not in the mountains.

If you are going to go into the mountains rent an automatic clutch motorbike or better so you can downshift when going downhill so the engine can help you slow down. A Honda Dream or Honda Wave is great for beginner riders and has an automatic clutch and a 4 speed transmission so you can downshift to help slow you down and also has a better power range when going uphill.

When you rent any form of transportation take photos from every angle of the vehicle to show the condition of the vehicle before you rent it. This will protect you from any rental agency trying to get you pay for damage that was there before you rented the vehicle.

Accommodations:

Booking accommodations might be the biggest decision you will make while visiting Chiang Mai. I hear many visitors saying “Chiang Mai has no real culture as there are too many tourists”. If you stay in the city center inside the moat and city walls, tourists is all you will see. The Chiang Mai locals call this area “Tourist Town”

Since 2010 over 100 new guest houses, small boutique hotels, restaurants, tourist souvenir shops and pubs have been built within or near the moat and old city walls. The establishments have now claimed this area as “The Old City” which is far from the truth. The real “Old City” is the area of “Gatluang” near Wararot Market located along the Ping River where all the commerce, traders and craft persons worked and lived. Inside the city walls is where the Royal Family, temple monks, Royal staff and elite military resided. The citizens of Chiang Mai were only allowed inside the old city walls during festivals, Buddhist holidays and with Royal events.

Today most of the business and residents inside the old city walls and moat are owned and operated by people from Bangkok and expats. This area now is more like the heavy touristy Kaosan Road in Bangkok than the culturaly rich Chiang Mai.

Another popular place is Nimmanhemin road in The “Huay Khao” area. This part of the city is where most of the epats live with condos, coffee shos and shopping malls catering to the western lifestyle. Again most shops owned and operaterated by those from Bangkok or expats, not much Thai culture here and prices are rather high so Thai people cannot afford to go there.

You can avoid the large number of tourists and experience the real charm of Chiang Mai by staying only 2 or 3 kilometers from the city walls and moat, not only that but at a lower price. There are wonderful communities where you can visit local markets, temples and talk with locals in their shops and restaurants. Experience real Thai food and daily life of local communities. The guest houses and small boutique hotels are far apart and you can get a ride by “Songtaow” into the city center within minutes.

Some of these areas are “Sanpakhoi” just across the Ping River on the Narawat Birdge. This is the home of the first Christian church in Chiang Mai, the lively Sanpakhoi market and Kawila Boxing Stadium. “Waulai” Area is across the street and moat from Chiang Mai gate and home of several small silversmiths, The silver temple at Wat Si Suphan and the Saturday night walking market.

Try booking your guest house or small hotel east of the Ping River or the old silver making area north of town near Wualai road. Waulai road has the Saturday night Walking Night Bazaar and home of the beautiful Silver Temple “Wat Siri Suphan”.

Culture:

The Thai people have several customs that are important to remember to avoid causing offense. Never touch the head, because it is the most sacred part of the body. The feet are the lowliest part, so don’t point them at others or rest them above ground level. Never stop a rolling Thai Baht coin or any type of Thai currency with your foot, as the money here has a picture of the king on it.

Respect for the king and religious customs is another important part of Thai protocol. They have great respect for the royal family, the flag, and anything with an image of the king, including the money. When you visit a Buddhist temple, you should always remove your shoes before entering any buildings. Men should wear long pants, and women should wear knee-length or longer skirts. Women are not allowed to touch monks or make prolonged eye contact with them. Do not sit on the walls surrounding the jedee, which contains the temple’s sacred relics of the Buddha.

The Thai “Wai”

Meeting and making friends with different people is an exciting part of travel anywhere. In Northern Thailand, it helps to know a bit of the language and something about the protocol. To say “hello”, say “Sawasdee Krup” for men and “Sawasdee Kha” for women. To learn more Thai before you come, an excellent free teaching website can be found at http://www.learningthai.com/. You will gain loads of respect from the Thai people if you learn just the basics.The Thais put a lot of emphasis on manners, so it’s a good idea to learn to say “Thank you”. In Thai, it’s “Kob Khun”, followed by “Krup” or “Kha” for women. The “wai” made by placing your palms together in front of the upper chest is the traditional Thai gesture of greeting or respect, and the gesture is always appreciated. The custom is that younger people “wai” elders first, so let the children and persons you think are younger than you “wai” before you “wai” them.

