To get Thailand right, listen to the people.
The young monk who sat with us in the shade of a sacred ficus tree at Wat Suan Dok had the softest, wisest smile. He spoke of joining the monastery and asked about our lives at home. He couldn’t have known it; but that conversation changed the way we saw Thailand … and how we share it with you on our deeply personal visit to the country.
Thailand’s vibrant public face boasts showy gold temples and Instagram-worthy beaches. You want to see it, and we’ll make sure you do. You’ll start, for instance, at an exclusive boutique beach resort hidden on a private cove in Phuket. But the real secret to Thailand is that if you shift your focus a few degrees to the right or left of the marquee attraction, real life is right there. So we boat out to islands in the Andaman Sea that are uninhabited except for the Moken, a tribe of sea nomads. They live on wooden boats and houses stilted over the waters. Even the children dive deep in the clear water to gather clams and sea cucumbers.
In the Chiang Mai region, our local guide Oomi pulls strings with her friends at a small village school so that you get right into a classroom and meet the kids. Shy they’re not. Ask the universal question about what they want to be when they grow up, and you’ll get an interesting earful. Oomi is also your inside track to understanding and participating in the daily alms ceremony. Before dawn, Buddhist monks pad barefoot along the streets carrying alms bowls into which their neighbors place boiled rice. It’s an ancient ceremony, not a folkloric show, and you’re invited to participate in a way that the local people appreciate deeply.
At Classic Journeys, we are devout believers in responsible, culturally sensitive travel — an approach that pays dividends for you in Thailand. Near Chiang Rai, we’ve established relationships with the Lahu and Akha hill tribes who invite our small groups to spend time in their villages. The villagers welcome us into their daily lives unlike the “authentic tribes people” who are on display and outnumbered by tourists in commercialized sites. Nearby, you’ll also have a chance to spend some time with the mahouts of Dara Camp. Committed to conservation of local elephants, the mahouts are the pachyderms’ companions. They’ll even invite you to join the elephants for a trek through the forest.
All along the way, we make sure you get a taste of Thai culture in all its forms. You’ll have a chance to shop a local market and get a cooking instruction from a respected chef. You’ll zip up the Mekong River on a long-tailed speed boat, take in the awesome views from Mount Doi Tung, snorkel on sparkling waters at Pak-Kard Bay, shop in local crafts markets, and even take a Thai boxing class if you like!
But in our hearts, it all comes back to the diverse people you meet. The unguarded insights you get into their lives will reveal Thailand to you in more ways than you ever expected.