Tourism is big business in Thailand. The Kingdom attracts more than 35 million people annually and consistently ranks among the top 10 tourist destinations in the world. While there’s no question that the sector has brought an economic windfall to the country, tourism doesn’t come without costs to the local way of life and environment.
The dark side of tourism is best exemplified in the case of Maya Bay, a breathtaking enclave on Phi Phi Leh Island, Krabi popularized by the film The Beach. Just a few months ago, Thai authorities had to close the iconic location because of environmental damage caused by overtourism.
The good news for travelers is that Thailand still has several amazing and often overlooked destinations that have sustainable and ethical practices built into their DNA. The Kenan team has compiled a list of places we love to visit, all of which you can go to knowing that you are having a minimal impact on the local environment.
- Koh Mak
Sandy, white beaches? Check. Translucent, turquoise water? Check. A slice of the traditional way of life? Check. The island of Koh Mak is nestled peacefully between Koh Chang and Koh Kut, two larger and better known islands, south of mainland Trat, and is one of Thailand’s best kept secrets. Aside from its idyllic landscape and quiet, family-friendly atmosphere, all stakeholders on Koh Mak maintain a sincere commitment to being a “low-carbon destination.” If you are looking to get away from overcrowded beaches or isolated mega-resorts, then book a stay on Koh Mak where you can relax by the sea, learn to dive, and cruise the flat island on bicycle.
- Bang Kachao
Almost every visitor to Thailand spends at least some time in Bangkok. Most come away with an appreciation for the capital’s rich history, culture, and cuisine, but few experience Bang Kachao, the 6.2 square mile park, that is also called Bangkok’s green lung. Once on the island, you can rent a bike and cycle through the many trails and their lush, green surroundings, visit a beautiful botanic garden, or enjoy a savory meal at the floating market. Take a trip to Bang Kachao, and for a few hours you’ll forget that you are in one of the world’s most energetic metropolises.
- Lee Led Community
Lee Led offers an authentic community-based tourism experience in one of Thailand’s most beautiful provinces, Surat Thani. The villagers will teach you about local wisdom, guide you on a boat through the mangrove forest, provide a traditional music performance, and even open up their homes for guests who’d like to stay overnight. Lee Led participated in one of Kenan’s past community development projects and has since become a shining example of sustainable tourism. If you want to experience the traditional way of life in rural, southern Thailand, then you have to check out Lee Led.
There are, of course, many ethical tourism destinations in all regions of Thailand. Before visiting the Kingdom, do some research and find the right place for you. Koh Mak, Bang Kachao, and Lee Led are great options to consider if you are looking to experience the natural beauty of Thailand and learn about local culture in communities that are committed to sustainable practices.
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