Whatever happens, though, don’t display your anger, because the Thais will think you uncultured, and ranting will get you nowhere. Smile and think “no problem”. Thais do not like confrontation, so getting angry will get you nowhere in Thailand. Here is an example:

Let’s say you arrive at your hotel and want a nice, hot shower or bath. You turn on the tap and find the hot water is not working. What most people would do is call the front desk and complain, and if you are tired, you might raise your voice a little, saying, “The hot water doesn’t work—what’s the problem?” It might take a long time before someone comes to check it out, if at all. What you should do is say, “I don’t know how to get the hot water turned on in my room; would you please have someone show me?” Someone will come to your room within a minute or two to check it out.

Food and Entertainment:

Thailand is a country of gourmands. Eating out is one the nation’s favorite activities, and knowing a bit of table manners will help you appear more civilized. Waiters and waitresses in Thailand are trained to take your entire order. When they take the order, they will often ask “one”, which is their way of asking whether they got it correctly or not. The entire meal is customarily served at the same time, but the empty dishes are removed one by one. Some street-side restaurants will not remove any dishes or bottles until you finish your meal. This is because they do not write down your order. They shout your order to the cook, and after the meal, they will count the plates and bottles and figure out the bill then.>
In the evening it seems every neighborhood has pre-cooked food for sale to take home. This is Thai fast food at it’s best. See what precooked Thai food you can buy at the market. Here I bought a 3 course meal and rice for $1.20USD or 50 Thai baht. Why cook at home when you can buy excellent cooked food this cheap

Chiangmai and the north have plenty of night entertainment available. It runs the gamut from restaurants to nightclubs, discos, or video bars. Thai people are often as interested in meeting you as you might be in meeting them, but one should exercise discretion and sometimes a bit of caution, especially in matters of the heart. In romantic situations, Westerners and Thais both occasionally get hurt. The best advice is to think with your head and your heart. Enjoy yourself, but be very adult about any given situation.

Day trips:

Many visitors to Chiangmai enjoy taking trips outside the city. We recommend these trips highly, but don’t forget to bring a few extras in case of emergency. Flashlights and extra batteries, as well as camera batteries, are recommended, as are matches or a lighter. Jackets may be needed for the cold evenings, speciall when visiting hill tribes high in the mountain or Doi Inthanon National Park. Don’t forget a first-aid kit and the ever-important toilet paper for emergencies. Ear plugs are a good idea if staying overnight in a hill tribe village, as the roosters can be very loud at 3AM. To see what is available outside the city from trekking and adventures to visiting hill tribe villages and ancient ruins while on tour visit our North Thailand Page

Visiting Thailand Hill Tribe Villages

Advice when visiting hill tribe villages near Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai Thailand

“More than tours we offer experiences”

A local hill tribe guide to join you is a must or better is a hill tribe home stay. Village customs and traditions must be strictly obeyed, only a local guide or host family knows as every village has different rules. Here are a few tips when touring or trekking.

About the Author.

Please be careful with trekking operators that advertise new area or village. Most good eco-culture friendly operators go to the same area and villages year after year. They have an excellent relationship with them so everything is in balance and harmony so they do not need to go to a new area.

Learning to weave in a Karen hill tribe village

Most hill tribe villages do not have handicrafts as they spend most of their time working in their fields. There may however be elderly women in the village taking care of young children that do make handicrafts. In this case there will be one home or area where handicrafts can be viewed and bought. No one will bother you to buy anything and you are not looked at as a major source of income.

