Slow Travel through Thailand: Tips for Travelers Seeking an Authentic Thai Experience
Photo Op on the way to Long Beach – Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
By Ali Dempsey, Global Basecamps
Having recently returned from six weeks of travel throughout Asia, I often get a shocked reaction regarding the length of my trip. While I feel very fortunate to have traveled that long, I also feel it was necessary to see the amount of places I went to. With almost three weeks in Thailand many may think four cities is not enough to see, however I appreciated the length of time I had at each stop and can’t imagine trying to have zipped through more regions of the country. Yes, there are still many places in Thailand I have yet to visit, however oftentimes travelers can appreciate their trip much more by traveling slowly. And of course, it gives you a reason to go back again and see some of the places you missed!
Here are a few tips to help slow down your Thailand travels, or simply to make any trip a little more eco-friendly.
Seek Alternative Transportation Options
Train travel is easily accessible in Thailand and is a great way to see the country and interact with the locals. It is also very inexpensive, must less than flying, and is of course more environmentally friendly as well. A train journey can be one of the highlight of your travels, allowing you to take in parts of the countryside you would have never seen if you flew and also providing you with an authentic Thai experience. An overnight train is also a great option if you are on a budget and want to save some money on accommodations.
Traveling by ferry is another great alternative to flying in Thailand, and also provides some incredible scenery. When traveling to some of the islands in the South of Thailand I would recommend sticking to one side of the Kra Isthmus. Trying to hop from an island on the west side to an island on the east side often requires flying, especially if you have limited time.
View from the ferry to Phi Phi
Maximize your time by sticking to the islands on the east in the Gulf of Thailand or the west in the Andaman Sea, allowing you to totally relax and enjoy your island paradise. I spent five days on the island of Koh Lanta and a week on Koh Phi Phi. The ferry from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi is about an hour and a half, and continuing to Koh Lanta the ferry is another hour and ten minutes. Whether you are exploring the island to the east or the west, there are typically two ferry times to choose from, one that departs in the morning and one in the afternoon.
Another way to slow your travel down and make it more eco-friendly is to walk. Not only will you see and experience more, but you’ll save money on taxis and transportation. On my Thailand tour I was visiting Chiang Mai during Songkran, the Thai New Year festival. Instead of taking taxis or tuk tuks when venturing to the market, to a cooking class, or to grab a bite to eat I decided to walk which was a great way to see the celebrations, not just in the city center but in other areas of Chiang Mai. Yes, I did get a little soaked (Songkran is a water festival) but enjoyed the festivities and interacting with the locals, as opposed to hiding from the water guns in a taxi.
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
One of my favorite walks during my time in Thailand was on Koh Phi Phi, from Phi Phi town to Long Beach. The walk can take between 20-30 minutes, and long tail boat taxis are offered as an alternative means to getting there. However, the walk offers some great photo opportunities. You’ll walk through Viking Natures Resort on the way to Long beach, which is an ideal accommodation option if you are looking to get away from the crowds and closer to nature.
Opt for Eco Lodges
There are some incredible eco lodges throughout Thailand. Not only will staying at an eco lodge help reduce the environmental damage of your travels, but you’ll have a more tranquil and relaxing setting, hopefully making for a more memorable stay than if you were at a large-scale chain hotel. Resorts can have a variety of initiatives in place that help classify them as an eco lodge.
For example, Lisu Lodge located in Chiang Mai, is part of a community project that assists in the conservation of the heritage of the hill tribes in Northern Thailand. Guests can enjoy a tour of the Lisu hill tribe village and learn about the Lisu customs and way of life.
Support the Local Communities You Visit
Slowing down your travels allows you to spend more time in one place and truly experience what life is like for the locals there. Embrace this opportunity to explore a new culture, enjoy the food, learn about the customs and mingle with the local people. This is particularly easy in Thailand where the food is delicious and the locals are so friendly!
There’s a reason Thailand is called the land of smiles. Respecting the local culture and helping boost the local economy are essential factors of ecotourism. Staying in locally owned hotels, utilizing local guides and transportation is a great way to help support the local economy.
Photos by Ali Dempsey
About Global Basecamps
Global Basecamps is a specialty travel company designed to simplify the process of researching and booking sustainable hotels, lodges and private tours worldwide. Travel at your own pace with a custom itinerary or simply find accommodations and excursions so that your trip priorities are met and you have maximum flexibility while on the road.