Monday, 18 June 2012

Eco Tourism in Trat Province

I’m often asked by other Australian travellers for advice on new island destinations in Thailand. They’ve done Phuket, done Samui, and they are looking for something a little off the beaten track that will fulfil their tropical island dreams, the idyllic unspoiled paradise with blue balmy water, white beaches, coconut palms, coral reefs and beach-front accommodation.
Loathe as I am to share my secrets, the first place I suggest is Koh Kood, one of 52 islands located in Trat province, the easternmost province in Thailand bordering Cambodia. This tranquil little island is my idea of perfection, with affordable resorts in a pristine jungle setting - no 7-Elevens, no ATMs, very little traffic and no high-rise development. I spent a blissful few days here a year ago, and can’t wait to go back for a truly relaxing holiday doing absolutely nothing!

                           (Idyllic Bao Bang Bay at Koh Kood)

Koh Kood is accessible from either Koh Chang - Thailand’s second largest island, and a popular resort destination in itself - or from mainland Trat, the main town of the region. While most of Trat’s tourism industry focuses on these two main islands and the surrounding Mu Koh Chang Marine National Park, the province also prides itself on its eco-tourism industry, calling itself ‘the green province’.
For instance, the village of Huai Raeng, located near a mangrove forest, has started sightseeing boat trips through the still backwaters, showing visitors the under-appreciated beauty of this ecosystem. It has also encouraged local people to offer accommodation through homestays, open restaurants and craft stores that utilise local products such as Fish, fruit and betel leaves, and share in their industry such as night shrimp fishing.

                                  (Mangroves at Huai Raeng)

                               (Homestay at Huai Raeng)

The incentive for this form of localised tourism is not to make money; rather, it’s voluntarily managed by a group of locals who want to preserve their unique environment and share their local wisdom. 
Another village happy to showcase its traditions to the outside world is Tambon Nam Chiao, where two religions, Muslim and Buddhists, live in harmony along the banks of a canal. Here, volunteer guides, including students who want to improve their English, will take you on a walking tour of the village, along the picturesque canal lined with both mosques and temples, and through the back streets where old men groom their fighting cocks and little girls dressed in burkas are happy to stop and pose for photographs.

The winner of multiple tourism awards for ‘Outstanding Community Tourism’, Nam Chiao is proof that a village doesn’t have to sell its soul for tourism, and that the purest of products has plenty of appeal for visitors.

                                    (The canal at Nam Chiao)


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