Make sure you are not allowed to give candy to children or money for pictures. Fruit is the best option to give and can be purchased for around 25 Thai Baht per Kilo. Hill tribe children get candy any time their parents can aford it as it is very cheap but they never have enough money for fruit. Figure to purchase around 10 Kilos of fruit for a normal sized village.

Nothing should be exchanged directly between the visitor and anyone in the village. Give your gifts or fruit to the village headman, elder or teacher and they will distribute it. They know all the children and make sure everyone gets their fair share. If you do this yourself or the guide the older children will take it away from the younger ones. Another trick is a child will run back to their house and put it away and come back for more. The teacher or village headman will not let this happen.

A village is a very communal place and what belongs to one belongs to all. Jealousy and hate between villagers can arise because one family or person received something from you and they didn’t. It is true that many villages that are visited by tourists drop drastically in population because of jealousy. Most move away to a different village. Usually that of another family member who is married to someone in that village.

Playing a Karen Hill Tribe Harp

Ask to meet your guide first. Talk alone with your guide. Find out how much your guide knows about the village as you can. Tell your guide you want to give candy to children and pay villagers money for photos and if he or she says no problem find a different operator and guide. Many tour operators don’t care about the well being of the villagers and will say yes to anything you want to do.

Ask how many persons are going on the trek with you and get it in writing as part of your receipt. Many people are told a small number later to find out there are up to 15 persons going on the trek. If they come to pick you up and there is more than what they wrote on your receipt when you paid for the trek get your money back. 6 persons should be the maximum and the fewer the better and a private trek is best. The fewer people on the trek or tour the better the experience.

Hill Tribe Home Stay:

For a wonderful experience making life long friendships and learning local culture a Hill Tribe Home Stay is a must. The best areas for a village home stay is Doi Inthanon National Park and the small village of Thaton, both away from the normal tourist crowds.

Karen Hill Tribe Home Stay Family

Although both are with Karen hill tribes they are much different in what is available to enjoy. At Doi Inthanon home stay you will experience hiking in the cloud forest, swim at the waterfalls, learn to roast coffee and enjoy village life. In the Thaton Home Stay You visit other hill tribe villages such as Lahu and Akha, learn to weave cotton, visit the local market, cook Thai food then a private long tail boat ride.

Both are at clean comfortable traditional homes in your own bedroom, clean toilets with showers and all bedding is provided. In both villages your guide speaks perfect English and in Thaton your guide speaks all the hill tribe languages.

If you enjoy hiking and the outdoors Doi Inthanon is the one. For a more culture experience the village in the Thaton area is best.

Riding in a tractor to a Rice Field

An eco-culture tour and trekking operator will keep the number of persons visiting a village small. The impact of even 50 visitors a month in a village is devastating and should not be allowed. Some excellent operators take visitor to a village only once a week and then no more than 6 persons. They have many villages they can visit so they can take tourists daily to different villages.

There are areas where hundreds of trekkers visit each month to the same villages. In many villages in these areas the villagers will run up to you and try to sell you trinkets made in China as soon as you arrive. You will need to pay money for photos or make a purchase from them. Once you buy something from 1 you will be bombarded by several more selling the same trinkets. The villages heavily visited by tour groups and trekkers are mainly the Mae Teang and Pai areas.

Planting rice in the village

Some want to visit hill tribe villages on their own and most of these want to spend an evening with a family in the village. This is not a good idea. You must know the culture and customs of the village and each village is different. You can do a lot of harm by just entering the village from the wrong gate. Many have gates for visitors and gates for residents and the villagers believe if you enter from the wrong gate you could be bringing in bad spirits with you. They will then have to spend money for a ritual to cast out bad spirits that you brought in.

If you pay money to stay with a family the other families will be jealous and this could cause unbalance and arguing among villagers. They also barely have enough food to feed their family and will feed you and not have enough to feed themselves. They do not eat the same food as Thais so if you bring food they may not eat it. They do not use fish sauce but salt and they do not eat the white pig but black pig. Also they do not eat their own animals, not even eggs. They purchase eggs and meat from other villages to eat as they will not kill their own animals so sell them to other villages. If you give them money for food they will have to travel a long way to the market and will cost them time and money.

