Tourism with a sustainable edge
Recognised as the Sufficient Economy Village Prototype in 2012 and a Village for Health Tourism in 2015, Baan Pong-Huai Lan in Thailand’s north offers a unique opportunity to enjoy community-based tourism.
The village is one of four communities – the others being Rim Nam Chanthaboon in Chanthaburi, Baan Nong San in Sakon Nakhon, and Nong Yai Area Development Project in Chumphon – under the “Follow the King’s Philosophy towards Sustainable Tourism” project, which is being implemented by the Tourism Authority of Thailand in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to create the sustainability in tourism by applying His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s principles of understanding, approaching, and developing local communities.
“The TAT introduced the ‘Local Experience’ to its marketing in early 2017 and we have seen an increase in the numbers of both Thai and foreign tourists travelling to the provinces. We are confident that the popularity of this concept will continue to grow. In addition, the government has instructed agencies to apply the King’s sufficiency economy philosophy as the economic foundation for the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. So the TAT is applying the late King’s philosophy in managing tourist areas by focusing on community-based tourism for sustainable growth,” says Yutthasak Supphasorn of the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
“We are very honoured to cooperate with TAT. The main mission is to develop the communities in order for them to generate income on their own and enjoy a sustainable way of life,” adds Nadia Rasheed, the management representative of UNDP Asia and Pacific.
The Baan Pong-Huai Lan community is part of the royal initiated Huai Lan Area Development Project in San Kamphaeng district, 25 kilometres from downtown Chiang Mai. A poor area, the villagers were resigned to their meagre lives until the late King visited in 1987 and initiated the Huai Lan Area Development Project under his royal initiatives project as well as forest and fishery stations and a reservoir.
Today, the community can boast economic growth, the well¬being of its residents and look forward to a sustainable future. It is also attracting an increasing number of tourists eager to experience sustainable tourism through a “package” that allows them to stay for two days and one night.
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A group of Bangkok-based journalists visits the community on a recent trip to Chiang Mai, stopping off first at the Royal Forest Department of the Huai Lan Area Development Project to hear the late King’s ideas on how the land and area should be properly managed to ensure sufficiency and to admire a programme that seeks to conserve the art of oriental lacquerwork and revitalise Thai wisdom initiated by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
The visit also takes us to Huai Lan Reservoir where we watch cattle eating grass and drinking water from the reservoir while villagers fish nearby, with neither man nor beast troubled by the other.
Lunch, which includes Northern specialities jin som mok khai, kaeng khae moo and phad phak chiang kha, is eaten at the home of Wanna Kaewsupang, which also offers homestay accommodation, before a stop at the house belonging to Som Kamrangsi. Aunty Som, as she says to call her, proudly shows us her organic farm which features more than 30 herbs and vegetables such as parsley, pandanus leaf, bok choy, peppermint, manao ho, and phak khee hood. We are puzzled at the sight of eggshells covering wooden sticks in the garden until she explains that this is a good way of protecting her crops from insects.
“The most important thing is growing and caring for the vegetables with love,” says aunty Som. “If we are sufficient in ourselves, vegetable farming can help us to make a living. We can sell them and at the same time make fermented pickles.”
The next stop is at Aree Jaiwong’s house, home to the Aree Pha Tor: Baan Pong Weaving Group, where we get to see a demonstration of traditional handloom weaving. We also get some hands-on experience of handloom weaving methods such as thread spinning and learn about this ageold craft from the ladies who are making sure it doesn’t die out.
We watch a demonstration of making wicker for rice baskets and other utensils as well as weaving fish and birds from bamboo filaments, rattan, and coconut leaves. We’d like to have a go too but time is marching on and we content ourselves with creating windchimes from several small sticky rice containers, bamboo fish and colourful tassels while munching on a local dessert, called khanom khee maew and drinking butterfly pea juice with lemongrass.
As we wrap up what has been a fascinating look at community-based tourism, we learn the slogan the community has coined to describe the tour.
It reads: Nee wiang ma long dong meaning “escape from the city and be fascinated by nature.”
TALES FOR THE COUNTRYSIDE
– Find out more about Baan PongHuai Lan and the other three communities – Rim Nam Chanthaboon, Baan Nong San and Nong Yai Area Development Project – under the “Follow the King’s Philosophy towards Sustainable Tourism” project in an exhibition showing today and tomorrow at Emporium Gallery on the Emporium’s M Floor.