Thai hosts are so good-natured and sweet that it is no suprise their eco-resorts are among the best in the world. A new book, “Green Guidebook: Green Life, Green Communities”, signposts some of the country’s best eco-conscious destinations. Here are a selection:
TACOMEPAI ORGANIC FARM
Pai, Mae Hong Son
As crowds of tourists persist in turning Pai into the Ubud of Thailand’s North, this once peaceful valley is now packed with chic and stylish resorts selling pricey drinks. Sitting quietly amid the rapid change is Sandot Sukkaew, a Pai native, who is trying to turn the clock back. He quit his engineering job and has adopted the Permaculture approach to agriculture on his organic farm.
Bamboo cottages, mud houses, a kitchen garden and rice paddies are part of this farmhouse. Here, you’ll live without large supermarkets, as at Tacomepai they grow everything they eat, and eat everything they grow. A few things are off-grid: the chemical dishwasher is replaced by ashes and the eating utensils are made from bamboo. You’ll learn how to weave basketry as well as to make a thatched house from bamboo. To thank the fertile earth, the farm often celebrates the rice harvesting with tribal and folk music.
Tacomepai Organic Farm has become known among young and environmentally conscious western backpackers. With basic bed and mosquito net, hot shower and restroom, a bamboo cottage goes for Bt100 per night.
Call (086) 112 3504 or visit www.Tacomepai.com.
Nakhon Si Thammarat
The folks in Kiriwong love Mother Earth, and she loves them back. Tucked away in a remote Nakhon Si Thammarat valley, people here live at the mercy of nature rather than being slaves to modern life. Durian, mangosteen and rambutan trees blend in with the surrounding evergreen forest.
Much of the food here is home-grown, and half the electricity is generated from the community’s own hydro-electric power plant. The valley runs community-based tourism, with small eco-lodges for hikers exploring the lush peak of Khaoluang Mountain. You can also stroll around the villages, or learn to make naturally dyed textile. Kiriwong is good to visit in any season though fruit lovers are advised to travel there in July and August, when durian, mangosteen and other tropical fruits are abundant.
A small eco-lodge costs around Bt100 per night. Call (075) 533 113, (086) 788 8718 or (089) 589 6998 or visit www.kiriwonggroup.com.
Koh Por, a small island off the Krabi Coastline, might only be five minutes by boat from Koh Lanta Yai, but the two islands are an ocean apart. While Koh Lanta Yai is busy and vibrant with heaps of young backpackers, reggae pubs and world-famous DJs, Koh Por retains its low-profile with fishermen and small Muslim communities. Billed as “The Last Pearl of Andaman Sea”, the communities ban bikini-clad culture from the island. There is no pub, no restaurant and not a single stylish guesthouse , but the villagers still welcome the visitors with open arms. You can stay at a villager’s house, eat their food and ride in a fisherman’s boat for your catch of the day, as Koh Por runs its own community-based programme.
For more information, call Pracheep Mudnui at (087) 126 0082.
BAAN WANG NAMMOK
Sri Chiang Mai, Nong Khai
The United Nations declared 2011 as the International Year of the Forest to promote a greater sense of community forest and sustainable living. Here, at Baan Wang Nammok in Nong Khai’s Sri Chiang Mai district, the villagers can tell you how. The pioneering community-based Walking Mount of Demon Forest is organised by local people. Trips are only for small numbers of visitors who hike through 1,400 acres of community forest. On the nature trail, the local guides will teach you how the forest becomes a “supermarket”, as different kinds of plants contribute food, medicine and other essentials to sustainable living. At the end of the day, the visitor can sample forest produce, for example, wild mushroom soup, bamboo shoot curry, and wash it down with fruit wine. The rainy season (May to August) is the best time to visit Baan Wang Nammok, when the forest bear much of its fruit.
Call (042) 423 783 or (086) 232 5300.
Koh Chang, Trat
The simplest way to escape the tourist trail and share the rustic life of the fisherman on Koh Chang, Trat province, is to opt for a homestay on the island’s eastern side. Salak Khok community runs one of the country’s best-organised programmes, placing visitors in homes on a rotational basis to spread the benefits around the villages in the small bay. Activities include mangrove and firefly tours, snorkelling and romantic cruising on “Reu Mard”, a restored sampan, along the canal before returning to the host family in the evening for freshly caught seafood and home-cooked curries.