If you are thinking of staying overnight in a hill tribe village it is best to do a Home Stay that is included in your trek or tour not in a large group trek or going on your own. This way you will be treated like family not an unwanted guest. You will be able to visit local markets, visit neighboring villages and cook meals with your host family. You will make friends for a lifetime while enjoying a wonderful experience.

If you would like to visit a real hill tribe village find a tour or trekking operator that follow the basic rules of Eco tourism in Thailand They can provide a local hill tribe guide that knows the culture of the village and knows the villagers like family or has family in the village.

Eco-tourism is not cheap so before you go out to find the best price for a trek or tour, first think about who wins and who looses on a cheap tour or trek. No one wins. Think about it.

About All Thailand Experiences

About our Thailand Tour Company
All Thailand Experiences
and Founder Mr. Randy Gaudet


I first came to Thailand in 1968 while in the U.S. Air Force stationed in Udorn Thani in east Thailand. I was stationed here for 2 years before being stationed in Japan and Korea. I Loved Thailand so much I cried when I left and promised myself I would return.

In 1989 I had the offer to volunteer at Payap University in Chiang Mai Thailand for 2 years and accepted. Here I was supervisor of the communications department at Christian Communication Institute at the university where I supervised installing and training staff of the audio and video studio at CCI. While at the university I took the opportunity to take Thai language and Lanna Thai (North Thailand) history, culture and music classes.

Wat Thaton Temple
Bamboo school

After my commitment was finsihed at Payap University I lived in a remote area of north Thailand at Wat Thaton temple in the town of Thaton on the Myanmar border for more than 3 years. I taught English to Monks, novices, high school students, the Thai Army, local and tourist police. I also did hill tribe programs by taking a small number of tourists to hill tribe villages to spend the evening. All the money for the trek went to the villagers. I bought clothes for the children, medicines and blankets for the families I paid the villagers to build a bamboo schoolhouse and paid a teacher to teach Thai at the school who could speak their language. I taught them how to dispose of waste properly, keep the children and village clean and to use spoons instead of their fingers when eating which was a big source of their health problems. I provided seeds and Logan and lychee fruit trees for planting.

Randy Gaudet with village teacher

This was fine until I left the temple then the school stopped and the health problems returned. I talked with the Abbot of the temple and he now has a school for the children at the temple. He has a nurse looking after the children and takes those to the clinics that have problems.

While I was there I help start a guest home where travelers could stay in a Lisu hill tribe village and go trekking in the jungle and visit primitive hill tribe villages in the area. This was not easy, as the villages we visited didn’t want visitors as they wanted to maintain their lifestyle and culture. They have seen other villages who accept tourist turn into a village without harmony and lost their culture. These villagers were farmers and didn’t want to look at tourism as a source of income. I understood the problem as I have seen what a tour operator can do to a village. To them money is first and they don’t care about the hill tribe people or their way of life.

Building a Lahi Home

I stayed in these villages and met with the village headmen many times. I learned about their culture, way of life, religion, and do’s and don’ts. We then came up with a plan that worked out well for the villagers and our clients.

We can only stay in a village 1 night per week and no more than 6 persons. There are 35 villages in this area so we always have a village to take our clients. Nothing is allowed to be given to a villager directly by the visitor. It must be given to the guide who then gives it to the villager. No candy for the children and no photographs without permission. No money is allowed to be given for a photograph. The guide must be from the local area and must also be hill tribe and speak the language of the village.

Lahu Hill Tribe Children

I then trained 3 hill tribe men from the local area who speak English to be our guides. None of these men drink or smoke and their families are very well respected by all the villages.

Dinner in the jungle

For the Jungle portion of the trek I had to teach the guides to use a different trails so it could grow back. They make a hut out of bamboo and banana leaves for sleeping and I taught them not to clear cut and not to return to an area for at least two months. No more hunting of birds or wild animals.

