Whether you’re trying your hand at rice-farming, traditional fishing methods or silk-weaving, these agrotourism projects provide a deeper understanding of life in rural Thailand, discovers Emma Higgins
Thailand isn’t all that well known around the world as a coffee-producing destination, but the Ban Mae Chan Tai Agro-tourism Centre in Chiang Rai proves it can more than hold it’s own.
Here, an Akha hilltribe member named Ayu Chuepa (also known as Lee) set up a coffee production company to provide jobs and improve the quality of life in the area.
From November to February, you can join a three-day Coffee Journey, which sets out from Chiang Mai and takes you up to the plantations. During the experience, you’ll not only learn about the organic coffee-growing process used here, but also about the Akha way of life.
Launched in 1984, Wongsagit Ashram is an eco-village two hours north-east of Bangkok that promotes a self-sufficient lifestyle.
Here, nature and human kind work together in harmony, from the homes built with adobe bricks (made with clay, soil and straw) down to the chemical-free homemade shampoos and tie-dye clothing.
Guests at Wongsagit Ashram can learn all about these sustainable techniques, getting involved with making the bricks and constructing houses, as well as growing organic food and learning about the Buddhist lifestyle that the project upholds.
Rice fields (Dreamstime)
Rice terraces characterise the village of Ban Mae Klang Luang, in the heart of Doi Inthanon National Park, west of Chiang Mai.
The Paganyaw people live here, one of the largest congregations of Karen people in Thailand, and they maintain a peaceful way of life in this rural setting. Their knowledge of the landscape and rice-farming allows them to live using the natural resources around them.
Visitors to the area can witness daily activities and get involved with the Paganyaw’s rice-farming practices. You can visit all year round, but it’s useful to know that growing season is during September and October, and harvesting takes place from November to January.
In these communities, you can also stop by the highland fisheries, where rainbow trout and red claw crayfish are caught, or learn about weaving or coffee-brewing.
The island of Koh Yai Noi is less than an hour by ferry from the shores of Phuket, a true slice of traditional life in Thailand.
Inhabited by a community of Muslim fishing families, Koh Yai Noi has worked to drive away commercial trawlers that attempted to fish in their area and instead worked to promote more sustainable fishing practices.
As a guest on the island, you can stay with a fishing family and go out on a boat with them to witness for yourself their impressive techniques.
They’ll show you how they use the rising and falling tides for optimum fishing times, and only catch adult fish, sending the younger catches back into the sea.
You can also spend time harvesting rubber sap, another vital source of income for these locals.
Ja Boo See village in northern Thailand is comprised of around 30 families belonging to the Lahu ethnic group. These are people who live a very rustic way of life.
Guests in the village are encouraged to experience this humble existence for themselves. Take a tour around the vegetable plots to see what the community is growing, meets craftspeople who will show you how they make musical instruments out of bamboo, or go trekking through the forest with a local guide to gather edible and medicinal plants used for food and herbal remedies.
Silk making in Thailand (Dreamstime)
Silk is one of the most famous products from Thailand. Its journey from silkworm to the beautiful fabrics you can find across the country is a fascinating process.
At the Queen Sirikit Sericulture Centre in Surin, you can witness the process from start to finish, from the rearing of the silkworms through the production of raw silk and dying the thread to finally weaving it into fabric.
The centre was designed to preserve this fascinating aspect of Thai culture, which is especially prolific in this north-eastern region, and to help maintain the unique knowledge these silk-makers possess. The centre is open all year round. You can buy authentic silk products here, too.
Main image caption: Phuket fishing boats (Dreamstime)
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