Welcome to Thailand. Riding elephants, taking pictures with tigers, watching elephants paint, mother tigeress weaning baby piglets and visiting long necked tribal women. All these sounded so exotic and exciting isn’t it? That was what I thought so when I first visited Thailand many years back. How often would you get to see all these unusual phenomenon?
Yes, I fell for the trick.
Always believing that there is always something more unique out there and that it’s possible to get close to the unapproachables. Our human instinct always wanted to see something different, something unique, something more exciting. Face the fact. We should have known that all these aren’t natural. It was only until recent years when truth started pouring out through media that we got wiser. We now understood what all these people and animals have to go through to provide us with that ‘unforgettable experience’. So if there isn’t anything like that, what else can we see when we travel to Thailand? This is one of the best ideas:
A community based travel company that aimed to create sustainable tourism. Founded by Pai (Somsak Boonkham), with engineering background and several years of experience on community work at Mae Fah Luang Royal Foundation in 2012, Pai has realised that despite tourism in Thailand striving over the past years, the community and people around the striving tourism continues to stay poor and their lives have not yet been improved.
Why the poor remained poor?
Most tour companies explore the uniqueness of the culture, organise and draw tourists to visit these places. They make hefty profits and grow their business. The locals living in those exploited areas will in turn probably get some odd jobs, learned to sell some souvenirs or set up some street food, and go back home with meagre earnings. CEOs of these companies will in turn drive more luxurious cars, build bigger houses and make themselves richer than before.
What’s so different between Local Alike and other tour agencies?
Localalike is truly a community based organisation. It creates a platform between the local community and the tourists.
They approach the community and discuss on ideas to attract tourists to their community. Then they figure out how each local would like to be involved in the program, what resources they could offer and how to host the tourists. The community will be directly involved in the decision making and the programs. Local Alike will in turn create the tour and market out to bring in the tourists.
For a typical tour agency, 50% will go to the tour agency, 30% to the hoteliers and only about 8% to the local community.
In return for Localalike, 70% of the profit will go directly to the local community involved, and in addition to that, Localalike and the community each sacrifice 5% of their profits into the village funds which will be used for renovation and improvements to the village.
How different will the tour packages be as compared to the popular itineraries?
Since the tour is guided by the locals, they have better insight of what’s around their neighbourhood or villages. And as we know there could always be last minute climate or unexpected changes no matter how well we plan our trips, the locals will be able to redirect the activities so that the tourists will continue to have a wonderful experience.
There will also be a direct local touch to the culture just like how you will be welcomed as a friend rather than a handheld flag led by a leader bringing to places that has been receiving repeated visits 20 times a day.
What types of tour do they offer?
Because Pai and his team wanted visitors to experience one of its kind curated tour whether you are individuals, groups or organisations of different sizes, they took pains to customise each experience so as to make it memorable for each individual.
You could be a great animal lover, environmental conservationist, real foodie, adventurist or health and spa lover. Whatever you’re interested in, there is always something that you can find under the sleeves of the creative LocalAlike team.
Here’s some examples what Local Alike can offer:
- explore exotic nature and scenery in the most unexpected location of Thailand led by the locals. No Lonely Planet, Michelin or Frommer’s will have these locations listed. Home cooked meals and freshly baked cakes prepared by the locals in their homes, etc. What’s more authentic than that?
- suitable for tourists who have only a few hours or half a day to spare to visit places like the bustling Bangkok or mystic Chiangmai. These trips are brief but will give you a clear picture of the town in a few hours.
- more than 1.6 million volunteer tourists are spending about $2 billion each year. If your trip is not simply just a summer vacation, that you would like to volunteer, to sweat out and to contribute something positive to the local community or for the animals, voluntourism will just be the right thing for you.
- this is especially great for companies of all sizes who would like to reward their hard-working team with something more than a meal, something that will contribute a positive lasting impact at the same time.
- Local Alike will be able to tailor make such a trip to your exact measurements.
Nativejar was invited to one of the local day trips in Bangkok and this is how it looks like:
We were greeted by two localalike guides at the Saphan Taksin BTS. When everyone has finally arrived, a short brief introduction was made to explain our itinerary of the day’s trip. Then we were guided to take a public short boat ride to the flower market and another even shorter 5 mins ride opposite Chao Praya River to arrive at one of the oldest town in Bangkok- Kudee Jin.
From the oldest Chinese temple of Bangkok , the well preserved Catholic church to historical museum in Kudeejin. Each time we were greeted by a local guide that explained to us with in-depth details on the historical background and story behind every concrete in Kudeejin.
One of the most memorable stop will no doubt be an invite to a private home of a local who lives in a 100-year old teak house nestled in a tiny alley. This old widow has been living in Kudeejin for the past 50 years. We sat there by a corner as she narrated the history of Kudeejin over the past three generations, how the house survived the two different civil wars to her touching romantic love story. Bullet holes in walls and glass windows of the house, monotoned photos taken to commemorate important events and imbalanced rooftop added more authenticity to her history.
Tea Break and Home-cooked meals
We waved goodbye and thanked the lady as we wriggled through the alley for a quick ‘tea break’ on the go visiting 3 traditional bakers. They used coal with only 3 simple ingredients and created an unimaginable soft, light crispy egg cake that melted in our mouths the moment we consume. Still holding on the sweet toast in our palette, we continued our trail and was led to a home of another local.
The cook was half Thai and half Portuguese explaining the cross cultural recipes that Kudeejin was famous for due to the strong presence of the Portuguese about 40 years ago. Every dish was a well-crafted artwork that she created unlike any street food we get in Thailand. We even get the chance to have a hands on experience to make our very own dessert with our creativity to mould into exciting shapes of animals and leaf.
Whole experience ended with a visit to a museum created by a passionate local and a nice cup of coffee in her cafe.
The whole trip doesn’t make us feel like tourists but rather friends to locals who are passionate to share their experience with us. Thank you for the memorable journey Local Alike!