Without the local culture we would not be able to give our clients the experience they are looking for. We also encourage our clients in helping the local people we visit.

Giving Shoes to Needy Children

Most of our clients want to help the poor villagers that they visit. We take them to a market here in Chiangmai to buy shirts and pants for the children before we visit. Shirts or pants can be purchased for a little as $1 USD, blankets for about $3 USD. We have had groups including one from Singapore who stayed at 3 different hill tribe villages. They brought medicines, blankets and clothes. They repaired playground equipment and repainted the school. We follow God’s word in Isiah 58: 7 “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?”.

Giving supplies to poor villagers

Our company buys clothes and blankets every year when cold season arrives to give to needy villagers. We also help orphan and abandoned children in 3 different children homes here in north Thailand.

Lisu Hill Tribe Guides with Family at Guest Home

We have trained and employed hill tribe people and families to be guides for us and host our clients. We helped Asa, a Lisu Hill Tribe man who has the guest home, photo right, get started and now has a very successful business. He handles all our treks for us along with other guides and porters he has hired. He used to get only 50 baht per day per group and now gets more than 1800 baht per person for taking our clients. We have a loving relationship with all the people that work with us and those we visit. To us they are family and our clients notice this and is mentioned often.

There are hundreds of tour operators in Thailand and most take their clients to the same areas and places. Most of these areas have more tourists than Thai people so there is no cultural experience to speak of. We won’t do that to our clients. We want them to enjoy a wonderful experience they will remember for a lifetime.

Taking tractor ti Rice fields

We specialize in quality and service with as much interaction with nature and culture as possible. I have been living in Thailand since 1989. I have traveled extensively throughout the Kingdom and wanted to share my wonderful experiences of Thailand with others. I talked with many travelers here in Thailand and saw a need to take visitors away from the normal tourist areas filled with large tour buses and groups. The biggest complaint I heard from visitors is “there is no real Thai culture”. “Everything is staged for the tourists”. This is because they keep following each other around using their guide books.

It took about 2 years of research to find the areas that were safe and could handle visitors. I spoke with village headmen, temple Monks, Hill Tribe villagers, National Park officials and local bird experts. I then had to train a staff that would take care of our clients with excellent service and provide correct information about Thai and hilltribe culture, Thai food, Buddhism, birds of Thailand, etc.

Harvesting Rice

All our guides are registered with the Tourism Authority but that is not enough. Our training program is by far the best in the Kingdom. They must not only study the subjects but also go to each area, town or village and learn first hand about the people their culture, birds and animals of the region along with any festival or event and when it takes place.

Learning to Weave

Our main and only goal is to provide a great experience our clients could not enjoy with any other guide or tour operator. From the comments in our “Guest Book” at our web site, email from previous clients and the large number of referrals we are meeting our goal. What we all enjoy is when our clients finish their tour they tell us “It was one of the best holidays we ever had and thank you so much”. “I will surely recommend your services to others”.

To us conservation is more than the natural environment. We take many clients to very cultural sensitive hill tribe villages. This is a very difficult balance of very different cultures but can be maintained. We follow 4 basic rules to maintain harmony in the villages and help the environment

Since we do only private custom excursions we want to know the needs of our clients. We then email back to them what we will and will not do for them. Most of our clients know only what they read from agent brochures about what to do in Thailand and these tours might not be the best for them. We explain to them that we do not go to these places and why.

Clients and Karen Hill Tribe Family during Home Stay

We send several email messages back and forth asking and answering questions before an itinerary is approved. We then do many follow up email messages about what they will experience, cultural do’s and don’ts, and answer any question they may have. By the time they arrive they have an excellent knowledge of all aspects of their journey with us.

Many of our clients are families and have special needs. We ask many questions about the children such as favorite foods and their interests as we want them to enjoy their holiday also. We want to know if anyone in the group is having a birthday or anniversary while they are with us so that we can make their day special.

Once our clients arrive we are on call 24 hours a day for them. They can telephone us anytime about any questions they may have. From the time they arrive at the airport to the time of departure back to their home we are there for them.

After they return home most of our clients stay in contact with us. Not only do they thank us for a wonderful time but they ask about the people they made friends with while with us. I am happy to say we have made many good friends from all over the world with those who have been with us.

Swimming at Waterfalls

I have talked with other tour operators and the Tourism Authority of Thailand about being responsible in maintaining hill tribe culture. No one seams to care, as money is the bottom line. Exploitation of the hill tribe people and their way of life are common here. I have been able to give lectures at guide classes for the TAT. I try to teach them about being responsible for maintaining the hill tribe culture. After all it is the guides who are in contact with the villagers and clients not the tour operators.

Randy Gaudet
Founder/Director
All Thailand Experiences

All Thailand Experiences Eco-tourism Policy

“Helping those in need through tourism”

Now a days everyone is doing ecotourism tours and treks in Thailand, but what is it? Do you know the questions to ask a tour or trekking operator to find out if they are for real or just a ploy to get you to go with them?

We at All Thailand Experiences follow the four basic rules for real Ecotourism in Thailand:

  • 1. The willingness and ability to maintain or improve the environment.
  • 2. The ability and the willingness for proper control when visiting ethnic peoples and villages in such a way that they can continue to maintain their natural being, customs, traditions and lifestyle.
  • 3. The ability and willingness of the tour operator to donate some profits to the people in the villages they visit and in helping protect and improve nature and the environment.
  • 4. We also bring trees along to plant near the villages so the villagers can take care of them. This lowers your carbon foot print.
  • 5. We DO Not take clients for elephant rides, elephant nature parks or elephant shows. We take our clients to Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation who helps sick, wounded and tortured elephants.

Do you know the questions to ask a tour or trekking operator to find out if they are for real or just a ploy to get you to go with them?

First of all, most operators care only about making you happy. They will say yes to what ever you want to do. This is fine if you are doing a normal commercial tour to the handicraft factories or city tour however if you want to visit a hill tribe village or a nature area this is not acceptable. The reason is because that is what the consumer wants and the operators want to meet the needs of their clients, which might not be in the best interest for the environment or local people. This means it is up to you to be well informed about what is and what is not Eco-tourism.

Here is a list of subjects and whys that separates the Eco-culture and nature friendly tour and trekking operators from those that are not. It is then up to you to decide which companies properly adhere to the true meaning of Eco-tourism in Thailand.

Tour and Trekking operators first must meet at least the four basic standards to be called Eco tourism.

  • 1. The willingness and ability to maintain or improve the environment.

Did you know that most of the plants and animals on the endangered species list are because of destruction of habit and not poaching, hunting or gathering? There are many examples of this in north Thailand. Not so many years ago there were lots of rare species of birds along the Mae Kok, Ping, Fang and Mae Teang rivers. Now because of clear cutting of bamboo for tourist for rafting all of the large and many rare species of bamboo are now gone. This means no more places for the birds to roost or nest, insects to eat and the beautiful stands of bamboo that were once abundant along the river banks are now gone forever.

So what can you do?

Bambaoo rafting Thailand

Try to find operators that use recycled bamboo rafts when ever possible They pick them up at the take out point and bring them back to the starting point by large truck. The rafts can be used again and again for a year or so. Others just take them to the end of the rafting trip and sell them for other uses or most are disposed of along the bank to rot and they cut fresh bamboo for new ones. Finding these operators will be difficult, as many tour operators will say yes they reuse the rafts when in fact you will find out at the end of your rafting trip they do not. Better yet find an operator that use rubber boats, kayaks or canoes with out gasoline engines if possible.

Swimming at the waterfall
Swimming at the waterfall at Doi Inthanon national Park Thailand

Another major problem is water pollution. With the large numbers of travelers wanting to trek and visit hill tribe villages they are the number 1 source of water pollution in remote areas. I know of many hill tribe villagers that used to go to streams for small fish, frogs and insects to gather and eat. Because of the trekkers using soap and shampoo at waterfalls and in streams the animals that depend on clean water along with the plant life that supports them are now gone. It is a fact that the hill tribe villagers before the tourists arrived used to gather the water and wash their clothes and body away from the streams or waterfalls so as not to pollute.

Many villages now also use the streams to wash in because they know there is nothing left to gather or fish for. They don’t know why everything is gone but it was all-fine before the tourists arrived. They also figure if the well-educated, smart and rich tourists are using the water to bath why should we carry water when we can just do what they do.

Do not bath in streams or waterfalls using chemical soaps and shampoos. There are biodegradable soaps and shampoos made that do not pollute so use these products. Another thing you can do is to carry the water down hill and away from the stream at least 20 meters. The best is not to use soap or shampoo at all while in or near the stream or waterfalls. Bring along a face cloth and add a little soap to clean your body and rinse off far away from the water source.

The people who lived in the rain forest or jungle knew in the past how important their water source was. It is a tragedy that these peoples had to give this up because of tourism. There are still several villages in Thailand that are pristine and still follow these good environmental practices. Their villages are in very remote areas far away from the normal tourist crowds.

These are the two main problems with tourism and the environment in Thailand today. For sure there are many others such as waste disposal that most of us already know about.

2. The ability and the willingness for proper control when visiting ethnic peoples and villages in such a way that they can continue to maintain their natural being, customs, traditions and lifestyle.

Lisu hill tribe New Year in Thailand
Lisu Hill Tribe

These are the worst horror stories not only in Thailand but also throughout the world today. Almost all of the villages visited by tour operators today have lost everything their elders have taught them going back hundreds of years. Villagers are starving, addicted to drugs and they are selling their children to be used as prostitutes or slaves. Believe it or not the villages that accept tourists have the biggest chance of falling into this problem. Here are the ways it usually (but not always) happens.

A guide goes out looking for a new area and villages to take tourists. He (or she) meets the people in the villages and wants to bring tourists with the promise of a more prosperous life (money) than what they have now. There are no rules or guide lines set except that the villagers can sell trinkets and handicrafts (most bought and not made by them) to the tourists. The family that has guests overnight receives a small sum of money, a meal but must supply the rice (in most cases). If the villagers can supply opium for the trekkers to smoke, so much the better, as the guide will make lots of money from this. Once this starts the local drug lords will make them keep purchasing the opium.

Happy Lahu hill tribe Chindren

After a year or two here is what happens to this once beautiful village. The once shy villagers rush to meet the tourists with souvenirs for them to buy. Most of these are made in Burma and not by the villagers themselves. They will not stop bothering people until they buy something and then leave.

The children ask and beg for money. Now, the villagers are looking at the tourist as a source of income not as a visitor. Most have quit working their fields just to meet and beg and sell junk to the tourists. Most of the hill tribe villages do not own land but are given an area to plant crops. If it is not used then another village will take over the fields. This is usually a nearby village that does not accept tourists.

The guide starts dinner at the family home and gives the host family around 50 Baht for having them. It is now evening and the guide asks who wants to smoke opium. Some in the group will probably say yes. The guide then buys the opium in the village for maybe 400 baht from which can supply around 20 or more pipe loads. The guide then sells it again to the tourist for maybe 100 to 200 baht a pipe load. This is big money for the guide. Mean while the children in the village see the foreigners smoking opium and think that they do the same everyday. In their mind they think they can smoke opium, go to college and make lots of money like the tourists do.

It is now a year later and the village has no culture to speak of any more. There is no cultural interaction between the villagers and tourists as the visitors are looked upon only as a source of income. The tour operator and guides decide to now leave this village for new villages without tourists and the process starts all over again. Now this village has no more tourists. They have no place to plant crops anymore as the fields they stopped planting have been taken over by nearby villagers. This means they now have to buy food and basic necessities but have no money. Many are now addicted to opium or heroin and even sell their children to keep up the habit. This is a worst-case example but has happened and continues to happen to this day.

So what can you do?

Please be careful with trekking operators that advertise new area or village. Find out why they have to go to a new village or area. Most good Eco-culture friendly operators go to the same area and villages year after year. They have an excellent relationship with them so everything is in balance and harmony so they do not need to go to a new area.

Most hill tribe villages do not have handicrafts as they spend most of their time working in their fields. There may however be elderly women in the village taking care of young children that do make handicrafts. In this case there will be one home or area where handicrafts can be viewed and bought. No one will bother you to buy anything and you are not looked at as a major source of income.

Make sure you are not allowed to give candy to children or money for pictures. As a matter of fact nothing should be exchanged directly between you and anyone in the village. A village is a very communal place and what belongs to one belongs to all. Jealousy and hate between villagers can arise because one family or person received something from you and they didn’t. It is true that many villages that are visited by tourist drop drastically in population because of jealousy. It is the lucky ones that move away to a different village, usually that of another family member that has already moved because of marriage to a village member.

Ask how many persons are going on the trek with you and get it in writing as part of your receipt. Many people are told a small number later to find out there are up to 15 persons going on the trek. If they come to pick you up and there is more than what they wrote on your receipt when you paid for the trek get your money back. Go to the tourist police and file a complaint. If they do not give you a refund just make sure you have the number of persons in your trekking party written in your receipt. 6 persons should be the maximum and the fewer the better and a private trek is best. An eco-culture tour and trekking operator will keep the number of persons visiting a village small. The impact of even 50 visitors a month in a village is devastating and should not be allowed. Some excellent operators take visitor to village only once a week and then no more than 6 persons. They have many villages they can visit so they can take tourists daily to different villages.

3. The ability and willingness of the tour operator to donate some profits to the people in the villages they visit and in helping protect and improve nature and the environment.

There are very few tour and adventure operators in Thailand that are willing to support this belief. The ones that do started their business out of love for nature and the people and wanting to share their experiences with travelers not just for the money. They know the profits will rise once previous clients talk to their friends and others about the wonderful time they had on their holiday. This means more money for the locals and the tour operator. They must work together without exploitation.

All Thailand Experiences supports Friends of the Asian Elephant Foundation

The relationship that develops between the operator, guides, local people and communities when the tour or trekking company helps them is very important. This means you as a visitor can enjoy something special and richly rewarding instead feeling like of a source of income. You can develop true friendships with the people you meet and enjoy a spectacular natural unspoiled environment. You and your guide will be well respected by everyone you come in contact with. They also know that some of the money you paid for your holiday to visit them goes to help them and the local environment. They know their customs will be respected and their culture and way of life will remain intact.

Good Eco-aware tour operator helps in many ways in Thailand. They buy books and other supplies for local schools. They pay to build schools and pay for teachers to live in the remote villages. They provide blankets and clothing yearly to families and children. They pay for doctors to visit remote villages on a regular basis and provide medicines and money for treatments if needed. Some pay local remote villagers to keep a watch out for poachers in the jungle and rain forest and report any potential problems to local authorities. They also work with local police, park rangers and forest ranges providing funds for rewards when poachers or tree cutters are caught. They pay locals to plant trees where needed and teach the people about waste disposal and hygiene. Build toilet facilities and water wells or water gathering reservoirs in small mountain canyons. They pay for pipes and plumping from the wells and reservoirs to the village. The list goes on and on but the important thing is the tour or trekking operator wants to help.

So what can you do?

Try to find such a tour or trekking operator. The most important thing is being willing to pay more for you tour or trek. The fewer people on the trek or tour the better the experience. This costs more but well worth it. Most guides that work for these Eco-culture friendly operators are very dedicated to helping people including you. They go out and visit these villages and natural areas regularly if they have people to take or not. They have extensive training about the environment, animals, birds, insects and about the local people you will see and meet. They are paid much more than the normal commercial guide and are well worth it so be willing to pay more.

Eco-tourism is not cheap so before you go out to find the best price for a trek or tour, first think about who wins and who looses on a cheap tour or trek. No one wins. Think about it.

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